Wednesday, 13 May 2009

What's there to fear?

"Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself."*

Deborah Coddington has gotten all hot under the collar about schools encouraging parents to use correct names for body parts. In this context it was used to teach children about reporting sexual abuse.

My father was really against any type of baby talk insisting that we were talked to in full sentences and learned the correct vocabulary for things including body parts. His view was that using the right words to describe body parts is an essential part of early learning about sex and using nicknames not only teaches children to be embarrassed about their bodies but also destroys the trust and openness that is necessary for the future discussions about sex.

Thus I have little time for baby-talk, one boyfriend used to indulge in it and he was promptly dumped after repeat offenses. However I know many parents feel quite differently about the subject, and prefer to use nicknames to refer to genitals though they would prefer to avoid talking about the subject at all. On the other hand many parents feel quite differently preferring that children not be lumbered by these 'adult' words.

The child has taken to using nicknames, some of them particularly ridiculous, to refer to well anything that might have anything to do with anything reproductively related. The first time she did so I grumbled through gritted teeth to the Suit that just like a hand isn't a "grabber," a finger isn't a "pointer," a vulva isn't a "frontbum."

I patiently explained that knowing the proper name was important for the child's emotional well-being and for her physical safety. Just like it is important that a child know to point to their knee or wrist when it hurts, it is also important that a child can do the same for their sexual body parts in case of sickness, injury, or abuse.

I'm generally of the belief that kids from about 4 or 5 should be able to use the correct terms for all of the sexual body parts of both male and female and the only barrier to that happening are parents who are too embarrassed to talk about it.

Do you teach your children the names for their body parts using the proper names or do you use cute words to describe basic anatomy?

*A cyber-chocolate fish to anyone who can source the quote without the aid of google.

19 comments:

Pauline said...

We definitely use the proper words. It can get tricky if they have friends around who use euphemnisms.

Anonymous said...

The quote sounds like something from a Harry Potter book - talking about "he who must not be named".

Nikki said...

I use the proper terms... well... have recently after thinking about it more once I had call for using them!

We had nicknames as kids and when I started with those it just felt wrong. Again, it's the openness and ease of talking about reproduction, sex, and all things associated that I want with Hannah that prevents me from giving body parts nicknames.

Do people not realise it is our own hangups that colour the way we consider terms like vulva, labia, vagina etc? Kids don't have those hang ups and won't if we don't encourage them.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any problem with people using nicknames for genitals, as long as they actually do know the proper scientific names too.

Moz said...

I prefer to call mine Eric :)

Nah, proper names all the way. I am irritated by "down there" especially. Down exactly where? Under your foot?

Anna said...

I think it's important for kids to be able to talk about health and bodies without embarrassment - and nicknames suggest there's something to be embarrassed about. (I always talk about giving birth vaginally rather than 'naturally', then watch people turn pale.)

When I was pregnant with my son, my daughter got really interested and read some kids' books about human reproduction. In the supermarket one day, she loudly announced, 'Mummy, I've got a uterus - but I'm not going to use it until I'm older!'.

hungrymama said...

I generally use the correct terms with my kids. If I'm using a colloquial term it usually means I am saying something snide to another adult.

Tui said...

In the supermarket one day, she loudly announced, 'Mummy, I've got a uterus - but I'm not going to use it until I'm older!'That sounds pretty much like the perfect thing I'd want to hear from my kids, anyway. :)

I totally agree with Nikki that it's our own hang-ups which make us shocked by these words. Sometimes that's OK - I don't really like hearing five year olds say fuck, and I'm comfortable with the idea that schools don't use those words - but correct words for anatomy? Giving them silly nicknames is a part of a culture of shame around the body and that's something we definitely do not need to perpetuate onto our children.

Anna said...

I have to admit that I find the word 'diddle' quite funny, although I probably wouldn't use it in a medical context.

Deborah said...

We use the correct terms here, and it never occurred to us to do anything else. It's just so much easier.

Julie said...

Apparently Wriggly doesn't have a penis. He has a willy, or a widdle, or something else, but not a penis. People get uncomfortable at the idea that a baby boy has a penis. I can only imagine how they'd feel if I had a daughter and mentioned her vagina.

Julie said...

Oh, and this is why Mail Marshall bans us ;-)

A Nonny Moose said...

We don't have kids. But when we're talking about ourselves, we're 50/50. Talking sex, we're playful and say "Mr Moose" or "Mrs Moose" - it's a way to ease the tension.

But if we're talking serious medical stuff eg: "I have to go get my pap smear", it's proper words.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and this is why Mail Marshall bans us ;-)Oddly enough it lets this one through just fine. Doesn't like Compare and Contrast or the main page, though.

Azlemed said...

when we had our son i was changing him and the girls were fascinated, at the stage they were just boy bits... now O has a penis.. and they have vaginas... with being pregnant miss 5 is fascinated and knows that they baby is in my uterus.. just doesnt know the whole biology as to how it got there... just a special cuddle between mummy and daddy

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

anonymous, i've deleted your comment as unnecessary trolling. if you have nothing useful to contribute, i suggest you go somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Sorry stargazer, I don't understand. I shared my own experiences with childhood sex education and suggested that Demelza might be leaving it too late. How is that trolling?

stargazer said...

sorry anon, but if you can't work it out all by yourself, then you really shouldn't be wasting your time here.