Erection is the most apparent sign of sexual desire. It is the process of hardening the penis owing to a rush of blood into its blood vessels. As a result it gets larger and sticks out from the body. Hardened penis is capable of penetrating into woman’s reproductive organs and sexual intercourse is performed. To the parents of young boys the issue of erection may seem a long way off. But in fact, sexual development begins at quite an early age. All children – from babies to primary school pupils – grow both physically and sexually in their own ways. Read on to learn whether child erection is normal and when you should worry as a parent.

Is Child Erection Normal?

Most parents will be shocked to see their baby boy have child erection. It may happen when they are given a bath or their diapers are being changed. But believe it or not, according to specialists erection in kids is not uncommon and is not a cause for concern.

The first erection. Erection is common among infants and toddlers, according to the, website for parenting and health, maintained by the Nemours Foundation. Besides the erection you may notice that your baby’s penis is unusually large in the first days after he is born. This is due to maternal birth hormones and the trauma of birth. The organ usually shrinks in a few days.

The causes? Often early erections come for no reason at all. According to specialists, they are most probably just uncontrolled reactions, like startling or gripping, and simply indicate that the child’s nervous system is working properly. Erection could also mean that the boy’s bladder is full and he “needs to pee”. In younger boys mild constipation can cause intermittent erections that are not painful and the problem resolves immediately.

How to handle child erections. We all know that babies are curious, eager to learn more about themselves and the world. Child erections are part of his attempts to get to know his own body. Although they may make you feel embarrassed, it is important to handle these situations with utmost attentiveness and tact.

  • You mustn’t make the boy feel ashamed, as if he is doing something dirty. Keep in mind that your behavior at these first stages will influence his sexual outlook and behavior in later years.
  • Try not to panic and don’t let the boy get overexcited. You can put him in a cool bath and try to distract him until thing return to normal.

What if your baby likes to play with his penis? If you notice that your baby boy likes touching and rubbing his penis, trying to get an erection, you don’t need to worry. This is a perfectly normal child’s behavior, says Anita Sethi, research scientist at the Child and Family Policy Center at New York University, quoted by “Parenting” magazine. She assures that the boy will outgrow this habit sooner or later.

How kids are likely to react: Erections are very common in most young kids. They usually start in early childhood. Some kids find them pleasurable, but many feel uncomfortable when the erections are strong and last for a while. In such cases, as they are not accustomed to this kind of feeling, they sense something abnormal, so they complain or cry out in pain.

Causes for concern: If your child’s erection lasts for more than a few hours or if you notice other unusual symptoms like rash, fever or discolored skin, you should take the boy to the pediatrician immediately. The doctor will evaluate the child’s erection and will prescribe the best treatment.

What about painful erections? Painful erections, unrelated to sexual stimulation or desire, is a condition called priapism. Priapism, though, usually occurs only with adult men or boys between 5-10 years of age, suffering from sickle cell disease, leukemia, trauma to the penis, pelvis or perineal area (usually due to child abuse). Such painful erection is a true urologic emergency that may lead to permanent erectile or penile dysfunction if left untreated. In case your son has episodes of prolonged and painful erections, you’d better consult a doctor to suggest a proper treatment.

More Information on Sexual Development in Children

Here are some guidelines for parents regarding the sexual development of their kids in different stages of childhood.

1.      Infants and Toddlers (ages 1 to 2)

Babies’ earliest emotional experience is associated with their parents’ love, which is expressed by pure physical touch – hugging, kissing, snuggling, and tickling. All these actions of affection let the baby feel that he/she is loved and cared for. This unique expression of physical intimacy and emotional bond can become the basis of more mature forms of physical intimacy and love that are part of mature sexuality at a later age.

How to react as a parent: Many parent express concern when they see their babies touch their genitals or baby boys having frequent erections. Specialists assure that this behavior is perfectly normal – the toddlers are just exploring their bodies. Besides, many kids, especially babies, enjoy being naked. The parents’ reaction to these early manifestations of sexual behavior is very important. In fact, they are the kids’ first lessons in sexuality. If you do not express surprise, anger or disapproval, you will show the child that the desire to know their own body is a normal part of life.

2.      Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5)

By the age 3 the child begins to realize the difference between sexes. This is known as gender identity. At this age the kid can differentiate between boys and girls and can identify himself/herself with one or the other. They also start to associate certain types of behavioras being male or female. By preschool they kids already know perfectly well if they are boys or girls and continue to explore their bodies more purposefully.

How to react as a parent: Parents are not advised to scold them because it may provoke a feeling of guilt and shame. On the other hand, it is good to explain them that although it may feel pleasant to touch themselves, it should be done in private. And also, kids should be taught that no one else – even members of the family or people they trust – should ever touch them in a way that makes them feel uneasy.

3.      Elementary School (ages 6 to 10)

At this age kids are strongly interested in pregnancy, birth and gender roles – boys and girls start playing separately. This is also the age when their peers or media begin to have greater influence in forming sexual outlook. If you are not close to your child or if you are not a reliable source of information, you child will discuss sexual issues with his friends rather than with you.

How to react as a parent: You, as a parent, can best explain to your kid about sexual organs and reproduction. So it’s very important for you and your child to have a solid relationship, based on trust. If at that age the kid doesn’t ask about sex, try initiating appropriate conversations.  And once again, be honest. Remember that the child will resort to other sources of information or jump to their own conclusions, if you decline their questions or refuse to tell them the things they want to know.

The following video explains more on appropriate & inappropriate childhood sexual behaviors: