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Son Talks About His Private Parts
Q: My seven-year-old son Billy finds it interesting to talk about his private parts. He thinks it's funny. However, I don't! I have punished him, but don't want to "go off" on him. How should I handle this? He is very affectionate and loving! But I do fear his being too open with the sex talk.
A: Your son's focus on his private parts as a source of humor is quite normal at his stage of development. I appreciate that you don't want your son using these words in your presence, but I think that punishing him for talking or joking about his body parts is excessive and ineffective.
He knows that he can really push your buttons with this kind of joking and you are continuing to let him know he does indeed have power in this regard. "Going off" on him when he does this will make matters worse. Tell him that he can joke around with his friends using these words (they'll soon tell him if he's being too gross or silly), but that he is not to use those words around you or other adults. You might also tell him if he really feels a need to say those words he can sit on a chair in the bathroom and say them behind a closed door.
You might also diffuse some of the tension and power games surrounding this issue by asking him questions about the words that he uses, why he thinks it's cool to say these words, when he thinks he'll be old enough so that he won't have to say them as often...you get the picture. If you remove the "goals" of this misbehavior -- seeing you lose it, getting attention, or getting back at you for something -- you remove his need to continue doing it.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.