Is "penis" an appropriate vocabulary word for a two-year-old?

My wife and I are friends with a couple who are parents of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. They made it clear during pregnancy that they didn’t want anyone using obscenities, from “hell” to “motherfucker,” around their kid after he was born – which is fine. Their call.

We recently found out that “penis” and “butt” are on the “forbidden words” list. Their son uses the words “pee-pee” and “bottom,” instead.

This doesn’t make any sense to me. I can see not wanting your toddler talking about his dick or his ass (or even out his ass…), but I consider “penis” and “butt” neutral words for those body parts. I mean, if you’re going to be embarrassed by your kid talking about penises, I can’t imagine being less embarrassed by him talking about pee-pees.

What say Dopers, especially parents? Would you object to your kid knowing the word “penis”?

That’s appalling. They’re instilling shame in the child, at that age. Penis is the name for it - all others are nicknames or euphemisms. I certainly knew the word when I was that age, or only slightly older. I turned out well-adjusted (well, not quite, but not for those reasons :wink: )

FWIW, although I understood the thrust of the argument, ‘bottom’ being the prefered euphemism to ‘butt’ is slightly amusing this side of the pond. The reverse would be the case here, with ‘bottom’ being a little too accurate for the ultra-prudes.

I can see their point: kids will blurt any word, appropriate or not, to anyone anywhere, anytime. “Pee-pee” and “bottom”, to me (and apparently to them), sound more trivial and easier to shrug off when your kid says it in the middle of church or something.

On preview: they’re not instilling shame. They’re just telling thier kids that some words are more appropriate than others. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

My kids have always been taught that the words penis and vagina are proper terms for those parts of the body.

So my answer to the OP title is yes, and my answer to the question at the end of the OP is no.

Not a parent, but I find the “pee-pee” and “wee-wee” shit stupid. It’s fine if a kid calls them that and still knows the proper name, but actually barring the word “penis” in favor of “pee-pee”? What in the blue hell? The word penis is dirty? Since when?

On preview, what GorillaMan said.

Pee pee…?

That is just being completely retarded. Could we avoid the subject of the Dreaded Penis any more? EEEEEEEK! It’s a PENIS! RUNNNNNNNN for you LIVES!!!111!!!1


The Ujest Family who use proper terminology for their hoo-ha, boobies and wang.

We used “penis” when our son was first learning. I don’t see what could possibly be wrong with that. It’s also much more amusing later on when they come out with the inevitable playground insults. “Penisface” is much more sophisticated than “Pee-peeface”.

Until the kid understands appropriateness of situations, they’re not going to have any understanding that this is what’s being taught. All that’s being shown to them is that these are ‘bad’ words.

Who said it was dirty? Some words are just more appropriate than others, and kids don’t have the context to tell when and where they can discuss certain subjects, so the words get dumbed down a bit for when they talk about them in public (when you wish they wouldn’t).

Anus and foreskin and feces and urine are all perfectly non-dirty medical-ish terms. But probably not appropriate for use at the dinner table with Gramma.

The parents in the OP, apparently, since it’s on the forbidden list with “motherfucker”?

YMMV, but somehow I find teaching proper terminology more important than the fear Junior might mention his penis during High Tea. Like I said, if the child knows BOTH words – no big deal. But penis? On the forbidden list? Sorry.

Agree to disagree, though.

I actually learned the Korean words for “penis”, “vagina” and the like before I learned the English words for them. I only learned them until some kid in my kindergarten class was a being a smart-ass about it and blurted the words out in front of me. Anyways, if I had a kid, I’d tell him/her the real words, but then I’d also say that I don’t want him/her saying those words in public and if he/she really wants to say them, then I’d tell him/her to use words like “pee-pee” or whatever. They’re going to learn them eventually and kids are naturally curious. It’s not wrong to tell them these things, but I’d still be pretty embarrassed if my kid suddenly started screaming, “PENIS!” in the supermarket or something.

