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Parenting --Teens/6yr old showing penis on bus


my 6 year old grandson has been showing his penis on bus with other children. how can we make him stop doing this? we have tried telling him no one should see or touch his stuff. he should only be taking it out to urinate or shower. his step-mom had him call me to tell me he/she thinks he is "gay". I was furious that she would try to humiliate him by calling him something he doesn't yet understand as a 6 yr old has no understanding of sexual preferences or desires.   We really need to know how to make him stop doing this. HELP! please

Hello J Marie,
 I know it is distressing to parents and grandparents when children do such things as expose themselves in public. But, while distressing, it is usually not all that serious -- although everyone reacts as if it were very serious.
But how do you stop this behavior?
I think you have already used a form of reprimand and reasoning. By telling him what is appropriate behavior (you should take your penis out only when going to the bathroom or showering), you have done the first step in reasoning. The second step is to explain why. For instance, you could say, "By showing your penis in public, it offends other people and you could get into trouble." A reprimand, on the other hand, is a statement that clearly states a behavior is wrong and you want it to stop.
I agree with you that telling him he is gay is probably more confusing than helpful. Six year olds do not yet understand the subtleties of sexuality. Being gay then gets equated with being bad.
In general, I believe that reasoning is an important technique to use because it helps children think and reason. When they know why something is wrong or inappropriate, they are more likely to subscribe to the appropriate behavior.
But two other techniques which can be useful in changing behavior are praise and attention and reminders. Before he goes to school or gets on the bus, he should be reminded about the behavior that is expected of him: "Today, I want you to remember that you are not to show your penis. What do I expect of you today?" Then, if he answers to the effect that he is not to show his penis, then you can use praise: "That's right! Very good. You have a good memory and I know you will do what is right and appropriate today. I'll be waiting when you get home from school to hear about your successful day."
I think these techniques should be used consistently. If they work, then you don't have to go to the last resort -- punishment.
If you have further questions, please get back to me. Let me know in the future about the progress that has been made.
Best wishes,
James Windell  

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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