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7 yr old touching self

I have concerns about the reasons this little girl touches her self and rubs on pillows, stuffed animals. As well as wonder how do we get her to stop? When the issue first was mentioned to me by my daughter of 14 almost a year ago, I brought it to the attention of my boyfriend as it is unacceptable behavior in the presence of my children (girl 14 & boy 8) or others. We had a sleep over and the 7 yr old was humping her stuffed animal in the bed with my 14 yr, who asked her to stop. The 7 yr replied to her "stop looking at me". After catching her repeatedly over a few weeks, I explained to her dad (boyfriend) he need to do something about this and advised he take her to a doctor to be checked for yeast infections or any other things that may cause her discomfort to make her touch. Eventually he did and everything was fine. The behavior continued so I expressed concerns that maybe something more serious is going on. We had discussion with her and she says she does it because it feels good. She said no one has touched her, she discovered it felt good on her own. We had discussions wither mom who said she also has seen this behavior but not often.  After being caught playing sex with another little girl while with mom for the weekend (completely naked and on top of each other) I felt it best to stop our sleepovers while dad had her for his weekends until we could figure out why this goes on.  
He had been divorced a year at this time and did take his daughter to the same counselor he did while going through his divorce. Since the counselor already new their history and how the divorce had affected this little girl,it seemed like a great idea since they already had established trust. The counselor explained this was
17 Responses
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There is really no way you can ever be certain. It would make sense, though, to have her evaluated by a pediatric mental health professional, not a clincian who deals mostly with adults. At the very least, you can assume that the behavior serves a self-soothing function, and the degree to which the child engages in the behavior is not within normal limits. So it's not that masturbation in a child this age is abnormal in and of itself - it's the frequency, intensity and persistence of the behavior that indicates a problem.
Avatar universal
Masturbation is normal in a child that young. They are starting to discover her body. You shouldn't tell her that it is wrong to be doing. I would tell her that if she wants to that she needs to do it in her room in private. This is just my opinion though.
Avatar universal
I too agree that this is normal and when you see it just tell her "That is something we do in private, please go to your room until you are finished."  The more attention she gets from it the more she will do it.

With that said, if and when you move in all the kids need their own rooms.  A place they can go to be alone.  I would also keep the 7 and 8 year old very well supervised.  If anyone, including teachers, suspects anything it will be your 8yo that gets put under the microscope.

Good Luck,
Avatar universal
while it may be somewhat normal for boys and girls to touch themselves down there or to rub on an object, i have to ask and wonder how can it feel good? can children that young have feelings of arousal?? i just dont understand that part of it. in addition, i do not like the sound of that incident when you found the 2 of them naked on top of one another. that was very unsettling to hear. one of them HAD to see that type of encounter somewhere, somehow. children don't just do that on their own. they may want to see each others genitals, but to do the act is a different story.  
i agree with the dr. about the duration and frequency. it seems quite obsessive (unless it just sounded that way). i agree with you to stop the sleep overs for a while. i also think the less you make of it (although still be aware), the more it may subside.
Avatar universal
Thank you for the information and opinions. I too am concerned that she has seen something somewhere or that something has happened. I have difficulty myself understanding how a child that young can have feelings of arousal? Is this really something they discover on their own?  I did not have any sort of similar issues with my daughter at that age. As far as my son, his discovery of his genitals came about age 4 and only lasted a short period.

The incident with her friend was at the house of the friend during a sleep over, in which that mom caught them. Each of the girls said it was the others idea. She did lose sleep over privileges for a period of time.

