Sexual Behaviors: Setting Limits

Sexual behaviors are normal, even in very young children. Many children touch themselves, show their genitals to others, or ask questions about sex. Talk to your child about sex and let him know that it’s OK to ask you about his body. If your child has not asked you questions by the age of 5, you need to bring it up. This helps to keep your child from getting wrong information at school.

If you feel that your child’s behavior is not OK, such as touching his genitals in public, set some limits. Setting limits will not cause your child to be ashamed or to have hang-ups about sex. Your child needs to learn rules about touching and sexual behaviors. Use a calm and gentle tone. Never yell at your child if his sexual behavior is not OK.

Here are 4 simple rules you can teach your child to help him understand the limits.

  • It’s OK for your child to touch their own genitals when they are alone, but it should be done in a private place, like their bedroom or a bathroom.
  • It’s not OK for your child to show his genitals to other children or adults.
  • It’s not OK for your child to touch other people’s genitals. Tell your child that genitals are people’s private places and that it’s not OK to touch them. Your child should never let other children or adults touch his genitals.

If your child is unable to follow these rules, even after being reminded of them, talk to your child’s healthcare provider.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-27
Last reviewed: 2014-02-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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