Caught my daughter
I caught my 6 year old daughter pleasuring herself. I don’t want this to develop into an addiction, is there anything I can do now to prevent this from continuing?
The GYE Rebbetzin (7up) responds.
I had hoped to really answer with profession opinions behind me, but haven’t reached a therapist yet in order to ask his opinion. So I figure, let me answer what my take on it is, and can always backtrack later if and when proven wrong!
First of all, I really don’t think you should panic. As an addict yourself, I definitely understand why this seems so scary.
First the good news: From what you’re describing, it really doesn’t sound like your daughter is 'acting out' due to any deep emotional issues. She sounds like a well adjusted, normal 6 year old with parents who care about her a lot and a happy life.
Dr internet is right, this is the time that kids discover their bodies. To her this is no different than sucking her thumb or getting tickled – it feels good, so why not?
My personal approach with both my sons and daughters, is to stress the beauty and gadlus of being a ben / bas melech. This is in regard to all tznius issues. (Here I digress for a moment; bear with me) When my daughter gets dressed for shabbos and looks in the mirror to see how pretty she looks (girls!), I'll tell her "Look how nice you look, all neat and clean. You look like a real bas melech!" A girl wants to feel she looks good, even from a very young age. And its nothing to be embarrassed of.
If my son is about to leave the house looking like he just crawled out from under the couch, I'll remind him "A Ben Melech doesn’t dress like that. Be proud of who you are and show it".
As corny as it sounds, I find it instills a sense of pride and self respect in them from a very young age. I never had to fight about tznius with my married daughter (only have a 23 yr old and 6 yr old. 6 boys sandwiched between) and daven I wont have to with the younger one either. My sons are all makpid to look good before heading out (except the raging 14 yr old who leaves with his shirt out to bug me – and then tucks it in as soon as I’m out of sight!)
Ive caught my young kids touching themselves in private areas. I gently take her / his hand and say "A ben /bas Melech must be kadosh, and touching yourself there isn’t." In their innocence, they sometimes ask why. I answer the boys that their eiver is the most kadosh part of the body because that’s where they had their bris which is the sign that they are bnei melech. To a girl, I will say that certain parts of the body are hidden more than others because they are more kadosh and special. (By the way, its also a good time to explain that no one other than parents and doctor are ever allowed to touch them there either etc).
You can also tell her that the more she does it, the harder it is to stop. she probably has friends who suck their thumbs etc and you can use them as examples of 'bad habits' which are hard to stop the longer one does it.
The 'bad news' is that some kids are chemically predisposed to addictive behaviors.
But forewarned is forearmed.
Either way, my approach would be the same as above.
What the future holds is in Hashem’s hands. If He gave her this nisayon, He will help her deal at the right time.
Hope this helps a bit.
"I am afraid that if I tell her it’s a bad thing to do and that she shouldn’t do it, I’m afraid that she will do it anyway and that will make the rebellious side of any child emboldened to do other bad things"
I think telling her it’s 'bad' will definitely boomerang eventually. I don’t know if she will consciously ignore you as a rebellious gesture at 6, but more so because its too hard for her! Like someone having told her Dad to stop 8 months ago. You may have wanted to, but simply couldn’t.
And that sets off a cycle; She wants to listen and obey, because after all, she is a good girl. But its too hard. So she feels very guilty and 'bad'. And then every time she gives in to the comfort / pleasure, she feels worse about herself and convinces herself more and more that you would be so angry / disappointed if you caught her. Her self esteem heads downwards, her ability to confide in you diminishes, because she suddenly has reason to hide things from you. Remind yourself that this is no different than a normal 6 yr old wiping her nose on her sleeve. Sure it’s yucky. It’s not socially acceptable. But chances are you won’t go ballistic when she does because you know its something that will eventually fade away naturally as she gets older.
Build her UP from the inside out. That’s the basic idea in my original suggestion. And keep that door of communication open! Tell her you know its hard to stop a habit. You’re proud of her for even trying, even though she may not always manage etc etc.
And daven for siyata dishmaya in dealing with this, and everything else in life!