Yesterday, I got a call from a mother who wanted to discuss how to introduce gender and body awareness to her daughter. What she told me took me by surprise and if I may say, would have made it to newspapers had the same behaviour occurred at school and by a boy.
The mother was appalled and embarrassed by her daughter’s behavior. While she was speaking to me, I could sense she was holding back her tears. Her 5year old girl had locked herself up with her younger cousin, a 2 year old boy, when he went to use the washroom. And since this happened in front of the family, the mother was deeply ashamed of the behavior. The mother understood the reason her daughter did that but still it was no way acceptable. Sure, we all would agree to it.
Ever since, I have been concerned for my 5year old son. He is too curious and has been asking these questions for over an year. We read books to him and I named his and my body parts (including private body parts) for him – properly! I remember him asking me if he could see how do I pee.
I knew it was his curiosity around my gender and sheer innocence of a child behind this. Same stands true for all the other children. So, not for a moment it occurred to me as the child’s fault. The child was simply curious. The intention of the child was to understand how the other gender differs, how their body differs.
Of course the way the child approached it was definitely wrong. This girl has no siblings and had often asked her mom about how boys pee. I am sure she never got a satisfactory answer from her parents. In this particular case, I think the blame lies on the parents. They knew the child’s questions and curiosity around the private body parts but still felt it was too early.
Let us be very clear, as parents we cannot decide when it is too early. Our children’s question are going to decide how much information we need to share. If your child asks a gender specific question relating to private parts, answer it with upmost sincerity and keep in simple.
A few months back a kindergartener was in news for raping his classmate. Again in this case, the boy must have seen something inappropriate and tried it with his classmate. The onus of such behaviors thus, lie on parents and the caretakers. We cannot criminalise a young child’s intentions. Their actions are telltale signs of what they are learning and witnessing in their surrounding. So, it is us who needs to be watchful.
Parents should be proactive and introduce body differences early on, whether through communication or books. Naming body parts, specially genital parts is important. There should be no shame or embarrassment surrounding this topic.
Children at such young age are incapable of sexualising gender, so we should not think anything beyond the curiosity of the child. Little information is enough, most of the times. If the child is not satisfied, she/he will question again. That’s what we need to follow…the child should lead.
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