QUESTION: My preschool son often has his “hands in his pants.” I would imagine this happens at school too. How should this behavior be handled?
ANSWER:Most preschool teachers have observed a fair number of little boys with “hands in their pants.” At this age, it is normal and expectedthat boys are continuing to explore their bodies with touch*. What is different for many boys is that they are now in public at school. Generally, when Shepherd pre-school teachers see this behavior, they will first try to re-direct by saying something like: “Simon says, everyone stretch up and try to touch the ceiling.” Sometimes, preschool teachers will simply say to the boy: “Please take your hands out of your pants.”
Sometimes a boy will come out of the restroom with his pants down and might be touching or rubbing his penis. This behavior can be awkward for some of the other kids. Rest assured that our Shepherd staff will calmly and decisively handle these types of situations with care. Generally, we tell our preschool students to close the door, go, wipe, pull up their pants and flush! Remember, this is an on-going learning process that often requires quite a few reminders. If you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our ELC staff!
When at home, if you notice your son is becoming preoccupied with the behavior, try one or all of the following: redirection to another activity, calmly asking him to take his hands out of his pants, and/or dress him in “big boy” pants with a belt. Avoid shaming him. Talk to him with a “matter of fact” attitude. Father should take the lead.
*You will notice that I did not use the term “masturbation.” At this age, there is not much of a sexual component with boys who sometimes get preoccupied with touching their penises. Since the penis has more nerve endings than any other part of the male body, touching elicits responses from soothing to titillating, making the behavior desirable and often habitual. Keep in mind that boys at this age are still learning the appropriateness of many actions.
Jack Lipski, M.A.
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