What would you do if the manager of your child’s daycare centre pulled you aside and told you your son had said the word penis?

To be precise he told a staff member, who was changing his nappy at the time, that he likes his penis.

Immediately afterwards he went and told some of the other children he likes his penis.

Maybe you think, ‘good on him’. He likes his doodle and he wants everyone to know. Or perhaps you think it’s wrong for a little boy to say the word penis.

The reality is, at some time or another, practically every boy goes through a phase of talking about their penis, playing with their penis or, perhaps even worse, getting it out in public.

It’s sort of a learning thing. There’s the realisation that he has this dangly thing hanging outside his body but a lack of knowledge about what’s acceptable behaviour (in relation to his dangly thing!).

But, as boys grow older they learn that it’s okay to ask questions about their penis but it’s not okay to get it out at the dinner table.

However, back to the mum. After her telling off she headed straight to Mumsnet’s parenting forum to share what had happened and ask if other mums feel she is being unreasonable. Here’s what she posted…

mumsnet forum post son says the word penis

The mum continues…

[The daycare manager] said other parents may not want their children, particularly the little girls, to hear that word and that the nursery workers had gone to her and she had told my DS (Dear Son) to stop saying it and explained to him that it wasn’t a nice thing to say. 

I got quite angry and said that I really don’t appreciate her doing that because it’s not a bad word and her telling him that it is will make him think it’s a dirty or bad thing, when it’s actually the correct word for it. I also said that if you don’t want him to say it, just distract him with literally anything else and he would have forgotten about it.

kids at lunch table in daycare

From a personal perspective, when my little girl started kindy (just last year) I was told by her teacher in the first few weeks that they were going to be talking about body parts. She went on to advise that at home we should be calling body parts by their proper names. No calling the vagina a foo-foo or front bottom. Oh, no!

She explained that aside from it being totally okay (yes, even appropriate) to call things by the correct name, if ever the child was involved in an instance where someone touches them in an inappropriate place (god forbid), the child would have the right language to be able to tell someone what happened.

Instead of saying “Uncle John kissed me on the knuckles” (knuckles being the make-believe word for breasts) and having a trusted adult say, “oh that’s ok”- if the correct terminology is used, the real severity and inappropriateness of the situation would come to light.

In the case of the kid who said penis, the daycare manager goes on to advise the mum that she should work on teaching her son what is appropriate and what is not.

I said “Absolutely not. I’m not giving my child a complex or making him think his body is something to be ashamed of. He’s 2 for god’s sake! He doesn’t understand anything about what is socially appropriate and telling him that penis is a bad word seems bizarre. And furthermore, I do not want you or anyone else to tell him not to say it either. If he says it again, just distract him with something and he’ll stop.” 

She then said that she was just trying to avoid a situation where another parent gets upset because their child came home and said penis. I told her she can tell them that my son said it because his mother has taught him about all his body parts. 

Then we just stared at each other and I said that I had to go get DS and I was disappointed with how they had handled it.

I came home and told my DH (Dear husband) what happened and he said he couldn’t believe I got so defensive and that he told me not to call it a penis because of that very thing. He said everyone here says willy and it’s more socially acceptable. He said it was all my fault and the nursery was correct. I am genuinely blown away. Was I wrong?

little girl covering her mouth

Well, it seems that she wasn’t wrong in her reaction as many mums on the Mumsnet forum shared their support, saying they too would have reacted in the same way.

One woman posted, “As he gets older I’d explain that there are times and places to talk about penises and bums because they’re private but of course penis isn’t a bad word. That was a ridiculous thing for them to tell him.”

Another said, “God forbid we call body parts by their actual name.”

“Surely he is not the only child there who knows boys have a penis?? You are not being unreasonable, it’s fine if parents want to call it something else and also fine if you want to use proper terms”, another mum posted.

So, what are your thoughts? Should we teach our kids the correct terminology or is it inappropriate in this instance?

Author

Leanne is Mum Central's Editor-in-Chief. A former Sydneysider, she turned her ideas of a sea change into reality and now lives with her family in beautiful South-West WA. A lover of yoga and travel, like most mums, she’s on a quest to create a better work-life balance. When she’s not pulling socks out from behind the sofa or sponging little hand prints off the walls, she’s in the kitchen trying to dream up exciting lunch box ideas for her three cheeky monkeys.

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