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I Caught My Toddler Girl Masturbating, and I'm Cool With It

Photograph by Getty Images

The first time I noticed that my daughter was naked during nap time, I thought nothing of it. It was the middle of the summer and while I thought the room was cool enough with just a fan and the windows open, I figured maybe she had been warm. What I didn't guess and would soon come to realize was that she was doing the no-pants dance. Yep, my 3-year-old was masturbating.

I joked to my friends that she was "just like mommy," in that this was also one of my most favorite hobbies, but inside I was secretly worried. I mean, I had expected this to happen—just not in her toddler years. I remember the first time I tried it, and I certainly wasn't watching "Romper Room." But little did I know that masturbation is in fact something that happens way before the teenage years that we associate it with.

It's completely normal for babies and toddlers to explore their genitals. And for some little kids, this leads to some pleasurable rubbing, either with their hands or up against something. It usually happens during nap time or when kids are sleepy or bored.

I didn't know whether my daughter was looking flushed from the heat or if she was just conjuring up those guys from "Wild Kratts," but apparently, I did the right thing by not intervening. Although your instinct might be to move your child's hands, don't. The worst thing you can do when it comes to childhood masturbation is to tell your son or daughter they are doing something wrong. Not only can that increase the activity, it can also cause them to have major sexual hang-ups as adults.

Masturbation isn't dirty—it's a part of life. And you're not going to stop your kids from doing it, so the best thing is to accept it.

Thankfully, my daughter has a "cool mom" and it didn't take long for me to be down with the fact that this is just a normal part of growing up. I did draw the line, however, when I saw her with her hands down her pants while we were out in public at a music class. I calmly told her that this is something we do only in private. I'm not sure how much she understood, but I will keep reiterating that message to her—in a non-judgmental way, of course.

If you're an adult who is uncomfortable with masturbation, I hope that you will talk to your friends or your pediatrician, so you can see that unless it's happening in public or too frequently, or if you think it's a red flag for an inappropriate situation that may have occurred, there's really nothing wrong with it.

As a very open-minded mom, it's even difficult for me to accept this part of growing up and that I need to shut the damn door and not spy on my little one as she happily puts herself to sleep. Masturbation isn't dirty—it's a part of life. And you're not going to stop your kids from doing it, so the best thing is to accept it. Personally, I'm glad that I'll have an adult daughter who is very familiar—and hopefully accepting—of her own body!

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