My four year daughter has began to masterbate excessively, as in continually for periods of time.The more we tel her off, the more she does it. I understand this is probably a behavioural problem now, but we are at our wits end. It is uncomfortable to take her out inpublic places and to other peoples homes. How should we deal with this other than ignore it, it's too obvious and excessive to ignore. She is toilet trained, a very happy little girl, the middle child and at pre-school part time. I have taken her to the doctors twice to check for a thrush infection but it is NAD.
I think that you need to talk to a doctor about this behavioral problem. You also have to talk to her about private time and when and what is appropriate. I think a behavioral specialist or a therapist about this and how to deal with it. I am sorry that you are going through this and hopefully she will listen to you and give it a break for a while. I hope that you can get it under control because that has to be seriously embarrassing for you when you go out in public.
Occasional masturbation is a normal behavior of many infants and preschoolers. Up to one-third of children in this age group discovers masturbation while exploring their bodies. Just as they explore their toes and knees, children find all their parts of their bodies eventually. They find it feels good to touch themselves in this way and continue to do so. Most children do this as a comfort measure much like a pacifier is for infants. Of note: irritation or infection does not cause masturbation. This causes pain or itching, so the child may scratch the area and this should be distinguished from masturbation.
Once masturbation begins, it seldom stops completely. However, by age five or six, most children learn some discretion and masturbate only in private. Masturbation becomes almost universal at puberty with normal surges in hormones and sexual drive.
So how do you come to terms with a behavior that is normal but concerning especially when company is over at the house? I suggest the following:
1. It is impossible to eliminate masturbation. Accept the fact that she has learned it and enjoys it. Therefore, a reasonable goal is to control where it occurs. Perhaps limiting it to the bathroom or bedroom. Tell your child it's okay, but it is a private thing that should only be done in her bedroom. Don't ignore it completely, or she may think it is okay to do it freely in any setting leading to criticism by adults and chiding by other children.
2. Ignore masturbation at naptime and bedtime. Try to avoid checking up on them. Remember, this is often a comfort measure to the child.
3. When masturbation occurs outside of her bedroom, first try distracting her. Try distracting her with an activity preferably requiring the use of her hands. If this fails, discipline her reminding her that you know it feels good, but she can't do that in front of other people. Before the age of four or five she may need to be sent to her room.
4. Discuss how you are handling this with all her caretakers. Consistency is key to success.
5. Call your physician if you suspect that your child has been taught masturbation by someone else, your child tries to masturbate others, your child continues to masturbate in front of others.
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