Social Question

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Is there really anything wrong with letting kids use different words for genitalia?

Asked by WillWorkForChocolate (23108points) July 26th, 2010

My oldest knows the proper anatomical words for men and women, but she chooses to use other words she likes. The penis is “weiner” like a lot of other kids call it, and the vagina is “tootoo”... don’t ask me why, I don’t know, LOL. She has a younger sister and they talk a lot, so I’m sure these words have come up in their conversations.

Anyhow, my 4 year old said something about boys having weiners and a lady blasted me for not teaching my children the proper words.

Why does it matter what they call it? It’s not harming anyone, and at this age it’s just funny. I don’t feel the need to tell her “No honey, we don’t call it that.” It irritated me that the lady felt she had the right to condemn me because my little girl didn’t say “penis”.

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68 Answers

Aster's avatar

Mountains outta molehills if you ask me.

CMaz's avatar

It’s called teaching them respect towards others.

Likeradar's avatar

Ugh, that lady had no business telling you how to raise your kids, especially for something as innocent as silly names for body parts.

I do, however, think it’s important for kids to know the real names for their body parts. As long as they actually know it’s a penis and a vagina, they can call it whatever they want imho. Kid conversations aren’t anatomy classes.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@ChazMaz I’m not sure what you mean; they have plenty of respect for others. I don’t see how respect has anything to do with word choice. My four year old was talking to a doll when she said it, not to a live man.

When I was a kid we called it a weiner too. I don’t call it a weiner now, of course, but she’s 4 for crying out loud. As far as I’m concerned, she can call it a twinkle or something; so long as she’s not calling it a dick, I don’t care.

And most men I know, call it a dick or a cock, instead of penis.

marinelife's avatar

Perhaps what you should tell your four-year-old is that we don’t mention our private parts in casual conversation.

I don’t think it matters what they call them.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@marinelife I should have mentioned in the details that my daughter was talking to a doll when she said it, not a person. My fault for not including that.

janbb's avatar

People always feel they can criticize your parenting. Your job is to grow a thick skin.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I’ll add this to supplement the detail section, though I doubt most will read the previous comments before they weigh in:

This came about because I heard my daughter tell her Ken doll “Yes, you have a weiner”. Apprently she felt the need to reaffirm Ken’s gender? I thought it was hilarious and cute and I posted my “moment of win” on itmademyday.com. A lady commented rudely that I should be teaching my kids the proper words then told me “it hurts our collective intellect”. IMO, she’s being completely ridiculous and making a big deal out of an adorable moment that I found humor in. Like I said, I don’t care what she chooses to call a penis, so long as she’s not calling it a dick, like most grownups I know.

MissAusten's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I know exactly what you mean. I’ve always used correct words for body parts, but as soon as my kids went to school, they learned other (more entertaining) words for those parts. Even my youngest, who will start kindergarten this fall, uses “wiener” instead of penis. He learned wiener from his older brother, who learned it at school, along with “balls” and the newest word: wenis.

To a little kid, those silly and slightly naughty words are just more fun to use. They’ll grow out of it. They know those parts are private and that it isn’t good manners to use words like that in public or at school. Just like fart, poop, pee, etc., it’s one of the many disgusting facets of humor that appeal to children. Ever wonder why those Captain Underpants books are so popular?

The woman who criticized you was out of place. If she knew anything about kids or parenting, she’d know you can’t judge a family based on one small bit of interaction. Apparently when she was a kid no one taught her to mind her own business.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@MissAusten LOL. I know exactly what you mean. We always used funny or even mildly gross words for things as children. It doesn’t mean we weren’t intelligent children, we were just children.

john65pennington's avatar

The English language has many slang words and defintions. i see nothing wrong with substituting a suggestive word for the real word.

It still gets the point across and that’s what matters.

MaryW's avatar

I see nothing wrong for a pet word for a body part as long as it is not rude. And most are not. It is good for the kids to know the proper word just so they are informed. But we should not be so anal that we don’t allow nicknames. They will do it anyway at school and by allowing it at home you can censor the absolutely not words before they are stuck in your little pride and joy’s vocabulary.

Flowergurl's avatar

The only time that I want to hear the word vagina is when I’m at my gyncologist’s office. Other than that, I would personally rather hear those body parts referred to in other terms. I asked around the office (just the girls) and it was funny because almost everyone had a different name for these certain parts. In our family, the boy part is known as the wing-wong. Wenis… that’s a new one!

The woman that corrected you was totally out-of line, especially if you were trying to relate a cute story to others.

knitfroggy's avatar

Your kids should be able to call their genitals whatever they feel comfortable with. Honestly, it wasn’t that ladies business and you didn’t ask for her opinion.

