For the love of all that is holy, please stop teaching your kids pet names for their private parts in lieu of their real names. Use the correct terminology, from day one.
Here are some of the absolutely ridiculous examples I’ve actually heard some parents use when talking about their kids’ genitals:
Nr. Noodle or Mr. Burrito (penis)
Little Man (penis)
Please understand that I’m not including the widely accepted alternatives like “boobs” in place of “breasts” or “balls” in place of “testicles/testes” (though the correct terms of “breasts” and “testicles” should still be taught). I’m specifically talking about the little names we come up with, or that our kids start to use naturally and we allow, that have absolutely no relation to the correct anatomical organs. How in the world is a monkey a good alternative for vulva? Or Nr. Noodle? When I heard a mother say that to her son during a diaper change, referencing his uncircumcised penis, I’m pretty sure I died a little on the inside as I pictured that kid growing up to never take the word “penis” seriously.
“But it’s so cute to use nick names!”
Sure. So are puppies. But you aren’t going to teach your kid to call a puppy a “squeezer” instead (or something equally as dumb).
“I want to maintain their innocence as long as possible.”
What does this even mean? Confusing your kid about the name of something on their body is somehow preserving innocence? Do you want to keep your kid in the dark as long as possible regarding anything about their genitals?
“What if my two year old says ‘vulva’ or ‘penis’ in public? I’d be so embarrassed.”
Why not choose to laugh it off, instead? Kids say the funniest things and half the stuff they say make for some great stories! And why not use it as a teaching experience, if that happens? If your kids points out my breasts in public, loudly commenting that I must be a girl because I have them, I’ll laugh and tell him he’s right. And then from there, you can teach your child about when it’s appropriate to use those words and so on. The world continues to turn.
“Those words are too grown up/inappropriate for a toddler.”
Why is teaching your child the correct names of their private parts any different than teaching them about the ear or elbow? I can see your point, thinking that they are too young for such “grown up” words, because our society has sexualized those terms to the point where we see them as only taboo. But we can’t deny that those really are the names of these body parts. You aren’t sexualizing anything when using the correct names; you’re educating.
It’s so important to teach, and frequently use (not ignore and hope their curiosity goes away) correct anatomical terms for every body part, especially genitals. Here are a few big reasons why:
Eliminate confusion: You want your daughter to understand the instruction leaflet in her tampon box and know where to put what, right? You want your son to be respectful towards his future wife’s body, right? You want your kid to feel comfortable coming to you with questions about his body, instead of searching on Google, right? Teach the correct terms and you’ll eliminate any added confusion to an already confusing area of the body.
Promotes maturity on the subject: Why do kids on the playground say “penis” and then giggle? Or frat boys get drunk and brag about their genitals? Because our society doesn’t talk about these areas appropriately, so they become taboo, silly, under appreciated or embarrassing. But if we teach our kids the correct terms for body parts, and treat “penis” the same as we would “knee,” our kids might have a chance at growing up more mature on the subject, treating private parts with respect.
Understand medical advice: If your child ever needs medical advice or consultation involving that area of the body, she will have a much easier time understanding what the physician is saying if you’ve taught her the correct terminology her whole life.
Less taboo: No one talks about genitalia seriously in our culture, so to use the real names become taboo. It’s much easier to joke or to brush something off when you use “coochie” instead of the more serious (but correct) “vulva.” It’s easier to convince ourselves that a silly nickname like “monkey” is a more age appropriate term than “vagina.” But if we don’t use the correct names, they will stay a mystery that many people feel embarrassed about.
And the big one– Identify sexual abuse earlier: No one likes to think this might be something his or her kid will experience, but we have to address it. A child’s chance of avoiding sexual abuse situations increases if they know and can use the specific, correct terminology for their body. And if this worst case scenario ever were to happen, your child being able to identify to police exactly where they were touched using the correct words would help the investigation immensely.
If you insist on still using silly pet names for your kids’ genitals, please do everyone a favor and at least teach your kids the correct term every once in a while. Make sure they understand what their parts really are and what the functions of each organ are. Feel free to adjust the amount of detail you explain, making the discussion more age appropriate, but understand that anatomically correct words are actually age appropriate, from day one.