Hi, Dr.G. I have a question. My daughter who will be 3 found that poking “there” of her dad’s is fun. My husband feels very uncomfortable and we do not know how to stop her poking. My husband also feels uncomfortable when she comes in to the bathroom when he is there. He doesn’t want her to see his part of the body that only boys have. I told him I think it is normal thing to girl to have curiousness on those subjects. How should we communicate with her about that? Is it necessary to keep hiding his part from her?
Yumi, in PA
Yumi, this is something that lots of families struggle with. When is it OK to be naked in front of our kids, how long can they be naked in front of each other, how to talk about privacy issues with young (and not so young) children?
Your first question – how do you get your daughter to stop poking your husband in the groin – is simple. Handle this the same way you handle hitting.
Take her hand and say calmly but firmly, “No.” You can follow up with “We don’t touch there” or “No hurting.”
You are absolutely right about why she does this – it’s fun! What an interesting reaction she gets, every time! Make this boring. Encourage your husband to simply so “No.” Then he should turn away from her. The less angry or upset he gets, the quieter he speaks, the more quickly she will find a new way to engage his attention. The more he can find fun, acceptable ways for her to touch him, the quicker this will pass!
Your second question is more subtle. It is absolutely normal for your daughter to be curious about the ways in which her dad’s body is different from yours, and hers. Also she is probably very curious about your grown-up body. What do you want her to learn about bodies and body privacy?
Once you and her Dad decide what you want her to learn, how to handle it will be much more clear!
Seeing her father naked will not harm her in any way at this age. However, if he feels that this would be too uncomfortable or disrespectful, then she should learn to knock on the bathroom door and give him privacy while bathing or dressing.
You can teach your daughter healthy information about bodies without her needing to see anyone naked at home. As long as he is calm about his values, and does not use anger or shame to make his point, she will be fine! Be sure to discuss this with your husband and then respect his wishes!
How have other families handled this normal curiosity and limit setting?