The Unintended Consequence of Teaching My Kids Proper Body Part Names

I don't quite recall when I learned the proper names for private parts as a kid, but I do remember my parents using some slang terms and a made up one. I love my parents dearly, but long ago I decided I didn’t want to go the made-up name route with my own kids. I didn't want it to create any confusion like it did for me when a very similar sounding word was used in school, but they weren’t referring to someone’s vagina.

From very early on my children have learned that they have a vulva and a vagina or a penis and a scrotum. I'm not uncomfortable saying proper names, but we do still use some common slang terms like boobs instead of breasts. However, I mostly keep slang terms for adult talk.

I've never been embarrassed when my daughter asks questions like, “Does Gramma have a voofa and a bagina too?” or “Do cats have a penuts or a bagina?” 

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I want my children to feel positive about their bodies. But teaching the appropriate names has brought about some unintended consequences.

Like most kids, mine point out various body parts as they learn to label what they are, including their genitals. Diaper changes offer great opportunities for teaching moments, as does bathtime. As my daughter became more verbal, she would make up songs, such as "Clap your nipples, clap your butt."

Now that she's in preschool, she draws more than ever. Her scribblings are starting to be recognizable. She's starting to draw people. At first I was thrilled. I could tell what she was drawing! I could spot a face and a body!

What I hadn't planned on was her drawing all the body parts she knew. It started with a stick figure. She drew the head, eyes, nose, etc. Then she added a body, legs, and arms. She was so proud of herself as she drew a line between the legs, shouting, "He has a penis!"

I shouldn't have been surprised that she would try to draw private parts. They are part of the body too and she's seen them illustrated in books about the body. I did my best not to laugh or look mortified -- which was no easy feat. My first thought was, I hope she doesn't draw penises at preschool! (I've never been talked to about this, so I think we're safe.)

"You're right, honey, boys have penises. We don't usually draw them though."

"Why?" (She always asks the hard questions.)

"Well, we usually draw people with clothes on so we don't see their private parts." It sounded good in my head before the words left my mouth.

"But he doesn't have any clothes." (She had a point.)

"How about you draw some on him? Maybe put some pants on him?"

At this point I was beginning to panic. I really didn't know how else to explain to her that we don't draw anatomically correct stick figures. She didn't see anything inappropriate about it and her intent was completely appropriate. I've been ready for dealing with questions, not drawing pictures of them!

She drew a few more stick figures with penises and one with a vulva before finally scribbling pants on all of them.

What names do your kids use for their private parts?


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