Which words should parents use when talking with children about private parts? There’s certainly more than one perspective on the issue: Some moms adamantly believe that only anatomically correct names should be used, another camp is fine with cute code words, and still others fall somewhere in between. Here we break down the key reasons parents choose the words they do…
Anatomical Names Only
Many moms feel very strongly that only the anatomically correct names for private parts should be taught to a child. As Angie B. says: “It's no different than teaching him fingers, toes, nose and ears. They are what they are and there should be no shame in using the appropriate names.” That means teaching toddlers the words penis, testicles, vagina and vulva.
Many moms also say that in addition to causing children to feel embarrassed or ashamed about their private parts, nicknames can cause confusion in communications between the child and their doctors, caregivers, and teachers should any serious issues arise.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees: "It is important to teach your child the proper names for body parts. Making up names for body parts may give the idea that there is something bad about the proper name.”
Universally Understood Euphemisms
Other moms, like Sherri C., take the stance that anatomical words for genitalia should be taught to kids, but that universally understood euphemisms should be used in public conversation: “The correct terminology just is too brash for us so we don't do it. They all know the correct terminology but in the house we opt not to use it…At school etc., it is very taboo to use such words as vagina or penis. They refer to them as private parts at school.”
Many moms also agree with Circle of Moms member Kaleigh that if you do decide to use nicknames, it's better to use a commonly understood euphemism, to avoid communication problems: “There are plenty [of code words] that are frequently used (winky, weiner, front bum, vajay-jay etc.) so I do agree making up random uncommon ones like muffin or broccoli is a little much.”
Cutesy or Nonsense Nicknames
Flower, hoo hoo, noodle, ding ding…there are countless cutesy or seemingly random words used to refer to children’s genitalia. How come?
Many moms who use cute nicknames do it while children are too young to understand when not to say the words. Sarah explains: “I don't want to be in the grocery store and one of my daughters yell out ‘Mommy my vagina hurts’ or ‘my vagina itches’... I mean, if people didn't look at me like I was crazy for teaching them the right words for it, then yeah, I'd teach it to them...but society has deemed these words as offensive and not ‘lady like’ or not ‘proper’ to say out loud….I'll continue with the code names until they are out of the stage of telling anyone and everyone about their privates.” Rebecca C. agrees: “I call my son's a wrinkle or a wiggle…I think penis comes later when they learn when it's appropriate to mention it.”
And to those who say anatomically correct words must be used to ensure good communication about inappropriate touching, Angela B. counters: “You can teach 'good touch, bad touch' without having to use the so-called proper terms.”
What have you taught your children to call their private parts?