We do not tell her that it is wrong to be doing this, but that it should NOT be done in the presence of others. It seems sometimes she just can
Avatar universal
OK this is going to be embarrassing for me, but you asked the questions, and it sounds like you need answers. I, myself, went through this when I was a young girl. I discovered that masturbation "felt good", when I was about four. I went down one of those firemen poles at the playground, and well, you can imagine what happened. I did have a very turbulent childhood, and masturbating relieved so much stress for me. PLus, being a kid, it was one of those things that was private, that no one else knew about. I did get caught in first grade, by my teacher saw me and asked me what I was doing and that's when I realized it was something you do in private. I continued to do it. My family never knew about it. It didn't mess me up sexually or anything and because I was the only one who knew about it, I didn't develop any emotional stigmas from being told, I was abnormal, or it was wrong. One thing that's hard to realize, is that arousal, in and of itself, is purely physical. Now, you're situation is differnt b/c everyone in the house knows about it, and the girl probably didn't know it was "abnormal behavior" and needs the attention she gets from it. I don't know about your specific situation, but I wanted to tell you about my experience. I am now a happy healthy fully functioning 26 yr old woman. See, I'm embarrassed now.
Avatar universal
Children at that age do get the same feelings and it does feel good but they dont have the idea of sex so to them its not a sexual thing.  To them it just feels good
Avatar universal
I think this little girl's behavior is normal. I acted similarly when I was that age. I also think it has to do with coping with stress. I think the best way to deal with it is remind her that it is something to do in private. I grew out of it by 8-9 years old. Also, I turned out to be a normal college-educated happily married adult. Your boyfriend's daughter will probably turn out just fine too. I think your kids will be ok too. My siblings and cousins turned out ok even though they had to grow up with me! :)
Avatar universal
I read your post again. This really seems to bug you. So, why not remove the items that make her masturbation possible? Don't make a big fuss and embarrass the kid, but go get a stuffed animal corner sling and put them up out of her reach. Get rid of all the extra pillows. Get her a pillow for her bed that doesn
Avatar universal
what i cannot fathom is that this is indeed normal??? i never went through this behavior until i was a teen? where do children see this? they must feel guilt about it... no?? none of my friends went through this? no one i EVER babysat for went through this?
you cannot begin to rub upon an object (this young) unless you have seen someone else or have been guided by someone else? this is JUST ME but i did not even feel ANY stimulation as a YOUNG teen when a friend tried to show me that if you rub down there it gets a "tingle". i tried it but never felt anything. i started to fool around with boys at 13/14 and still did not feel any arousal. i just dont comprehend how a young child can feel arousal at the young age of 4 or so?
i certainly can see comfort with a stuffed animal blanket (love object), smelling it, cuddling it, caressing it, carrying it everywhere..sounds natural to me unless the more sexual behavior has been observed. i am a teacher with a masters degree and just dont see this? i am trying to learn since i have a 4yr old myself. she does not exhibit any of this behavior but i am always willing to listen and learn!
Avatar universal
I have taught young children for the past five years.  Believe me, even two year olds discover what "feels good" as they potty train.  That discovery is normal and the child should simply be told that we don't do that in front of people.  However, in this case the behavior seems very consitant.  Does she do it mainly when upset?  If so, it could be a self-calming behavior that can be redirected (when you are upset, draw a picture instead).  However, the situation with the two little girls naked is a red flag.  Which girl initiated the behavior?  If the other girl initiated it and has the same behaviors as the 7 year old, it is possible that the other child was abused and is involving the 7 yr old in role play.  Unfortunately, I have seen this happen at my preschool.  A four year old child involved others in sexual role play and masterbated excessively.  Abuse of the child was suspected and reported, and the perpetrator was found to have abused not only that child but 3 others.  This is most likely not normal and the child should see a specialist who works with children.
Avatar universal
Hello Everyone,

