Naming Your Bits! – The Case Against Mimis and Pee Pees.

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Look at any parenting forum from Mumsnet to Babycentre or perhaps chatting over a coffee after drop-off and no doubt there will have been a debate or discussion somewhere about what you teach your kids to call their private parts. It’s a surprisingly divisive subject actually. At The Minefield we have been really surprised by the level of passion and debate this subject has sparked.

So what do you teach your kids to call their genitals? Most people, it seems, simply use the same terminology that they were taught as children and perhaps haven’t given it much thought beyond that. Some, feel very strongly that children, especially smaller ones shouldn’t be using so called ‘grown up’ terminology for their nether regions because it sounds harsh and inappropriate. But what are we teaching kids by policing how they even talk about their bodies let alone live in them? What’s the worst that can happen if they talk about penis’ and vulvas correctly? Are we simply projecting our own preconceptions of sexuality or embarrassment when we nick-name genitals? Some argue, particularly when talking about young girls, that giving nicknames to their ‘down-theres’ helps them feel like their private parts are ultimately cute and pretty. Although that is essentially a good thing, it has no evidentiary basis to put it to the test. Language alone, although massively important, won’t hide any real embarrassment you have with the subject when discussing it with your kids, if you are obviously uncomfortable they will detect this. It’s important to try and be matter of fact, don’t put off answering questions unless really necessary and try to have a relaxed body language also. Sexuality is a healthy part of life and nothing to be ashamed of and although you may not be discussing this quite yet with your kids, you are laying the groundwork for future conversations. Parenting guru Dr Sears recommends:

“It’s extremely important to use accurate terms. Starting at this early age, you want your child to learn that they can depend on you to be trustworthy and an easily approachable source of information, especially on sensitive issues.”

They are still going to explore and play with their bodies no matter what (just like adults do!) and at least by educating kids correctly about their bodies we can arm them with a language that helps foster ownership and a positive relationship with themselves. From a young age we teach them self-care of many other parts of their bodies, brushing teeth or hair, washing hands, wiping bums, how their lungs take in air, their hearts pump blood, so why not use the same straight-forward language to name what’s between their legs?

In fact, there has been research done by the American Academy of Paediatrics as well as advice from the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, amongst others, all recommending that teaching your children the correct names for their privates is not only good for their self-esteem: (“Making up names for body parts may give the idea that there is something bad about them or their proper name.”) But also can help arm them against vulnerability from sexual predators. Kids who are able to talk about their genitals in a frank and real way are less likely to suffer abuse later on as it’s a deterrent to be able to talk about their private parts in a clear way. Laura Palumbo, a Prevention Specialist at the Sexual Violence Resource Centre says:

“Teaching children anatomically correct terms, age-appropriately, promotes positive body image, self confidence and parent-child communication. It discourages perpetrators and in the event of abuse helps children and adults navigate the disclosure process.”

So putting all our adult hang-ups and squeamishness aside, what better argument is there than safety? If we as grown-ups can’t bring ourselves to talk about penis’ and vulvas, if we don’t have a non-cutesy honest language with which to discuss our bodies how can we expect our children to grow up feeling no shame about their own? It’s hard to cultivate a healthy, informed and positive relationship with something you can’t bring yourself to say out loud!

So, how do you feel about this idea? Are you strongly in favour of nicknames and why? Or are you leaning more towards teaching your kids the more anatomical names for their privates? Perhaps you think there are good ages for these things and bad, and what are they? We want to hear from you at The Minefield about what you call genitals in your household and how you discuss such things with your kids of all ages. We know there are all kinds of nick-names, euphemisms and opinions out there and we want to hear them!




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