I Say Penis, You Say Doodle: But What Should We Say Around the Kids?

I’m a ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ kind of gal.

But my partner prefers to use fluffy nicknames for our private parts. Well, around the kids, anyway.

Having a whole dictionary of names for private parts is starting to get a bit confusing. And with another little one on the way, it’s about time we sorted it out.

Vagina or Ya-ya? What the experts are saying

The general consensus among the experts, including  Saleema Noon, co-author of Talk Sex Today: What Kids Need to Know and How Adults Can Teach Them and Laura Palumbo of the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, is that we should be up front when it comes to the language we use to describe our private parts. 

Counselling Psychotherapist, Dr Karen Phillip tells Mum Central,

When we teach correct referral it allows an open conversation without any stigma or shame.

Hiding the correct name can give the child an impression it is a bad or a secret part of their anatomy, something we are not allowed to say out loud.”

No frilly nicknames. Just basic anatomy. Head. Shoulders. Knees. Toes. Vagina. Penis. Scrotum. Clitoris. Vulva. Breasts. Yep. Kids should know them all.

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Keep it real from day one

Being up front by day one avoids confusion down the road. It also eliminates the need to back track and explain why you used to call a penis a doodle, but now it’s called a penis.

Call it a penis from the start and you won’t have to explain your change of vocabulary. It’s not like you’re ruining their childhood by skipping the cutesy terminology. It’s not Santa.

Ditch the doodle talk. And the confusion

Another issue with using nicknames for our privates is that it can be confusing to others, such as doctors or police officers.

Children need to be able to express themselves correctly, especially if they are in a situation when their genitals have been touched or hurt in any way. It’s an awful thought to have, but it’s important children are taught this safety lesson.

According to child protection advocate and author, Michelle Derrig, using correct terms means the message won’t get lost in translation:

“If a young child disclosed to a teacher that another child had been touching their ‘flower’ while they were playing outside on the play equipment – the statement wouldn’t necessarily raise any alarm bells. Whereas if the child used the word ‘vagina’ there is simply no room for the message to be misunderstood.”

But cute nicknames come with the territory

Of course, changing perfectly normal sounding words to strange nicknames is part of the territory when you bring home a new baby.

For example, bottle becomes ‘bot bot.’ Dummy becomes ‘nuk nuk’. Pyjamas become ‘jam jams’.

So is there really anything wrong with opting for cute names for private parts? Not really. After all, you’re the parent. You get to decide what a penis is called. It’s your parental right.  If you’re more comfortable with ya-ya, pee-pee, doodle, willy or whatever other names you’ve decided on, go for it!

As for us, we will be making the full swap into accurate names for private parts asap. Partner included. Despite his complaints that ‘it’s weird.’

Yes, 36-year-old man child. It is weird using these ‘grown-up’ words in front of the kids. But you’re an adult. You can do it. So stop snickering and use the word ‘vagina’, dammit.

Do you prefer using proper names for private parts? Or are you on board with the fluffy nicknames instead? For more upfront ways to teach your kids about private parts, check out this controversial and incredibly graphic How Babies Are Made picture book.

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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