Thursday, April 10, 2008


Finally! A Thought for Thursday from me! I was beginning to think I was all thought out. Or just always too busy to think. One or the other.

Anyway, I'm coming back to TFT in style today... a true mommy topic, and kind of an odd one, but one I want lots of opinions on. See, this is something I always wonder about, always overhear conversations on, always read blog posts about... and I feel like I have a different take on it. So I want your opinion... and also your advice because I'm kind of at a loss. Confused? Well, let me get started...

So I'm talking about... body parts. More specifically private body parts and introducing/explaining their names to young kids.
Okay. We've all heard the mantra; teach kids correct terminology, don't dance around the subject or be embarrassed to name body parts... it's natural, they need to know, blah, blah, blah. All the people who are all "teach them correct terminology... a two-year-old-boy doesn't have a pee pee, he has a penis; and a two-year-old girl doesn't have a whatever else kids are calling it these days, she has a vagina. Teach them these words unashamedly and teach them to be proud of their bodies."

And then there are all these stories floating around of toddlers/preschoolers using these words in public, talking matter of factly about daddy's penis and mommy's vagina, and people think it's cute or funny or embarrassing or wonderful. Whatever.

Here are two points where I stumble on the "correct terminology" part of educating young kids. (and I am talking young, like learning to talk, starting to explore and ask questions, pottytraining ages)

1. I'm all for teaching my kids the actual names of their actual body parts.
But I also think some of those words just sound inappropriate odd out of place coming out of the mouth of an 18 month old. It's kind of the same as using the word "potty". It's just a younger sounding way of saying "using the bathroom/restroom/toilet". Yes, they know what the bathroom is, but they most of the time use the word potty. Now, do I think they'll still be saying "I have to go potty" when they're 13? No.
Likewise with the genitalia terminology... yes, I have told my son that is a penis, but most of the time? He just says pee pee. It's a younger, more innocent, "gentler" way of saying it. Do I think Sawyer will still be calling it a pee pee when he's 18? No.

2. I'm all for teaching my kids the actual names of their actual body parts.
Here's my biggest "want to butt into these kind of conversations but I don't really know how" thing... You tell your two year old son that he has a penis. This is what he knows, this is what he sees, this is how he's understanding boys go to the bathroom. At some point he wants to know how girls pee. He knows and has probably seen that girls don't have a penis. So he wants to know, a boy has a penis and a girl has what? And what do most parents answer? What do most "always be open and honest and natural with your children" parents answer? What is the opposite of a penis? A vagina. Right? This is the correct terminology to teach your child, right?

In my opinion, this is where it's not quite right. Last time I checked, the average two year old has not seen a vagina. Or when they did, it was two years previously and I'm sure they don't quite remember their trip down the birth canal. Right now, they are simply comparing what boys look like and what girls look like. They simply want to know why girls don't have a penis to pee from. They don't know or care and will not need to know for many years to come, that sexually, the opposite of a penis is a vagina. They are not inquiring sexually right now! They are talking about appearances and peeing organs!!! Why are we telling toddlers that women have vaginas? Would you show your toddler your vagina? Do you pee out of your vagina? If you want to answer your child's question "terminoligically correctly" wouldn't you be telling him that boys have a penis and girls have a what? A Urethra? (sorry, if that's an overabundance of the v-word!)

If you ask me, toddlers/preschoolers have no reason to be associating the word vagina with the female body until they are either asking about a baby being born, if they happen to actually be learning technical human anatomy at the age of three, or when actual sexual conversations start happening. Otherwise, it just doesn't make sense to me. My toddler doesn't know where my vagina is, so why should he be walking around talking about it??
Which is why I always leave those "I'm proud I've taught my two year old the correct terminology" conversations a little confused... and want to say to parents sometimes, "are you even thinking of the correct terminology?"

So my question is, what would the "correct" terminology be? What would the name for "down there" be, without referring to the vagina?
Around here, with our kids, we just call it where she goes pee pee, or many times Savannah just calls it her "front bottom". In general we refer to it simply as our private parts. But it's kind of for lack of a better word. Obviously we're not talking about vaginas in everyday bath, dressing, or potty conversations. That's not what it is. So what is it?

Am I way off base here or does anyone else think this way?
What do you call it all? What was said in your house growing up? What do you/did you/do you plan on referring to "those parts" with your kids?

And check out other Thoughts for Thursday this week:
Nicole talks about vacations
Kasey talks about googling
Kristi talks about celebrity gossip
Jessica talks about at-home parties
Anne talks about unwinding before bed
Jenny talks about blog impressions
Michelle talks about being happy
any more girls??


