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My 20mo grabs at her genitals whenever she's naked (which is often as it's warm outside and she's toilet learning). She yanks on the outer labia and pokes at the inside. It looks rough to me, though she doesn't seem to care. I keep her nails trimmed so she doesn't scratch herself. I'm hesitant to stop her because I don't want her to feel shame for being curious about and exploring her body.

What's an appropriate reaction to this? I want to teach her it's ok to touch her own body, but she should be gentle so she doesn't hurt herself (Is she cognitively able to understand that if it hurts she has to stop? Can she make this connection?)and there are appropriate times and places to do this. What language should I use?

marked as duplicate by Joe, Community Sep 2 '15 at 18:25

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    The good news is that as long as her nails are trimmed it's unlikely she can actually injure herself just by grabbing and pinching. This related question may be a duplicate, although I will wait for more community input before closing: What to do about 1 year old boy who keeps pulling hard at his penis and scrotum? – Acire Aug 31 '15 at 15:28
  • Agree; unless there's something specific about girls that makes it different, anyway. – Joe Aug 31 '15 at 16:50
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    It's possible that she might have some sort of discomfort or itching, possibly from dry skin, which becomes more irritating when exposed to air. Could be related to diapers, soap, etc. – barbecue Aug 31 '15 at 17:59
  • She does have a very slight labial adhesion... Could that have anything to do with it? I just assumed it was normal, but I suppose it could be due to some kind of discomfort. How can I tell? Or better, how can I teach her the language to tell me something isn't right? – TheSmallestOne Aug 31 '15 at 18:03
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    It could be simply an act of opportunity. The diaper is hiding something and when it comes off, it can be explored. This is normal in both boys and girls. However, yeast can also happen in boys and girls, so a visit to the family doctor can rule that out or treat it with topical ointment if necessary. If that is ruled out, then think nothing more of it, it's just normal child exploration and children can feel pain, so I'd say serious self injury is a remote possibility. :) – user17824 Sep 1 '15 at 10:55

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