Given some recent questions regarding sexual discussions with questions, I want to take a step back and ask a related question:

Should I use "pet names" when referring to a body part with my child? Some people say "pee-pee" instead of "penis," or "cha-cha" instead of "vagina" (or some other name). And I'm not talking about sex-related discussions only; I'm talking about every day life conversation that might involve these body parts (like potty training, for example).

Personally, I've never liked these pet names. I'm a straightforward, say-it-as-it-is kind of guy, and as such I plan on always referring to things by their anatomically correct name, starting from day 0 with my child. I want to teach my child about how to sacredly respect the human body, and I feel like using a pet name makes the subject a taboo or disconnects it from reality.

8 Answers 8


Teaching them the correct name is very simple, it doesn't require having to make up names, or work out what to translate as, and as they grow up they won't face any embarrassment in class from using a 'baby' name for something others know the 'grown-up' name for. And I'd certainly be more embarrassed for them to use a play word than the correct terminology.

Teaching them the correct places to use such words can be fun, and to be honest, if the worst thing your child will do is embarrass you in public, then you're on to a winner.

Remember, all too soon they'll move on to using more 'offensive' words for them anyway.

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    great Jezebel article on this: jezebel.com/…
    – Ida
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 16:42
  • that's awesome Ida!
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 17:34
  • @Cornstalks Do make sure you teach them where to use those words appropriately though. They won't always 'get it', but it helps to start early, so that they understand'certain words are not for everywhere'.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 20:40
  • Agree. Using the clinical, correct name is probably best. Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 17:50

I believe it is important to speak to kids on their level without dumbing down the vocabulary. If they need to know what something is called, then they should be told what that thing is. Whether it's a body part, an injury, an illness, or a bodily function.

I think it's equally important to teach them the proper words.

Males do not have pee-pees. They have penises and testicles/scrotum. (I'd opt for testes, to start, as it's easier to say). Females do not have coochies. They have vulva. A vagina is not an obvious external feature, so the word may not need to come up very early. However, its wide misuse may cause it to be brought up. Everyone has genitals/genitalia. I believe calling them private parts is appropriate, but not if that's solely how they're called. A penis is a private part, as is a vulva. This leads into explaining why they're private, when they should be seen, and when they should be talked about.

I don't believe in tummy aches. Is their stomach bothering them, or their gut? There's a big difference in preparation for about to throw up versus about to diarrhea.

There aren't boo-boos. You get hurt, a cut, a scratch, a scrape, a bruise, etc.

If you allow your child to have a stronger vocabulary then you can communicate with them more easily. You also encourage their observational skills.

While in many cultures it's not acceptable to speak about genitalia in public, it's also the case that children aren't always good about following social convention. I don't believe a child asking a question that others feel is inappropriate is reason to be embarrassed.

In fact, I don't believe it's right for others to make you feel embarrassed about your child exhibiting child-like qualities. Children will lose those qualities soon enough without others trying to speed up the process.

The correct response to a question you feel is embarrassing is to answer the question correctly, as if they asked you why the sky is blue. It's okay for that answer to be, "I will tell you when we get home if you ask me then." or "I don't know." Being outwardly perturbed sends the message to the child that they can't ask you about things, or teaches them they can get a fun reaction out of you by asking certain things. Calmly, matter-of-factly answering their question validates the child, encourages inquisitivity, and demonstrates to the surrounding public the appropriate way to handle sensitive topics in public.


While children are very young I like using simple expressions like "bottom", "privates", and "chest". However once children are old enough to start noticing specific parts I would move on to correct names. I feel this way because using correct names too young can be confusing and refusing to use correct names at all can have negative effects you would never think of.

My parents absolutely refused to use correct names, I am now over 30 and still have issues saying the correct names myself. I have a subconscious stigma associated with them that is proving to be very difficult to break. My wife teases me (playfully) that I sound like a 12 year old boy when talking about them.


Teach your kids the correct names. If they ever need to communicate something to an adult, the adult may not understand them if they are using an uncommon pet name. In an example from a foster care training program I attended, they mentioned a little girl who kept telling her teacher about a relative "petting her butterfly". If the teacher had understood that "butterfly" was NOT referring to a bug in the yard, that child would have been spared some bad stuff.


Teach your kids right all the parts of their body

I loved that argument:

Tell her the correct names for her body parts, and use them every time. Don't use nicknames to refer to her genitals. This teaches her that her body is something to be hidden or masked. Correct terminology helps her to understand and embrace her body without reservations or shame



I'd say start with the real names unless it makes you too uncomfortable to discuss issues like hygiene using the proper names. Being open to discussions is more important.


My advice is yes! Allow me to tell you why.

I didn't like pet names either. So I taught my children the proper names for their private parts. I thought it was the right thing to do.

I was rewarded for this by my eldest asking loudly of everyone we met in the grocery store, MOMMY, DOES THAT MAN (or WOMAN) HAVE A PENIS OR A VAGINA? How much less embarrassing it would have been if he had asked if they had a bobo or a mookie?

My lesson was learned too late. When they are old enough to be more discrete, the real name can be revealed.

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    I don't think yelling MOMMY DOES THAT MAN HAVE A WEE-WEE OR A HOO-HAH would be in any better in IMHO :).
    – Ida
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 16:52
  • 1
    @Ida - I understand how one would think that, Maybe you had to be there to see all the heads turn and the looks. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 18:15
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    @anongoodnurse The looks would have come either way. I had the great opportunity of addressing my daughter asking me quite loudly where the one being questioned could hear, "Daddy, why is she so fat?" Sometimes the questions of children are not so much about how they are expressed, but rather that they are expressed in public. Parents, though, know it happens to all of us. Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 2:08

I think this is a personal preference, but we do not use pet names. My parents did and I think all it did was make us embarrassed to use the proper words as we got older. All along we have been using the proper names for everything. Our daughter is very comfortable talking about body parts. Again, just a personal preference, I think. Good luck with it.

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