When my kids were smaller I just called them their “privacy”. I personally didn’t feel comfortable asking my kids if they washed their penis or vagina good when they got out of the tub. My mom used to ask my sister and I if we washed our “puddy and butt” good. Even when I was 7 years old those words made me cringe.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Flowergurl I agree, totally. I don’t know why, but I hate the word vagina. To me it just sounds like a creepy slimy thing. “Excue me, waiter! There’s a vagina in my soup!” I know it’s the “proper anatomical word”, but I can’t stand it.

@knitfroggy Your “puddy”???? That’s one I haven’t heard, LOL. My oldest is of the age now that referring to it at all kind of embarasses her, especially since she’s rapidly developing. I just make sure to tell her “Be sure to wash up good!” She knows what I mean. =0)

Scooby's avatar

when I was growing up boys had little men or little man!! :-/
Girls had a tuppence?? no idea on that one but there you go, call em what you will, they’re your kids….... :-/

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m with @Likeradar – as long as they know what these parts are actually called, they can call their parts whatever. And, I hate hate hate peanut gallery parenting by strangers…we were going down some stairs last week and this snooty woman with an equally snooty teenager of hers were walking up and she was like ‘oh you should really walk in front of your child because if he falls then he’ll fall on top of you. My son is 4, is perfectly fine on the stairs and I don’t helicopter parent him like others do. I looked at her and said ‘he’ll be fine, we’re not paranoid’.

knitfroggy's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Yes…“puddy”. It was horrible. I used to tell her to quit asking me that! She finally one day said “Ok. Did you wash your vagina and your anus well?” I was even more mortified. I told her to just quit asking me! I think she kind of did after that. I had to have been 9 or so.

ratboy's avatar

A wee-wee is still a wee-wee no matter what you choose to call it. The woman in question is just a penishead.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’ve heard that it’s important to use the anatomically correct names from somewhere before (but I can’t recall where). I think the argument went along the lines of allowing kids to use synonyms teaches them to be ashamed of their body or something like that. I don’t know. I’m certainly not an expert, and I would need to see a lot of evidence before I believed something like that.

BoBo1946's avatar

@ChazMaz vote for that answer. Takes a lot of time and patience to teach them to do things the right way!

JLeslie's avatar

I have absolutely no problem with kids using different words to describe genitlia. I will never understand the big deal. Sure, as they get older they should learn the proper terms, just like they will learn other parts of their body. People make a big deal out of nothing in my opinion, and I don’t see how it would make children ashamed. I just saw on The View a couple of weeks ago there is some sort of something being voted on to start sex ed in kindergarten, and in K it would consist of teaching children the correct terms for their genitals, and I find that outrageous and ridiculous. I am a big time liberal about sex ed in school, but that is just stupid.

Austinlad's avatar

Great comments on this thread! @WillWorkForChocolate and others summed up my thoughts perfectly.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie I’m not arguing that this is true, but I imagine the logic goes something like, you have this body part that’s so bad you can’t call it by name. Like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.

Or the thing that makes you a boy is bad therefore you might harbor negative feelings about being a boy, vice-versa for women. I can see the logic, but I’m not sure it actually means anything in reality. It would be worth studying though imo.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws I actually do not remember at all what I called that part of my body when I was young now that I think about it. I remember my grandmother using the word urinate and not pee pee when I was little, and not knowing what she was talking about util she translated for me. I was never ashamed about saying pee pee, it seems like it would be the same idea? I think it is fine either way. Parents who want to teach the proper words have at it, people who prefer something else fine too in my book. How often do young children need to talk about that area of their body anyway? That they have to worry about the proper term? Parents say, “don’t play with yourself in public,” and the boys know what is meant I think without calling it anything.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! How often do WE even use the “proper” terms here! We talk about the “package” and the “ladies”!

DominicX's avatar

I don’t see anything wrong with it. They’ll learn the proper terms and the rude slang terms when they’re older. My parents happened to not be big on euphemisms like that and I remember knowing the word “penis” from a young age, but I still knew slang terms from people at school and used them sometimes. I don’t see much wrong with them.

Aster's avatar

This reminds me : a lady was at a friend’s garage sale with her two little daughters. She was Japanese; her husband was a Ph.d in psychology ,FWIW. Every ten minutes she’d say to her daughters, “DO YOU HAVE TO URINATE?” Now, tell me that sounds normal and cool. Everyone would just glare at them. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Aster Pfft! That’s pretentious, IMO! Why not just, “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

Aster's avatar

I know. She said, “we want them to use the Real Terms.” pfft.
I wonder if she asked them that on their first date in front of the guy? oh, excuse me. I meant, in front of the date partner

Dutchess_III's avatar

Did he ever put a ring on her fourth finger phalange on the left hand I wonder.

Zaku's avatar

No, there is nothing wrong with it, especially at four.