Michelle Leigh said...

First of all, I hope your eye is doing better. What happened?

Secondly, I'm with you on this. I really don't care what my kid calls their parts. I don't call it my vagina even now and my hubby doesn't refer to his part as a penis. Of course my kids have noticed the differences between each other, they always point at Bennett's wiener. I guess it doesn't really matter what they call it as long as when they get older they are taught that their parts are private to themselves. I think that's the more important lesson here than just terminology. Good topic and I see I rambled a bit. Oh well. My head's not working today!

Anonymous said...

how are you doing?!?

i totally agree with your point of view...

we'll probably just do something like 'pee pee'. i agree that it's just like saying 'potty' instead of bathroom. not sure yet on what we would call girl parts. i guess i haven't thought about that since we don't have a girl... but you're right... why would you say someone pees out of their vagina?!? LOL.

jessica said...

Heather, I'm with you. I don't care if someone teaches their kids those terms, but I don't like the sound of them in general conversation all that much myself. I hear myself hesitate if I have to say them, even to my doctor. (Maybe that is the reason some parents want to change that for their kids; we shouldn't feel awkward.)

Anyway, I think that we use lots of terms with young kids that don't carry on forever. We call a bottle different things, a pacifier different things, sometimes even a blanket different things. And I have learned that a lot of things that sound okay coming out of the mouth of an adult do not sound okay coming out of the mouth of a toddler.

I'm not sure why we've settled on these, but Gertie calls her rear end her rumpus and her bottom her bot.

And one funny little conversation I'm going to relate between my nephew Hunter and Grace when they were about four and five or so. We were driving somewhere in the van and I can't recall why the conversation started, but it picks up like this:

Hunter: I landed on my butt!
Grace: We don't say butt, Hunter.
We say buns.
Hunter: Bun? What's a bun?
Grace: Bun-za.
Hunter: Bun-za? What's a bun-za?


Amie R. said...

Well we have all penises around here and that's what we call them. Ben has picked up boobies and bra. I think I go around having just come out of the shower a little too often in front of him. :) I guess I call my breasts boobies too. Oh he also knows booty...from us telling him to "shake his booty." I have told him about vagina before, but it felt weird, so I just tell him those are my private parts. I would say about half the time I call his penis his private parts as well, so he knows that term too. I think David wanted to use the term penis, so that is why I have done so. I don't think I have a very strong opinion either way. I guess we all pee out of a urethra, but males happen to to have theirs externally located in their penis which also happens to be their sexual organ.

I think the correct terms in defining the difference between genders is penis and vagina. Maybe if the kid developmentally just wants to know where the pee is coming from it is the urethra in their private part, and girls and boys have different private parts.

Amy said...

Pretty much we just say privates, but they do know it's called penis. Even if we didn't call it that (which we did) their doctor does. As for girls, the question has not come up yet. If they did ask me now I would probably just tell them what it is, though I don't really use the term myself very often. I just don't want them ever to be embarrassed by these things. Though I get a little embarrassed by the thought of having to say things like this, I feel it's important to pull it together for their sake. Perhaps the question may have arisen sooner if I had girls and boys? I don't know.

I am all about keeping things simple. I have never felt the need to tell them things "just because". If they were to have asked me when they were toddlers, I would have even made it more simpler.

If my boys asked me where babies came from, I would certainly keep that very simple at this age (7 & 5)too. I pray this doesn't happen for quite a bit! he he he

Anonymous said...

Yikes, I'm a bit nervous about all the upcoming parenting conversations that need to take place! I agree with you, that it would sound very odd for a toddler to walk around chatting about 'penis' and 'vagina'. I think it's important that they have heard these words and know what they are, but I think using 'pee pee' or whatever is totally appropriate for a little kid on a day to day basis. I don't have any good ideas though for what to call the girl's peeing part:)

Just a funny little side story...a few years ago when I was teaching 1st grade English learners, a group of my girls came running up to me after recess and said "Ms. J!!! 'Billy' showed us his winkie out on the playground!" I about died because I had never heard 'winkie' used before (not to mention the fact that one of my students was showing it off outside!)

jenny said...

first, i'm cracking up at jessica's little conversation she posted!

i am totally with you on this subject. saying 'pee pee' for little boys is the same as using 'potty' for the bathroom. of course i'm going to be open with tucker about what things are, but why make things difficult off the get go? as far as the girl parts - not sure, i'm sure it will just be 'where the girl goes pee pee'. lordy.

good topic. :)

jessica said...

hope you're doing better!!!

i agree with everyone else... i'm find if people want to tell their kids correct terminology and it is odd to hear penis and vagina (those are not words i type much!) come from a small child. we've always done pee-pee regardless of gender. i don't have children close in age and small to notice... good post!

