Uncomfortable with 3 yo playing doctor

cfosscpaMay 5, 2004

OK, the boy was 3 and my dd is 3, so I'm sure it's all perfectly innocent. But I'm feeling very uncomfortable about the situation. I need mommy feedback as to whether I should leave it alone or intervene further.

Here's the situation:

The boy and dd are good friends at preschool. DD has been telling me that they've been playing doctor for about 2 weeks now during free play time. Sounded great. We play doctor at home, too. Sometimes dd is the dr, sometimes the patient, always with her clothes on. But last Thursday when I picked her up, I had a very disturbing scene in front of me. DD was lying on the floor, with her shirt pulled up to her shoulders, the boy was kneeling in front of her with a stethoscope, sometimes "listening" but sometimes probing her belly and chest with his hands. I shiver to even think of it again. But...it was in full view of the teacher and of the boy's mother who had just arrived. I didn't go off, I just started asking questions. It seems that the boy is ALWAYS the doctor because dd LIKES to be the patient. It seems that doctor is ALWAYS played laying down. And it seems that the lifting of the shirt is MUTUAL for the kids. I seemed to be the only one that was disturbed by this scene.

On the way home, I tried to be calm and matter of fact. I just told dd she's to keep her shirt down, and reemphasized what we'd told her before--only parents, grandparents, doctors and teachers can take off her clothes. She can play doctor with her shirt down. Then dd says in her sweet little voice "But (the boy) smiles when I lift up my shirt." Don't you know I cringed even more.

OK, there's two issues here. The first is that dd is always in the passive role while a boy is in the dominant role. Although I'm constantly telling dd to be kind to her friends, I don't want her trying to please a boy just because he's a boy, and in spite of her mother's wishes. That's just setting up trouble for the future. The boys are starting to get into that "no girls allowed" stage, and dd's feelings have been hurt a few times. But she's not going to "let" a boy do something inappropriate to get back into their good graces. That's an ongoing character issue that we have to work on at home.

But the second issue is by far the more squeamish one and the one for which I want your feedback. Sexual overtones, how a body is viewed, and what is socially acceptable are all sort of rolled up into a ball here. Do I make a big deal of this or just let it go past? I'm been telling her to keep her shirt down (or not twirl her dress up) but I can tell she doesn't understand why, despite my explaining social acceptability.

So, here's the family history. First, dd has not been a shirt lifter or dress twirler since she was around 1 year old (it was normal then), until the last 6-8 weeks. I'm wondering how much influence this boy is having over this development, or if it's normal for the age (it's certainly not mentioned in any of my "what to expect" books). We've always been matter-of-fact about our bodies, and called the parts by the appropriate names (no euphemisms). Suddenly, though, "boobies" is all over dd's vocabulary, despite my corrections to call them "breasts" and asking why is it necessary to talk about them constantly? I know after potty training (dd finished 6 months ago) that it's normal to want to know how the rest of the body works, but dd seems to be fixated on the chest area. Because of playing doctor? Looking back in 20-20 mode, I think all of these things are linked. Whether they are linked to the boy or to the age, I'm unsure. I should also note, the boy has a breast-fed baby sister--maybe the source of his fascination? And we've had play dates in their home--they seem perfectly nice people.

And I think maybe we've confused dd about nudity. She gets changed out of her dance clothes with the other little girls, but I never thought anything of it because it's all girls and because no one is really naked. And then there's the swimming lockerroom. With Daddy, she goes to a stall to get changed. But with mommy, we do it out in the open, although I use my body to shield her view from "paraders". And then at preschool, the bench the kids sit on to wait their turn in the potty is right in front of the open stall with the lowest potty that most will use. Many times, the teacher is alone so the sexes are not divided.

So, I'm going to continue to tell dd to keep her shirt down and the teacher said she would emphasize the same thing. Would you go beyond that? Is too much attention going to make dd ashamed of her body? Is this my hang-up or do I have a parenting problem? What would you do?

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1) The more you protest the more they will want to play the game.
2) it is certainly time to start discussing private areas. I started discussing what private means, and what not to do when DD was around 3. I kept the discussion very simple and straightforward. This is a private part. Don't show it to anyone except Mommy and Daddy or Doctor.

Get anymore complicated than that and you will confuse them.

Ask your pediatrician - they should have flyers on how to educate children. Mine did.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2004 at 4:40PM
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