Vagina is Not a Bad Word

My four and almost three-year old are obsessed with body parts. They are inquisitive about bodily functions, they want to understand how and why people are different shapes and sizes; we have had lengthy conversations about why Mom pees sitting down and Dad pees standing up. My daughters can properly identify their body parts.

The other day the two of them were playing on the porch. My four-year old has a strict policy at her school about using potty words inappropriately, and she has been working on refraining from using these words inappropriately at home and around her younger sisters. In the middle of playing my oldest daughter said something about changing her baby doll and having to wipe the baby’s vagina. My almost three-year old used this as a chance to tattle and came running inside, accusing her sister of using a “bad word.” This, of course, resulted in the classic argument: “did not,” “did too,” “did not.” I intervened and helped to guide the argument into a productive conversation about why vagina is not a bad word.

My almost three-year old, using her almost three-year old logic, tried to argue that because you pee out of your vagina, it is hence, a potty word. I have to admit, she’s gotta point! However, I explained to her about the vagina being a part of your body, a private part of your body and that saying the word appropriately, is not a bad thing, but rather a good thing. I have had similar conversations with my four-year old about using the words penis and vagina appropriately. I have always found it important that my daughters do not think it is “bad” or “gross” to properly name the parts of human anatomy.

What I never realized, until recently, is that encouraging children to appropriately and accurately name genitals is one of the most effective means of helping children to identify and prevent sexual abuse. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to help their children feel comfortable saying and identifying their penis or vagina, just as they would any other part of the body. This helps to teach children that while they are private, they are not so private or weird, that they have to feel uncomfortable talking about them. Parents should also teach children that genitals are private and that others should not be touching them, and children need to learn to respect other people’s privacy.

“Teach children early and often that there are no secrets between children and their parents, and that they should feel comfortable talking with their parent about anything — good or bad, fun or sad, easy or difficult.” If your children have been raised feeling open and comfortable discussing their private parts, they will be much more likely to confide in you if they feel that something inappropriate has taken place. I will continue to help my daughters feel comfortable talking about their bodies, and I allowed myself a gold parenting star for the day and noted this conversation as a small parenting “win.” However, I was not given the chance to boast for long, because I had to heed the battle of inappropriateness. Immediately following my dynamic anatomy conversation, my almost three-year old went running out onto the porch, spewing: vagina head, yucky vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina.

“What?!” she turned and smirked at me, “you just said, vagina is not a bad word!”

16 thoughts on “Vagina is Not a Bad Word

  1. As a child who grew up in a family where we did not discuss such things, this is so refreshing to hear! Your kids are going to be so well-adjusted


  2. Love the post! Your daughter is smart, very logical. My husband is freaked out by me using the correct words, but I have no trouble at all. I am familiar with the information you referred to and feel like I am helping my children by teaching them the proper words to identify their body parts. Thanks for the post!


  3. Great post! We’ve always been up front with our daughter on private parts and respecting each other’s privacy (Whether she gives us privacy is a different story, we try). She is well aware of pee-nits and the pagina and, like Michelle’s daughter, freaks out the dc provider when she calls them out šŸ™‚


  4. We use the correct terms as well for the reasons you stated, and mostly there are not any other kid-appropriate alternatives that are generally accepted to mean the same thing (like butt instead of anus or buttocks, pee instead of urine, poop instead of feces, etc). I can see how telling your daughter that she has a “cookie” between her legs (what one of my friends used to call her vagina) can be not only confusing to the child, but confusing to understand if someone is touching her “cookie” and she doesn’t like it. All that said, vagina and penis (along with their cousin butt) are often crafted into songs and silliness. Just last night, Ava was singing, “My vagina has no nuts!” over and over again! Guess we have to start talking about testicles! šŸ™‚


  5. Juuuuust as a point of contention on this one- although I love this entire thing and think you’re doing a phenomenal job with all of this- You technically dont pee out of your vagina, and this could result in some confusion in later years… But, theyre, young so I’m just being obnoxiously technical šŸ˜‰
    Nice handling of the situation!!!!


  6. We’ve always used the anatomically correct words with my son, but as he’s gotten older, he’s learned the slang words for various parts (the more tame varieties). The words, “balls” and “wiener” are commonly used and apparently very humorous to him. I just roll my eyes.


  7. I can barely say the word without blushing. We still use the words “pee pee” and “wee wee” to refer specifically to those parts (they use bum bum to refer to their butts) (although, somehow my kids know what “balls” are and find the need to point out to me at every bath that Bubba has balls but Breebree does not).

    You have a good pint about the fact that being able to correctly identify parts is really important in being able to communicate if something is going on – I never really thought of it that way – and might have to get over my shyness over using the words.


  8. You have some smart girls!! Loved this post. On a related note, we have always taught Lills the correct words for body parts and I think it freaks out our daycare provider a little that she says vagina, but hey, that’s what it is!


  9. Yes! I remember reading in some forum a long time ago a story about a little girl who was ignored when she told everyone that Johnny keeps touching my purse. Sadly, the parents had taught her to use the word “purse” as a polite way to say VAGINA, so no one realized that something more insidious was going on. Not sure if the story’s true, but I can see how this unfortunate scenario could happen. Right now, my two-year-old thinks that she just has a general BUTT area. I guess I will need to intervene at this point and get more specific!


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