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm partly with you on this one...since there are all boys in the house but me, we definitely use the word penis and not some other name...I just personally don't like other cutesy body part names! BUT, I'm totally with you on the girl private parts/what to call them question. This is a conversation we've not really had to have other than "girls don't have a penis". But you're so right that vagina is not the body part they are looking for a name for! Good TFT topic!

Anonymous said...

i have all boys so they definitely know the term penis. we haven't gotten to the girl stuff. when my son asked me what girls had, i just said, " not a penis." it works for now.

Jenn said...

I enjoyed your post. I found your blog from Kasey's blog (her brother-in-law and sister-in-law are friends of mine) and the title of your post intrigued me since I am the mother of two girls age 2 & 4.

At our house we call it "china". We use the term "china" on a regular basis i.e. when taking a bath we say "wash your china" - since they are all about washing themselves these days. I guess if we were trying to be pc we would say "wash your labia".

However, calling it a "china" has created some interesting conversations in our house specifically if we are watching tv and a reference is made about the country of china, the girls just erupt with laughter.

My husband is the only boy in the house for right now so the boy part isn't really an issue. The girls still shower with their Dad (on Sunday mornings to save time before church) but he wears his boxers in the shower in order to avoid any questioning or uncessary stares.

K.M.L said...

I have no idea what I would say....and since I don't have kiddos yet, it's interesting what everyone does. will help us in the future! good post!

Nicole said...

I suppose I'm in the minority here, as we refer to Porter's penis as a penis. I don't see anything wrong with that, as that is what it is and I don't really see any reason to call it a "pee pee" or a "thingy" or other cutesy term (because, same as with "vagina" it isn't really a "pee pee"- yes its where you go pee, but its not a pee pee). He has, a time or two, brought up "penis" in weird situations, however I don't feel embarrassed by it as every human being around knows that a boy having a penis is totally normal. I guess I'd feel differently about him calling it that if I was embarrassed of the word/term. But really, its not like we sit around and talk about his penis. He might talk about it when getting his diaper changed, or if he sees one of us changing our clothes, but other than that its not something we bring up in daily conversation so I don't think calling it a "penis" is inappropriate at all.

As far as girl parts, we have told him girls have a vagina for lack of a better term- what else do you call it? And, technically, urethra is also the "inside" part to where you pee, so that isn't "technically" correct either. I think vagina is used most often with explaining girl parts as its the most common/known/acceptable term, even though its basically lumping everything up as one- kwim? I would have never just openly said "Hey, Porter, I have a vagina (or urethra, or vulva or whatever you choose to call it)" except that he openly referred to "Mommy has a penis" and I figured that was more awkward to hear in public than "Mommy has a vagina" (as the latter is true, and again, I wouldn't get all red in the face about it... if he says it in public I just acknowledge that he's right and move on in conversation)

I guess to each their own as far as what kids refer to their parts as. Obviously, as you said, all kids eventually learn the correct term. While I wouldn't call myself "one of those be all natural and honest and open with your kids" kind of parent, I guess our view on it is that we don't really see any reason to refer/call it anything else and then when they're "older" tell them that "Oh, no honey, its not really a "pee pee/tutu/winky/flower/etc" or whatever.. .its really a penis/vagina/etc". I kind of feel like that'd leave an older child wondering "Hmm... why have they not wanted to tell me what its really called?" and make it seem like its something to be embarrassed about (the term, that is).

When I was younger, I don't really remember any "cutesy nicknames" for private parts. I think in general we just called it privates, but from what I remember I always knew it as "penis" and "vagina".

Robyn said...

I don't think for that age it has to be the correct terminology. What ever works and won't sound totally crazy if said in public is what I'd go with.

lina said...

I have always gone the correct terminology route. With Isaac (4) I had just kind of figured he would pick it up along the way. Well, he picked up the 'penis' part & never has really used it (to my knowledge) out in public, but never really gave the girls privates a thought before, UNTIL SUNDAY SCHOOL.... Another little 4 little year old has told him that babies & pee shoot right out of 'big old holes that girls have'. Hmm! Now that's some great Catholic Education :) So the correction was made.

Kristi @ Mi Vida Ocupada said...

I don't have kids yet, but I think its most appropriate to tell them the proper terms....saying penis or vagina (or talking about sex for that matter) does not bother me. I think you just need to be matter-of-fact about things and not let it embarrass you.

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