I have recently been having trouble with my eight-year-old son who was caught masturbating by his dad in our living room while he and his brother (age four) were watching a movie. My husband talked to him about it and about doing it around his brother, or anyone else, and how that is something that should never be done around anyone else.
Recently, I received a call from his school that he was doing it in class and was devastated. I cried at work, wondering why he would do this in a public place around classmates. My husband and I sat down with him to talk about it. There was a little fussing and threatening but not punishment. I thought that was that.
But then, a couple of days later, the school called to say he was doing it again. I am going to stand firm and punish him this evening for a week, but I’m just scared that there is an underlying problem. Please help.
There are two possible issues here. What was he watching on the TV? Have they asked him why he is masturbating in class? What about infection or inflammation? If cleanliness is an issue he could be itching and masturbating.
There is a possibility that this behavior is related to sexual abuse. Talk to him quietly and in a non threatening way about whether anyone has touched his penis or tried to touch him. If there is evidence of sexual abuse, contact the police.
The other possibility is that he is bored and masturbating for pleasure or attention. Masturbating in public is very rude and should be treated as any other serious rudeness. Discussion is fine but not enough. He needs to know that there will be significant consequences if he is rude in school or at home. Short punishment is better than long punishment. But the punishment should be significant.
Finally, it is important to insure he is getting attention for other things he is doing that are positive. Make sure you are spending quality time with him. Notice his good behavior.