Posted by: Concerned and desperate mom | 2009/06/28

Explaining appropriate sexual behaviour to toddlers

My 4 yr old daughter casually mentioned that she laid on top of of her 5 yr old male friend at a party, because it was nice and she saw it on a TV show. We are very careful about what the kids are exposed to at home, but she said she saw it on TV at a friend. How do I explain that this is inappropriate behaviour. We are afraid of the way we approach this subject so as not to close off any future communication regarding sexuality. Please advise how to tackle this issue.

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Our expert says:
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Maybe there are aspects to this event not disclosed in your message, but it's not entirely clear to me that this WAS "inappropriate sexual behaviour " It may have been imitation of something they had seen on TV without understanding it as having a sexual connotation. Your concern emphasizes a point that I think very important --- it is not as protective as you might think, to be "very careful about what the kids are exposed to at home" --- their opportunities for exposure are widesoread and they don't spend all their time at home --- more protective is to be less restrictive ( within reason ) and rather use opportunities of some mildly risque moments on TV ( which you should watch with them ) to discuss what is and isn't appropriate, so they have some internalized sense of values and interpretation with which to approach whatever else they might be exposed to outside the home.
So approach this calmly and without alarm or blame, and talk about it --- firstly about how proud you are that she disussed this with you, and then about what she saw on TV, what she thought it was about, what she thought that meant, what she thought "nice" about it, and so on --- and include, to be repeated at other oppportunities, calm teaching about privacy, and about what is and is not appropriate in contact with other people.

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