Our toddler has discovered the joys of having her hand down the front of her panties. Frequently.

Now, we don't want to tell her that doing so is wrong, but we want to explain to her that there's an appropriate time to be doing such things and an inappropriate time.

How do we best explain to her that she ought not to be doing such things when in public or in company?

  • 4
    I just realized that this question will still be on the internet in 15 years time where her friends will find it (and applaud her probably). So I'm just saying hi to her future friends :-). In all seriousness, perhaps this sort of question should be a "friend of mine" question to avoid future privacy concerns?
    – w00t
    Apr 2, 2012 at 22:26
  • @w00t That's entirely at the OP's discretion. Not everyone feels such topics are taboo or cause for embarrassment. And let's face it: no matter what we do or say, our kids will almost always find reasons why we embarrass them once they are teenagers :)
    – user420
    Apr 4, 2012 at 13:20
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    @w00t: I seriously thought about such concerns, but ultimately this question will pale in comparison to the embarrassing pictures that may come out at her wedding.
    – MikeyB
    Apr 4, 2012 at 18:52
  • roflo at your added comment. I actually regularly tell my daughter is my JOB to embarass her (all in good fun of course). Jul 11, 2012 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


All you have to be is honest and straight forward: "If you want to touch yourself, you must do it in private. That is a private time activity. Do you know what private is?"

The question is a good segue that keeps her focused on your real problem, i.e. her timing, and to help you guys from appearing or sounding uncomfortable.

  • Good wording - part the intent of the question was looking for particular phrases that worked well / didn't work well. I'll try this next time it comes up.
    – MikeyB
    Apr 4, 2012 at 18:39
  • How do you reply to "In private? Why?" ?
    – Pablo H
    Aug 24, 2019 at 2:09
  • "Because it's something that's only meant for you." Aug 25, 2019 at 7:06

First of all I have a question about the wording of the sentence. The word masturbation seems a bit of an exaggeration. If your son is actually coming to completion then a doctor must be consulted.

If he is just playing with himself, as my three year old is, that is age appropriate. I don't say that to say it is excusable, just nothing to worry about. When we see him playing with himself we simply ask him if he needs to go to the bathroom. He says no and removes his hand. When he is in the bath and touches himself we tell him that a penis is a part of the body, is it private, and should only be touched or played with in private. He is slowly getting the message, although he will tell us it is fun, or it tickles, or it feels good. I understand where he is coming from and I try to simply keep it low key, know he will grow out of it if we keep encouraging him to play only in private.

Oh, I just notices you were talking about your daughter, but I think the same concept applies. Sorry.

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