Do you have cutsie names for elbows, noses, or thumbs?

It’s a penis and a vagina, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s okay to tell your child, “We don’t talk about our penis at the dinner table” but let’s not cutify it. It’s a part of the body and should be labeled properly.

If you’re talking about this stuff with Gramma at the dinner table, chances are, there are some topics you might have missed.


I can’t find a cite for this, but I’ve always heard that children who use proper terminology for their sexual organs are less likely to be sexually abused. I’ve just had a quick google and all the sites for preventing sexual abuse tips (for parents) list teaching your children proper body-part terminology as one step in preventing sexual abuse.

Either way, when my son was starting to learn body-parts and he pointed to his arm, I said, “Arm.” When he pointed to his penis, I said, “Penis.” At two, if he’s sitting at dinner with Grandma, points to his crotch and says, “Penis,” I think I’ll be able to live with it. That certainly won’t be the most embarassing thing he’s done. As he gets older, he’ll learn appropriateness of vocabulary and, hopefully, won’t find any need to talk about penises, wangs, ding-dongs or pee-pees at the dinner table at all, just like MsRobyn says.

I have to say that I, on the other hand, would find “pee pee” more embarrassing to hear from my child than “penis,” basically because I think it’s a silly euphemism. Their kid isn’t my kid, of course, and they’re welcome to play whatever linguistic games make them happy, but I just thought it was a weird distinction.

Basically, while I realize that kids at certain ages will blurt out words inappropriate for the situation, “pee pee” would not embarrass me any less than “penis.” Though “penis” would probably embarrass me less than “cock.” Pretty much I’m just planning on living through some embarrassing moments, though, and none of 'em will kill me.

GorillaMan, I’m pretty sure they’re not intending to instill shame in their kid, whether or not that’s actually what they’re doing.

What about the dong doodles? They need love, too . . .

There’s probably a misuse of statistics here. Children who know proper terminology are more likely to be in a position to raise concerns…or their parents are more likely to identify problems at an early stage, due to not having their heads in the sand.

I didn’t intend to say that it was intentional - but I still see that it’s happening.

Oh, and as for the OP, I vote for the correct terminology, although I grew up on kind of a mixture; my Nana freely used a colorful array of terms for various body parts (“bresses” and “titties” being two of the above) . . .

. . . yet got upset when my 7-year-old male cousin explained very matter-of-factly to me that when you’re changing his baby sister’s diaper and using the wipes to clean her up, “you have to be sure you get inside the lips.” (He had “Correct Terminology” parents for the most part, but apparently they didn’t go as far as “vulva”.)

My parents, on the other hand, didn’t use any particular terms at all, that I can recall. That stuff just wasn’t mentioned much. And questions I had were met with a curt, “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

Damn, I wish I could remember those questions now!

We weren’t allowed to say “butt” as children, that being a vulgar term. “Bottom” was what we used.

People differ on ‘penis’ vs. ‘peepee’ and in general we’ve gotten to where it’s about half-and-half AFAIK. In our family, we’ve taught the ‘real, scientific words’ to our daughter but use ‘peepee’ for everyday use. I do have a problem with using ‘vagina’ as an all-purpose term for the entire female genital area–it’s not really accurate and can give a wrong impression. So DangerGirl (almost 5) knows that the urethra is for peeing out of, the vagina is for babies’ exits, and the vulva is the part she can see, that keeps everything else clean and safe. Oh, and she also knows that boys’ peepees are penises, but we haven’t gotten around to the testicles yet.

Some people are still sensitive about the P-word. The OP doesn’t specify whether these particular parents think of it as a ‘dirty’ word, or as one that is a little too explicit for everyday use. Many words can be forbidden without actually being dirty or shameful–they might have several different mental lists, say “swear words,” "“rude/vulgar words,” “embarrassing anatomical terms,” and “things we don’t call people” (fat or ugly, for example). I can’t say whether I think it’s appropriate unless I know how they think of it.