Ask Mrs Manners: My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

manners and etiquette

Photo by Judmr

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitrie, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern, is here to help. 

Dear MrsManners,

How can I teach my 14 month old son not to touch other women's breasts and pull on their shirts?

I've tried gently but firmly pulling his hand away when he does it to me and firmly saying "No, no," but he just laughs. I don't want to ignore it because it can be awkward for some women, especially those who have not had babies. But everything I do seems to egg him on. Any thoughts? -- SonRisenSoul


MrsManners says:

First, please know that this behavior is normal in toddlers, but it is wonderful that you are concerned for those women who may not be as comfortable with it.

Truthfully, you are doing everything just right. If you are consistent in your response, your child will eventually learn. Continuing on the path you are on should do the trick, with a little more time.

Toddlers in general tend to find the use of "No, no" to be funny. One suggestion is to make sure that your tone is firm and that your facial expression matches the tone. You obviously don't want to scare your son -- we aren't talking volume -- just make sure that the intent is serious.

Around your son's age, we started introducing time out at my house. We use a count of three, informing him that he has a one, then a two if the behavior continues, and then a three -- when we get there he must sit still in a chair for the same amount of time as his age. For your son, I would just do 60 seconds. It isn't that it is a long time; it is that there is a consequence. 

I stay with my son when we do it, holding him in place (not roughly, just so he doesn't wiggle away, because he is one heck of a wiggler). It will take a few of these, but now that our son is 19 months old, all we have to say is, "That's a one, and do you want to sit in time out?" He will say no, and then stop the behavior. 

But every parent has a different method of discipline, and only you can really tell what types of things he will respond best to and some of it is a process of elimination. Here are some that other moms use:

  • Some mothers swat hands when they have tried everything else, and those who use that method will swear by it. It is not one that would work with my son because he is too defiant -- all it would teach him is that it is okay to hit. Every child is different.
  • I know other mothers that will take away the favorite toy to teach the idea of there being consequences for an action. For instance, "Jon if you touch my breast, I will have to take X away from you." I personally do not think that this works well for most toddlers because it is too abstract. If they aren't playing with X at the time, then why should they care? But I thought I should be fair and give you multiple options.  You could "take yourself" away and just set him down for a consequence, as well.   

Working with your son on this at home will eventually make it easier when you are out around other women. But how do you explain Mr. Grabby Hands in the meantime? Just apologize for your son's behavior and say that you are working on it. If you like, you can go into further detail, explaining that it is a natural phase that most toddlers go through. People have a tendency to fear the unknown, so once you explain it to them, they will almost always be fine with it. The key is to be aware of it and to address it as quickly as possible in order to eliminate any discomfort the other person may be experiencing. 

Ladies, the key to having great manners is empathy. The key to teaching your children great manners is to be the person that you want your child to be. Lead by example. We could all learn from this mother's excellent display of empathy for those who may not have children or may just be uncomfortable with them!

Thank you so much for the question and please, please, please remember to submit any questions that you may have either to MrsManners or by responding to this post. 


Angie aka MrsManners

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