My 11 year old son has started to ‘play’ with himself quite a bit these last couple of weeks. He loves reading in his room and very often when my wife or I enter he quickly removes his hands from his pants. This is a big concern for us as bottomline we do not want it to evolve into a habit of masturbation.
He has not been given the talk of the ‘birds and bees’ completely yet. I have started having discussion with him on this topic. He is emotionally quite immature for his age, yet his body is changing earlier than when his elder brother did.
Soon we will be covering the love, marriage and the marital act but I am not sure how to approach the subject of playing with himself and how to discourage him from doing it. He is a very fidgety child and his hands or feet must always be busy with something. I guess he has now discovered another use for the hands and one that is pleasurable as well. He finds it difficult to sit still for long periods of time. He is home-schooled as there were developmental issues at school. Not serious but enough to warrant us taking him out of school and him now being home schooled by mom.
I am very cautious of conveying the wrong message about the beauty of his body and the wonders happening as he is starting the puberty process.
I want to do the right thing. Any advice is much appreciated.
Exploring one’s body is normal for children. I believe children should have some level of age-appropriate sex ed all along, not just one big talk. At this point please remember his brain is also still developing so it will be difficult for him to delay or stop a gratifying behavior.
I might suggest explaining that God made sexual organs and sexual pleasure for marriage and that is where it is properly used.
Didn’t you at a young age ??
It’s perfectly natural,. Most is best ignored , and left alone,he will do it no matter what,
If he is somehow told the birds & the bees, leave the rest to nature,
You don’t want him getting crazy hang up when he gets older do you ?
In as much as pornography and sex addiction are running rampant in our society, I think ignoring it has the potential to cause a much worse “hang up” then having uncomfortable conversation with your dad about the proper use of the sexual faculties.
Children exploring their bodies and such is normal but chronic masturbation is generally a sign of something deeper. At that age I doubt children experience the same type of pleasure and sexual arousal as later but you should tell him that part of the body was given to us for specific reasons,and to constantly focus on it means he is neglecting spiritual aspects of his life.
You should also examine what he is reading and if there is something in the books that is triggering the behavior.
Be open and honest and loving.Do not make him feel guilty but let him know that type of behavior is frowned upon by the Church and it often leads to addiction.
It is nature that directs a boy to play with himself from an early age. It is necessary for his physical development. A boy prevented from doing this may well grow up stunted. It rarely leads to full scale masturbation. Although the two activities appear to be connected they are in fact dissimilar as masturbation requires mental stimulation which simple toying does not.
I agree with specific other posts in this thread that this must be done pastorally with love and care. However, for the Catholics that say this is normal (and okay), I would respond that this is only “normal” within the fallen world and is in no way the intended function of our bodies as far as I know. Many things are normal within the fallen world, but neither are we called to succumb to them. And this can be reflected in the Catechism of the CC (by Pope John Paul II)
2352 *By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."137 “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose.” For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."138 *
And in Catholic theology, this is of grave matter and may become a mortal sin if full intent and knowledge is present.
I am not Catholic, but I give this answer as this is the teaching that is reflected in both the Catholic and Orthodox faith (minus the mortal/venial sin distinction).
Kudos to Kmon23. Why did it take a non-Catholic to refer to the official teaching of our own church?
On another topic, maybe it is time to have the complete discussion of human sexuality from a Catholic perspective: obviously tailored to what you as his parents believe his is capable of understanding. I’m no expert, but speaking as a fellow Catholic father, and a lifelong Catholic son, you obviously don’t want to create any feelings of shame in the boy any more than you want to give our increasingly secular society free reign to influence his developing mind, philosophy, theology, morality, etc.
Given that the sexual urge is natural, you should also expect him to have a tendency to still want to play with himself. I highly doubt it’s a mortal sin, ESPECIALLY not at this age! How many of us all, and of either gender I may add, ever held completely, 100% to God’s plan for human sexuality? Theologically speaking, there would only be two…or one if you’re a Protestant!
Have the talk, and yes, be gentle, but firm.
11 is not too young. You have a tv in the house? He’s seen a lot already even from commercials about inappropriate sexual notions.
“He loves to read in his room”. Bingo. He’s alone and bored.
It’s summer! He should be outdoors, bike riding, swimming, climbing trees, maybe running with you. Get him busy with healthy activities. He can read still, but don’t let him hole up in his room. Boys get all kinds of weird notions when left alone under the premise of “he’s shy”. Not saying that’s your child, … but watch for a desire to be isolated. It’s a big deal.
You’ve rec’d great advice from others. Good luck to you.
