What if they're touching themselves in public?

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Suzie Hayman, spokesperson for Parentline Plus, a national charity that works for and with parents, believes the worst thing you can do if a child is masturbating is tell him off.
'Telling a child that his genitals are something to be ashamed of can affect how he feels about himself later,' she says. 'I've seen lots of adults who think of themselves as disgusting because of negative messages they received as children.'.

But surely, as far as playing with one's privates is concerned, there's a time and a place, even when you're two-years-old? Yes, says Suzie, and we need to teach our children that, we just have to do it in the right way.

'Explain that touching your body is fine, but it's something people do when they're alone. Distract younger children with a toy or give them something else they can do with their hands. Never tell them it's wrong,' she advises.

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'The problem for some parents is that they themselves grew up in an atmosphere in which masturbation was frowned upon, so they panic when they see their own children doing it. It's important to stay calm. If you react strongly you're giving your child the impression he's done something wrong and you're also giving him lots of attention, which might make him do it more.'

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