I am new to this and have read all of the posted comments. I am a 40ish year old woman with a 1 year old child. I was concerned because at age 6, I experienced my first orgasm. I was listening to an album of a recorded concert and when the women all screamed for the performer, I got really excited and had an orgasm. Shortly after that, I found one of my moms adult romance novels. The book did not have pictures. I took the book (without her knowledge) and began to read it. The stories about the passionate love making and how the man would touch the woman in the story excited me. At 7 I was masterbating regularly and reading adult stories not pornography. I turned out normal. I've decided to talk to my daughter and be as opened and honest about the subject. I used to think I was unusual because I experienced such intense feelings at a young age. I've resolved that I am not the first and I will not be the last.
Avatar universal
Okay, this really is embarrassing, but I masturbated as a child. I believe I started around age six.  I have had problems with anxiety, and I now believe that my anxiety was the cause of the problem.  I remember being overwhelmed by leaving preschool, this was a coping device.  I assure you, I was never molested, and I had no idea what sex was until a few years later.
I think it would be wise to avoid bringing it up with her.  She will feel humiated by it when she gets older.  She'll grow out of it.  Don't worry.
Avatar universal
Wow, great post!! :)
Avatar universal
MANY of us will adhere to the “it never happened to me so how can it be possible?” That's the norm of our society. We cannot or will not imagine these events unless we have experienced them. Open our minds and we will understand that it is VERY likely that our children, as active as they are, have been inadvertantly touched or rubbed (not molested) in that region of their bodies. There is no invisible shield. Also, keep in mind that to a child of that age, until it's been taught otherwise, the genital region has no name. In their eyes/mind it's "in-determinable" from the foot or the bicep. So when do they "learn" of its taboo-ness? When they start to associate the attitudes that parallel this behavior? This behavior – meaning: the mention or contact with the pelvic area of the body. There are going to be several places they will acquire reactions. The most important and powerful reaction needs to be that of the parent(s).

Keep in mind that, once discovered, a physical pleasure or comfort will instinctively be pursued. The very first reaction of a child when terrified is, “Get to mommy, now!” That’s an instinctive pursuit of comfort. However, instinct can be a tricky beast. When exploring something new, a child rarely find mommy to ask if they should explore the unknown. I won’t make a long post longer by giving the whole story. However, I discovered that my daughter between 5-6years replaced her “finger pacifier” with masturbation. I feel to blame. I had previously warned her that when she started school some kids were not going to be as accepting of her finger sucking habit. Sure enough, she began to be teased at school. She found her own way to release her anxieties. (She used her bike.) She is now 7 and I haven’t noticed that activity for several months now.

To address the possible molestation issue: I would be inclined to sway towards not. However, because you can never be 100%, consider nanny cams in the home. Prices and complicated-ness are lower than ever. To support the mutual respect, you don’t have to put them in the bedrooms. However, you could at least know when who is in what rooms.

I believe that removing the child from the situation by removing the “tools” is an insult to the development of humanity. She –will- find another way to achieve her goal (most likely direct contact). Keep in mind that her “goal” is likely not orgasm but to quell stress or anxiety. Pulling the teeth out of a wolf is not going to keep it from eating the steak.

Here are some opinionated suggestions that I hope help:
-Calmly address her. Don’t get / show fluster or excited-ness.

-Remember, the embarrassment is yours right now, not hers. Besides, you want to teach and prove the discreetness of it to her. Don’t “call her out” in a public area.

-Use words like, “We should do that in our bedrooms or bathroom.” Don’t isolate her situation by saying things like, “You go do that in your room.”

-In a situation like this consider using a codeword (such as “quiet time”) or gesture between the two of you. You don’t want her blaring out, “Mommy, I'm going to go masturbate!” Using a codeword when that “urgency” presents itself may cover several of areas of development. Such as mutual respect (VERY important), uninterruptible personal time, and it may also give you or even a counselor a “marker” or tool for discovering the “when’s and why’s.”

-Big Mistake: Using “disgusting / disgusted” (or some other negatively analogous terminology) (OR body language) when addressing a child about that child’s body. That’s a seed for self-loathing, distrust, and esteem hurdles later in life.
Let the media take care of destroying your child’s image of themselves. It’s your job to let them understand the unconditional love that you have for them. While you are at it, remember that they WILL love what you love!

Bottom-Line: Treat your child as an individual who has simply taught themselves how to operate a car. The knowledge is there and can’t be removed. You need to simply take their hand and give them a few rules of the road.
Avatar universal
I have a seven year old that has started to play with herself, when i ask her why she does it she says that it tickles, shes also proceeded to tell me that she and her little friend while in our pool will pull down there bathing suit bottoms and play with themselves, they do not touch each other though.  She also, and this is very embarrasing to me, but she lets our dog lick her birdie (that is the name i gave her genital area)  this is just a embarrasing situation for her and us at the same time and i do not know why nor do i know how to handle this,
Avatar universal
A related discussion, young child masterbating was started.
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