I knew a kid who complained jokingly to me about his mom asking him regularly, “did you have your bowel movement today?”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

So when a friend of mine was 3, she went to the doctor and used the word “cooter” to describe her vagina. The doctor promptly admonished her mother, saying that she needed to teach my friend the proper name so that if she was molested, she could tell people. However, I’m not entirely sure why if she had been molested, they could have just had her point on a doll like they always have. Also, they may not be the proper names, but very few of these names could possibly refer to something else. There aren’t alter boys out there claiming the priest touched their wiener when they mean elbow.

This lady was soooooooo out of line in telling you that. There’s nothing wrong with how you’re doing it, and it was none of her business – she was very rude.

janedelila's avatar

The prostitution business is never gonna make it! Thanks random speech police lady. “Excuse me please, I would like to place my oral mucus cavity upon your lower trunk area, which includes your reproductive organ. If said contact results in the expulsion of viscuous white secretions, I shall require a sum of US dollars from your billfold.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

What is wrong is when the parents insist that the kids call them some cutsie name like “weiner” and “hoo hoo.”

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, I don’t insist they use the names, I just let them choose whatever works for them.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think insisting they use different names may be going too far. As @WillWorkForChocolate said, letting them choose may be a better policy. I’m not a developmental psychologist though…

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I introduced my kids to the “proper” terms early, but, as they were just learning to communicate the words got translated into “China” and “Pema” fer a while. I let it go at that. (My sister cracked up, tho, when she saw hand towels hanging in the bathroom and the maker had embroidered “PEMA“on them….) At one point during those years I exasperatedly told my four year old daughter, who was whining about being booooored, to “GO OUTSIDE AND DIG A HOLE TO CHINA!!” She gave me the damnedest, crazy look any four year old could give an adult. Took me a few moments to puzzle that look out!! :)

faye's avatar

I think ‘hoohoo’ is a great term and I would like to go do some hoohooing(?)!! I wouldn’t like it if young children said penis and vagina. And I especially don’t like how vagins is used when it should be vulva. And I especially don’t want to hear a cute 3 year old saying ‘vulva’!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@faye Yeah, but then vulva doesn’t include the vagina so really there’s no great, all-inclusive proper term.

knitfroggy's avatar

@Dutchess_III That makes me think about my cousin. She call her privates her “body”. There was a funeral on TV when she was about 4 or 5 and she asked my aunt what was in that big box. When my aunt told her it was a body, my cousin looked confused and said “A body? Oh My!”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@knitfroggy I can see how that would be confusing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@faye Why wouldn’t you want to hear a 3 year old say the word vagina or vulva if she was trying to tell you she had an owie or something? Are they bad words just because they refer to our genitalia? Are they any worse than “elbow” or “arm” or something?

Likeradar's avatar

@faye It’s just the name of a body part. What’s your concern about a young child being able to properly articulate thoughts (including, as @Dutchess_III pointed out, pain) about a body part?

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Children are curious creatures. They are going to use slang terms or even words that they have invented to name private body parts. As long as they don’t use them in a disparaging manner (eg., as insults), and only as a way to facilitate what they are trying to describe, then I see nothing wrong with it. Slang facilitates communication, but when it’s used in the wrong situation, like at a formal function or even in some public circles, then it’s disrespectful and wrong. That is when parents have to step in and teach their kids that such words are not to be used in certain situations. At school, on the playground, it’s okay. At a guest’s house for Christmas dinner, no. Lol.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My grandson picked up the word “butt” somewhere when he was about 4. I just don’t like that word, and asked him to say “bottom” instead. Apparently we compromised on “bott.” ”)

BoBo1946's avatar

don’t like long winded jokes, but this is the funniest joke I’ve ever heard about children learning bad words! Have told this one before, but some may not have heard/read it.

A 6 year old and a 4 year old are upstairs in their bedroom.

“You know what?” says the 6 year old. “I think it’s about time we started cussing.”

The 4 year old nods his head in approval. The 6 year old continues, “When we go downstairs for breakfast, I’m gonna say something with ‘hell’ and you say something with ‘ass.’” The 4 year old agrees with enthusiasm.

When their mother walks into the kitchen and asks the 6 year old what he wants for breakfast, he replies, “Aw, Hell, Mom, I guess I’ll have some Cheerios.”

WHACK! He flies out of his chair, tumbles across the kitchen floor, gets up, and runs upstairs crying his eyes out with his mother in hot pursuit, slapping his rear with every step. His mom locks him in his room and shouts, “You can just stay there until I let you out!”

She then comes back downstairs, looks at the 4 year old and asks
with a stern voice, “And what do YOU want for breakfast, young
man?”

