My mom scolded my daughter for touching herself.

“Dear Ignacio, My daughter and I came to visit my mom in another state and extended our stay because of covid-19. My mom only gets to see my 10-year-old daughter 2-3 times a year and she’s never been around her much. The other day, I was in a different room and heard her scolding my daughter. When I got to the scene I realized my daughter had been playing around in her pants and my mom walked in on her. From what I heard, my mom was telling her how proper ladies would not do that, and that if she kept doing it, she would get sick. This made me so uncomfortable that I don’t know if I want to ever leave my daughter alone with my mom again. What do I say to my mom and daughter about this?”

You are thoughtful to be asking this question and not pushing it under the rug. The first question here is about the #relationship between your mom and your daughter. You mention that your mother gets to visit with your daughter 2-3 times a year. Would you say they have a good and strong enough relationship to discuss “delicate” topics? Would you say you have built a foundation with either of them to have open and honest conversations? 

If not, this is a great time to start changing that. You can begin by figuring out where you stand on these issues and how you plan on raising your daughter to understand her #body, #masturbation, #privacy, #agency, and #consent. As you speak with your daughter, try listening first to see where she is coming from. A top-down or power-over approach (like what your mom tried doing) is likely to alienate your daughter instead of building #trust. 

With regards to the interaction itself, one effective immediate approach could have been letting your daughter know she did nothing wrong, and then taking the time to talk with your mom later.

You stated that your mother walked in on your daughter. This is giving me the impression that your daughter’s privacy was not considered. A discussion about privacy with your mother could include suggesting knocking on closed doors instead of entering at will. You can also talk to your daughter about seeking privacy for doing what she considers private. 

Next, I suggest you dismantle the idea of a “proper lady.” Ladylike behavior gets intertwined with gender roles that encourage shame and suppress #curiosity and #desire. The notion that “sickness” follows touching one’s own #genitals should also be challenged. These concepts overlap and we don’t want to perpetuate them for the next generation. 

I’m sorry that this happened, and that it made you uncomfortable, but it was indeed an invasion of your daughter’s privacy. There are many conversations to be had here, and the most important piece is your daughter’s emotional and sexual well-being. Keep the lines of #communication open with her. Let her know she is a normal kid and she is just fine.

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