I am a mother of a 3yr old daughter, and she has been doing this "humping" thing for about 2 yrs. I don't know what to do. I take her to the daycare and the gym and find her doing it there in front of everyone. I am really concerned and embarrassed of it. I've tried the calm strategy and distract her from it, but it only works for a few minutes. I also tried the scolding strategy, nothing works. Any suggestions????
Your child humps because she likes to and it feels good to her. I know it is disconcerting to you and probably to other adults as well. However, the reality is that infants enjoy their sexual organs from the time they first discover them with their hands.
Your daughters behavior is not uncommon. Little boys play with their penis as much or more as your daughter humps. We seem to have more of a problem (of course) with little girls who exhibit the same interest in their pleasure. While it is not sexual in the same way as an adults, it still feels good or they wouldn't continue to do it.
Here are some suggestions. ANY attention to her behavior will only reinforce the behavior. ANY attention includes negative attention. You cannot do anything negative that will make her want to stop for good, so don't make the mistake of trying. In the old days, babies literally had their hands strapped to the side of the crib. It was cruel and inhuman for a natural response to their own bodies.
Next, she enjoys pleasurable sensations so distract her with other pleasurable less adult upsetting behaviors. Do you massage her on a daily basis? If so when she starts the behavior ask her if she wants a massage. Then massage her back or her legs whatever makes her relax. It also could be that she is self soothing. This behavior may relieve her of anxiety because it is pleasurable to her. So she needs some other substitute behaviors to soothe herself when she is upset or anxious.
Do try a few things for awhile to see if she gradually stops doing the humping. Many times parents try something and then give up too soon. Children learn by repetition and it takes a couple of weeks in a new routine for a child to respond.
This brings me to my next point. Does she have a consistent daily routine. Children are often sensitive to their routines as it is the only way they know what is coming next in their day. They do not have a sense of time and cannot predict the next moment by anything other than their memory of the routine. Consistent routines are so important because of their need for security and calmness. If her routine is not consistent it may produce higher anxiety in her and therefore a need to self soothe in the only way she knows how.
After all of this if you still need help. I strongly encourage to seek out a a play therapist who is certified in play therapy and has experience working with children 0-5 years of age.
M Kay Keller