Your kid points to their genitalia and says ‘what’s this?’ You’re frantically thinking about what you should say. Call it the real thing? Give it a cutesy name? Sometimes it’s easier to use a name that makes you feel more comfortable- I get it. But in all seriousness, we need to stop using nicknames for private parts. Especially with our children.
Using child-friendly names for private parts may make talking about our children’s body parts less awkward for us as parents, but it absolutely does our children a disservice.
The Case Against Using Nicknames for Private Parts
Children Should Know the Appropriate Anatomical Term for their Genitalia
A penis is a penis is a penis. Same goes for a vulva. Just because we call it a ‘wee-wee’ or a ‘vajayjay’ doesn’t mean we need to teach those terms to our kids.
I can think back to THAT CLASS in elementary school where we learned about our menses and anatomy. It was probably in 5th grade? I can remember a lot of the girls in the room giggling at the image of our reproductive anatomy on the screen.
And sex ed in high school health class? So much snickering when the teacher said penis.
But what if, instead of resorting to laughter because our anatomy makes us uncomfortable, kids find the names for their private parts (gasp) normal?
When kids know and are comfortable using the standard terms for their private body parts—penis, scrotum, clitoris, vagina—it adds another layer of protection against molestation, child abuse, and more.
Using Appropriate Terms Protects Against Child Abuse
Child-friendly names for private parts help abusers.
I said it.
If a child feels awkward or embarrassed talking about their body, they’re less likely to tell you if someone is touching them inappropriately.
Having an open dialogue with our kids about their private parts makes them feel empowered.
It also significantly decreases their susceptibility to molestation. When a child is abused, having the correct language helps the kid and adults deal with the situation.
My oldest is 5. She goes to a community preschool program in the morning. One day this past school year I got a call from her teacher stating that ‘Your daughter informed us that another child touched her vulva, tried to pull her pants down and that she didn’t like it. We’ve taken appropriate action and appreciate her openness in telling us what happened’.
Now, imagine if she had gone to her teacher and said ‘he touched my flower’. Would her teacher even know what HER FLOWER was? Probably not. She likely would’ve thought another kid took her toy.
When parents use nicknames for private parts it shows our own discomfort talking openly about them. Our kids pick up on that and they start to understand that there is something naughty, wrong, or even rude talking about their body.
Private Parts are Not Bad
Our children need to know that their penis, scrotum, clitoris, vagina, and vulva are body parts like their arms, feet, ears, and elbows. They’re different because they’re private—we usually keep them covered—but they’re healthy, good, and normal body parts.
We should strive to create a culture where our children feel comfortable telling us about- and asking questions about- their private parts, just like they do for so many other topics.
Stop Using Nicknames for Private Parts. End of Story.
Don’t believe me? Even the American Academy of Pediatrics states:
“In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while private, are not so private that you can’t talk about them.”
Using child-friendly nicknames for private parts does not help our kids. Will you commit to using appropriate anatomical terms with your family?