“Playing Doctor” – Typical and common behaviors in kids and what to do!

If a child is playing with a friend and they engage in typical body exploration play it usually has some, if not all, of the following characteristics:

  • They are good friends and are close and regular playmates
  • Their curiosity is good humored and the kids are having fun and are happy.
  • It is mutual and they agree to play this way. There are no threats, bribery or coercion.
  • The behavior is spontaneous and happens when they are playing a game or already doing something together.

A really quick way to assess whether a behavior is typical for a kid is to ask yourself, “Is this something adults or teens would do?” If the answer is no, then it’s most likely a common kid behavior.

For example, every week my husband gets together with his fellow motorcycle maniac pals and they work on bikes, grill steaks and drink beer. Do you think my husband and his platonic friend Jon, pop off into a corner and have a Penis Meeting? The idea probably made you laugh.

This is something most guys just do not do when they platonically hang out together. And for the record, Kerry and Jon do not have Penis Meetings— I asked.

Just because these behaviors are considered a typical part of childhood development, it does not mean you allow the children to continue to play this way.

If you do not redirect their behavior:

  • The play may continue and become problematic and sexualized, because it really does feel good when someone touches their privates.
  • The children will learn it is okay to explore privates with people they know, love and trust, which will make them vulnerable and an easy target for sexual abuse.
  • They will continue to play these games with other kids and possibly perpetrate sexualized behavior with another child.

Calmly interrupt their behavior. Explain that it’s “not okay and not safe” to play this way. Remind them of your rules about bodies — private parts are private and the rule is no looking at or touching.

Most of the time they are merely curious and nothing truly abusive is going on. If you are unsure or worried, let me know and we can schedule a consultation.

More info? StopItNow.org

PS: You know I’m on a mission to help 1 Million MORE kids grow up to be healthy and whole adults, right? Be a pal and share this! Thanks!

Early Puberty – WTF Is Going On With Girls Starting Puberty So Early? 

Headband GirlI’ve written about this before and so will keep it short here. Give a listen to this great Fresh  Air program. It’s an interview with the women who wrote a book called “The New Puberty” about why girls are starting puberty considerably earlier than ever. You can get the book here.

They say it’s most likely environmentally influenced – food, plastics, weight, etc. A while back, I had a conversation with a researcher who studies rats and BPA (plastic additive) and she told me the female rats who are exposed to BPA have earlier puberty. You can read about it here.

You can listen and/or read the transcript of the Fresh Air interview here.

And the rant part of this? I am DONE with parents neglecting to tell their daughters – by age 8 – about their periods. DONE. I cannot understand why you would not want your girl prepared to be spontaneously bleeding from her hoo-ha on a regular basis.

Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel if you suddenly started bleeding from your privates for no apparent reason? If you were 9 you might think you were dying because what other explanation would there be?

I don’t give an early-puberty-rat’s-rumpus if you are uncomfortable. Get over yourself and do the right thing.

Sexualized Girls – Laura Ingalls Style

The setting: The Little House on the Prairie.

The scenario: Pa Ingalls is playing The Arkansas Traveler on the fiddle, while, Ma, Laura, Mary and baby Carrie are listening as the sun sets on a long day.

The dance moves: Laura sweetly gyrates her hips and bends forward to show the world her sexy 8 year old booty and Mary shimmies and shakes her 10 year old breast buds all around, both flaunting their bodies for all they’ve got.

Ma looks on, bemused as she watches her two big girls dancing their hearts out. She hears a voice inside of her say, “Hm. This behavior seems a bit mature for their ages. I wonder if it’s okay for them to be dancing like bar girls? Oh, well, it must be, everyone else is doing it. What harm can it do?”


Sexy Little Girls = Shame, Eating Disorders + Poor Sexual Health

I’m working on my book of scripts and have included a few about the sexualization of girls. I ended up re-reading the awesome report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and you should read it too. It’s short – this version is, anyway.

That headline up there? That’s just some of the impact when girls internalize sexualization – valuing themselves for their sexual appeal and how they look rather than who they are.

Here are a couple of the scripts to test out on your girls AND your boys. You’ll have to wait for the book for more!

When girls focus too much on how they look, the clothes they wear and if they are “sexy” it’s bad for them. “What they are” becomes more important than “who they are.” It’s like they are an object, like a chair or a tree, rather than a person.

Girls are not things, and are valuable because they are smart, kind, funny, friendly, capable and kind. How would you feel if people made every decision about you based on your shoes or your t-shirt and that’s what you thought made you important: your clothes. 

What Kids Learn from Sex on TV

Oh, they are sooo innocent, our children. They watch “Glee” or reruns of “3 and a Half Men” and all the innuendo, flirting, sexual references and outright sexual content goes right over their heads. Don’t ya think?

It’s totally fine to learn about teen pregnancy, “lady kisses,” being bullied for being gay, getting drunk at parties, and the demise of marriage from television shows.  Prostitution? Objectification of women?  One night stands? All important topics for kids to learn about and TV is a great teacher!

Television is powerful. I want to tell you to quit letting your kids watch shows that aren’t age appropriate, but I’m pretty sure you won’t. They are your kids, it’s your choice how you raise them up and communicate with them about sex.

However, when you don’t explain what they are watching and what you think about the various themes that develop in these shows, they are left to their own immature devices to make meaning of this information.

Here’s what I think they learn:

– Sex is both secret and shameful AND everywhere all the time. Can you say “confusing?” I can.
– Sex is fun and funny and easy and normal and everyone does it, talks about it, and thinks about it! It’s really important!
–  Sex is a commodity. They see it exchanged on these shows and they see it used to sell things in commercials. And they learn this is one of the main reasons people have sex or are sexual with each other.

Ultimately, they will make their own decisions about where and when to be sexual with someone. And as they’ve learned from TV, whatever goes is fine. Everyone else is doing it, so they should too. It’ll all work out.  Right?