It amazes me how little some parents think of their children’s ability to understand “age-sensitive” things such as sex these days, and then they wonder why they’re losing their children to the secular world earlier and earlier! I’m in my late 80s. I was raised on a farm. I had The Talk with my father when I was 7 years old (seven!). My father saw it more prudent to answer my questions straight forwardly once I witnessed what the studs were doing to the mares. I had a pretty good working knowledge of sex by that age, and the talk about masturbation, and inappropriate contact with women came by about age 12. Better that I get it from him, a figure I respected, than for me to try to go with my imagination or “learn” from my peers who were equally ignorant.
OP: Don’t be afraid to talk to your kid. Furthermore, if you think it’s a matter of him being fidgety and needing something to do, find something positive for him to do in lieu of this. An idle mind and the devil’s playground, and all that. Show him how to better channel this newly developing sexual energy into something that is wholesome, until the time comes that it can be channeled into the marital act. Teaching him such skills of temperance and continence will serve him in other areas of life as he grows, especially so if he becomes a priest!
Listen to him ^^^^
Especially about the too young to comprehend part. We’re cramming algebra into 6th grade minds…Kids understand ALOT more than people give them credit for. You don’t want to be here in a few short years saying “Where did he get these ideas???”
Our oldest is ten so this is a big concern in our house as well.
Whilst we don’t want to overplay the problem and as with the OP are not yet at the full birds & bees picture we do want to do everything possible to stop him developing a habit of masturbation and definitely don’t believe in the “it’s natural and harmless” approach.
My husband is more on the whatever to unpleasantness of it it is our duty as parents to stop this developing into full blown sinful behaviour.
I have a 13 year old son who battles this now but battles with me at his side. There is not one “talk,” but many many talks. He has gone through Theology of the Body for middle schoolers. That program nicely set the foundational principles for our talks which follow, which are about chastity and actual practical ways to fight physical temptations at the time of the assault. For example, St. Benedict would throw himself into a thorny rose bush at the time of the temptation. My son has had priests help him in Confession with what they did when they were tempted. I offer my help as well. Point being, it is not that helpful to simply say that masturbation is wrong and is to be avoided if there is no strategy as to what will happen once the feelings become overpowering.
I feel bad for these kids in a way. When I was their age, the temptations were so much easier to avoid. Now, they have someone’s bum wiggling in their face wherever they look on the TV or computer and the nasty talk is ubiquitous. We have an internet parental control (net nanny) at home, but even with that it is very easy to find porn on the computer. It is a deadly combination of too much stimulation and really easy access to porn. And in my son’s case he learned the mechanics of masturbation in his school health class and then tried it out at home.
Anyway, to the OP, I pray for my son and I pray with him and we talk about these issues pretty openly, remarkably so for him. When I was his age dealing with these issues, I sure never opened up like he does with anyone, and most definitely not my father. I would not hesitate to talk to your son about what you are seeing, and i would hold nothing back in letting him know our teachings on these issues, but most importantly explain why we believe what we believe, and in my case that did involve the TOB lessons, which were great.
Reconciliation is also a key part of the process, in my opinion. This is an area fraught with feelings of shame, and those feelings can do damage. It is imperative to help your son understand that Jesus welcomes him and there is no need for shame. I have reinforced this with my son by letting him know frankly that I have also struggled as he does. My son never fails to hug me as soon as his sins are washed away.
Anyway, it’s a hard area. 11 is not too young to get started on the theology behind the feelings he might be feeling. Be by his side in love and pray a lot.
The replies posted are much appreciated and I wish to express my thanks to all contributors. I do not believe it is something that will just go away.
I had ‘The Talk’ with him yesterday and that went well, praise God. Funny part was that when I finished speaking he looked at me and said, “Now I know why Jimmy (not real name) could not come with.” Jimmy is his 6 year old brother who wanted to come with when he learned that I was going for a walk with his 11 year old brother.
He had many questions and we had a good chat. To finish it off I gave him a big hug, kissed his head and told him how proud I am of him and for who he is and that I will always love him. To me this was an anointed moment as I think really affirming him is a beautiful way to end off such a chat.
I am under no illusion that the road ahead will not be easy. He now understands where we are coming from but there will be many temptations and I pray for the wisdom and love to be there for him and guide him in the path that follows Jesus.
We will be working on keeping him occupied coupled with instruction and many chats along the way. I have done the ToB course many years ago and would like to do ToB for teens with my 3 eldest kids.
I’m having the same issue with my 10 yo daughter (see post up above). I’ve caught my 8 yo son playing with himself too, once in a while. I totally understand trying to help your child with the impulse to do that so it doesn’t become a habit. Just want you to know that you’re not alone.
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