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

Got a question for MrsManners? Ask it here! And check back every Tuesday for her answers.

mrs manners


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callm... callmeann

I truly don't know so I will ask.  Is this only a problem with toddlers who nurse?  I am not leading into any critical remark.  I just have not seen it in toddlers and I don't know any extended nursing ones, either.

SxdUp... SxdUpAngel

My son has never had this issue until recently.  I think it is that they feel different than the rest of my body and he's curious.  They're out there, ya know, when I pick him up, they're feeling different than my hip, my arm, my shoulder, etc.  He's curious.  He was not breastfed past 3 months, callmeann, to answer that question.  He doesn't do it to other women because he won't let other women pick him up.  Of course, he's also 2 and I can tell him that it isn't nice, I don't like it, and I put him down if he won't stop. 



sweet... sweetbabygra756

my son touch his cosin i dont know why he does it he is 2

MrsMa... MrsManners

You know, my eldest Nephew (who is now 14 and would just die if he knew I were talking about this in a public forum) constantly grabbed, pushed and pulled at my breasts/shirt when he was a toddler.  It felt like it was just too much, I had no children and was fairly young (early twenties) and actually asked my Sister to do something about it.  It was her first child and I don't think, at the time, that she saw anything wrong with it because he was being curious.  You ladies are correct, it is just a different part of the body and makes them naturally inquisitive, but sometimes it can just go too far.  My Sister gently reprimanded him and after a few more visits, it stopped (in his case it only took about a week, we are very close). 

Lanasmom Lanasmom

Maybe its a boy thing? My dd was bf'd for 16months and has never done this to me or anyone else.

J_Eve... J_Everett

My son also thinks that my chest is a play ground. Lately he thinks it's funny to jump up on me and start to push and squeese them, all I do is very gently remove him from my lap and simply tell him no and that it not nice and hurts mommy! so far it has worked most of the time!

dgirl... dgirlruhls

My son is now 3, and for the past year. He has had a thing for breasts. He breast fed when he was a baby till he was about 6 months old. Then it was the bottle.  I think he likes them cause they are soft, and he loves being hugged and held. Everyone else in the house is a male, maybe that has something to do with it too.

sande sande

my mother in law still has this problem with her son ....whom im married too.

fluud7 fluud7

sande: lol

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