“I don’t know,” he blubbers, “but you can bet your fat ass it won’t be Cheerios!”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Like, a Mexican kid and his brother wanted to find out what it was like to be a White person. So the oldest covered his face in flour. He went downstairs, presented himself to his gramma and said, “Look! I’m a White kid!” She slaps him and sends him in to his mother. “Look, Mom! I’m a White kid!” Mom slaps him and sends him to his dad. “Look Dad! I’m a White kid!” Dad takes a belt to the kid, and sends him to his room. Little bro said, “Well? What’s it like to be White?”
Kid says, “Only thing I know is, I don’t like them Mexicans!!!”
There’s kind of a moral to the story, isn’t there. :)

faye's avatar

@Dutchess_III @Likeradar I think some words sound revolting and imo vulva is one of them. My children knew all the right words- I’m a nurse, they loved my anatomy and physiology textbook and every question was answered with the truth. And I would understand whatever term the family used if my child had an owie. I still don’t want to hear a young child talking about their genitalia in public. I should have made the circumstance of the hearing more clear. OK?

Scooby's avatar

@BoBo1946

Nice one Lol….... ;-)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree they shouldn’t talk about their “privates” in public, not even if they’re using cute words like “hoo hoo,” and “wiener.”

BoBo1946's avatar

@Scooby that is my all-time favorite joke. I can just visualize that happening.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Oh, I just remember one woman’s reason for not teaching her kids the proper words: Telling your kids not to discuss something in public or use a word in front of other people tends not to work, especially when they’re really young. She taught her 3 year old “vagina”, and then about a month later when her daughter was in dance class, the teacher said “Now shake those fannies, girls!” and the little girl screamed at the top of her lungs “It’s not your fanny, it’s your VAGINA!!!!!”. All of the other moms were pissed that now they had to teach their little girls about that word because this mom couldn’t just go with “privates” or something.

MissAusten's avatar

@papayalily That is so funny! My daughter learned the word penis when she was a toddler, thanks to a little boy in her daycare class who like to talk about his penis. She wasn’t even two yet. Once she was with my husband in line at a deli, and she loudly said to him, “Daddy, you don’t have a penis!” and cracked up laughing. Apparently everyone except my husband found it amusing. You’re right though, it is difficult to get very young children to understand that certain words aren’t for loud public declarations. They don’t attach the same stigma or sense of propriety to things. I’ve been out with my kids and had them comment to strangers about their personal appearance (the worst was when my daughter said to a man at the grocery store, “You’re fat like my Papa!”). How do you explain to a toddler why that’s wrong? In her mind, it was just like saying to someone, “Oh, you have blonde hair like me!”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@MissAusten That’s hilarious!

Dutchess_III's avatar

@papayalily I don’t understand why the other mother’s were pissed. I’d get a big grin out of it.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Dutchess_III I haven’t met many mothers that didn’t go to extreme efforts to put off explaining anything relating to sex to their children.

gorillapaws's avatar

This is why I’m terrified of becoming a father one day. On one hand if you make them use epithets for their genitals you potentially risk them forming unhealthy attitudes about their bodies and their sexuality. On the other-hand you risk them saying something incredibly socially inappropriate, hurting someone else’s feelings, or creating the situation where they’re horribly embarrassed, and potentially traumatized for life.

I would never backseat parent because I imagine it’s hard enough to “front-seat parent.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

That part terrifies you @gorillapaws? It’s not hard to train them into certain polite expectations. So no worries! My kids have never embarrassed me in public by discussing the privates, but IN private I’ve gotten a ton of laughs over their innocence! Like when my son was about 3 he got one of those long party balloons from somewhere. It was almost as tall as he was. He was holding it and looking at it, then he stuck in the appropriate place and exclaimed “This is bigger than my penis!!” I just rolled! The balloon was bigger than his whole body!

gorillapaws's avatar

@Dutchess_III It’s the idea that little, seemingly harmless decisions might have the potential for serious unforeseen consequences down the road.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The decision to have a baby should never be considered a “little” decision. It’s a HUGE decision.

But what kind of “serious unforeseen consequences” are you thinking of? I would never call an innocent kid blurting out “penis” or “vagina” a “serious consequence.”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Dutchess_III What you call an innocent and natural curiosity others call sexual harassment, and then we all call it “lawsuit”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@papayalily May I ask what you’re talking about?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Dutchess_III I know a couple who pressed charges of sexual harassment against a boy in their son’s class because this boy dared to use the proper words in the locker room. They’re now trying to get him registered as a sex offender.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How old was the boy and what was the context in which he was using them in? Was he directing them toward a particular individual? Was he making improper suggestions? I’d have to know the full story before I can come to any kind of judgement.

In my post I was thinking of kids, 2, 3, 4, 5 years old who just learned the word. “Locker room” suggest more of an adolescent kid, middle school or older, who should know better not an innocent little kid who just learned the word.

mattbrowne's avatar

Some are. Some are not. Kids should be made aware of this.

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