Masturbation: Toddlers And Preschoolers
Occasional masturbation is normal in 30% of toddlers and preschoolers. These children have discovered masturbation during normal exploration of their bodies. It continues because it feels good. Masturbation becomes frequent only if a child is pressured to stop. That invites a power struggle. Try these approaches instead:
- First: Set realistic goals. It is impossible to eliminate masturbation once it starts. All that you can control is where it occurs. Accept it in the bedroom or bathroom.
- Second: Ignore masturbation at naptime and at bedtime. Don't check on your child at these times.
- Third: Distract your child from masturbation at other times. Try a toy or a new activity. If this fails, send your child to his room. You can't ignore it or your child will feel that he can masturbate anywhere. Your child will catch on to normal privacy and modesty somewhere between ages 3 and 5.
- Fourth: Be sure no one punishes your child for this. It will only make your child feel bad and masturbate more.
- Finally: If you are having trouble accepting this normal behavior, talk with your child's healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.