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  1. eric thompson says:

    really good post. thanks for sharing! :)

    granted that i’m not child psychologist or a clinical expert on child behavior, but 4 year-olds playing “show-me-yours-i’ll-show-you-mine” isn’t that uncommon, and is generally not in the realm of “inappropriate touch” or other scary scenarios. kids at that age are still discovering their bodies, and so long that it’s not overtly sexual or in any way coercive there’s probably little to worry about until they get older or seem overly fixated on such things.

    having said that, it starts to get weird and inappropriate when kids hit age 7 or so, and definitely any time that the age range between participants is significant. and of course, any time it becomes coercive (when “no” or “go away, poopyhead!” isn’t accepted) is a big red flag (but again, at that age it may not be in the realm of “inappropriate touch” – it could just be the child instigator has social boundary issues).

    also, regarding the notion of not forcing physical affection: sometimes a refusal to show affection (such as the “give grandma a hug” scenario) is more about the child attempting to assert control over a social situation, rather than any kind of protection of boundaries. of course, it’s best to identify when to let it go, but sometimes it’s okay to let them know that saying no to a hug isn’t acceptable. and of course, trust your instincts in any given situation.

    finally, be careful how readily your subconscious goes from small child behavior to things like Steubenville. they’re on different ends of the spectrum, and you can give yourself ulcers if you don’t recognize the gulf that lies between the two. you’re doing the right thing in introducing notions of respect and physical boundaries, and of course listening to your child is key.

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing my two letters up there. Sounds like we’ve both really been struggling with the whole thing. It scares me half to death to send my children out there into that world, but I’m with you. I’m not going to waste my time or energy being made that I have to teach my daughter how not to be raped. No, I’m going to be pragmatic and honest and help her stay out of those situations as best she can. As for my son? He’d best toe the line. Blessedly, from what I know of him so far, I really think he will. Our best bet as parents, I think, is to model the proper behavior. I know I’m flawed as a mother, and I sometimes worry there aren’t enough good men like my husband to go around.

  3. Some abusers target children between ages 2-4 because they assume the children will not be able to recognize/articulate what happened to them.

    Books like:
    My Body is Private or

    Your Body Belongs to You are a great way to teach young children about their rights to their bodies.

    Also, consider supporting Erin Merryn, who is working hard to pass laws requiring education about this subject starting in preschool in all 50 states.

  4. frugalfamilytimes says:

    Great post, Kelly! I’d add too, we teach these same things to our son. If he has his feelings and body respected, he will expect to give the same respect as well. :) Robin

  5. I’m new to this post and this blog, but I’m loving all of it so far. I have a young niece and nephew and am working on adopting one of my own. I’m not a psychologist or even a “real” mom yet, but I personally can’t stand it when kids are forced into showing physical affection. Hugs and kisses are very intimate and making a child participate against their will, even with a relative, teaches them that they have to submit and allow almost anyone to handle them. I try to give my niece a choice – when we say goodbye to people she can choose to hug, high-five, or just wave goodbye. She gets to determine the level of intimacy she is comfortable with, and she can be polite and happy while doing it. You don’t see this level of physical affection being forced on adults, so why do we demand it of our kids? If I left a business meeting and gave all my coworkers, let alone my boss, a big hug and a sloppy kiss goodbye, I would be brought up on sexual harassment charges, not told I was cute and affectionate.

    1. Mai, I’m so glad to hear this post resonated with you. I feel it’s so important, like you said, not to force kids into showing physical affection. I love how you give choices to the kids in your life. That’s a great idea.

      And your metaphor for the workplace…SPOT ON. It seems so ridiculous when put in that perspective!

      1. Spot on! I have 2 girls age 8 and 10. I’ve always tried to stress to them that hugs and kisses are their choice to give. Their dad uses the “but you’ll hurt so-and-so’s feelings if you don’t hug them.” I say, “you don’t have to hug someone to show you love them or care about them. Your body is yours and it’s your choice.” I also teach them that whether or not another kid wants a hug from them that it’s that kid’s choice. They’re at the age where they want and are capable of picking up smaller kids and hugging on them. Teaching them that if they want to give a hug, the other person has the right to say no. I feel like it reinforces their right too.

  6. Teri VanSteel says:

    I wasn’t aware of anything at Steubenville. Are you referring to the attack on the girl at Stanford where the guy only got 6 months of jail time and no prison? Either way, the message works and I enjoyed your post.

  7. I recently was rattled by a story I had read that had told me about a girls sister being sexually abused by another boy her age at the young age of 4. As a daycare worker I then became predominantly ansy about our shared open concept bathrooms and would struggle with giving our preschoolers thier privacy while still wanting to keep a watchful eye. This post has calmed me down a bit and got me thinking about what I can start teaching and giving me a good piece of mind. Because really that also scared me shitless. I could not imagine that happening to a preschooler when they may lack the ability to know what is right or wrong when it comes to thier bodies.

  8. Check out the book Diapers to Dating. Lots of great suggestions by age.

  9. Linda foley says:

    I had a LONG comment and lost it some how. If you received it, let me know so I can finish.

  10. I’m in the process of teaching my 6 year old daughter the importance of privacy and not showing her body off. I know there is a fine line between being confident in our own skin and having a sense of self-respect and that is what I’m attempting to accomplish. This is a wonderful example of how and why we should teach our girls these lessons. Great article Kelly!

  11. Love this post! I am a health teacher, and the standards for Kindergartners actually include teaching them appropriate and inappropriate touch. Unfortunately health education isn’t that important to schools and is only taught in some states and not every school at that. That leaves it up to us as parents to not only teach it (which I personally think parents should do no matter what), but to also re-teach and reinforce throughout our kids’ lives with little to no help from our schools. Hopefully this will change, but in the meantime, starting to have these conversations early and in developmentally appropriate ways is so important! Thanks for sharing some ideas of how to go about that.

  12. I had a recent conversation with my mum about how at 10 years old I said I wanted my dad to stop coming into the bathroom while I was in the shower etc. My mum recalls it as the day I “lost my innocence” and I recall it as the day I got to express my independance. I was never abused or made to feel uncomfortable in my skin but my mother thought at 10 I was still too young to view my body as my own. I am glad I found your article and can feel confident in teaching my own kids that their body is theirs, even now.

  13. Tho This is deeply personal, I’m writing this comment because of the even more likely scenarios our daughters and sons can face. I’m not sure of the exact % as I write this, tho my recollection is somewhere around 85% more likely sexual abuse would happen in a child’s own home, with a TRUSTED family member or friend, but especially in homes of a single mother with a boyfriend or step father. There are way too many women with children, single, going through a divorce, or who are living with, engaged or re-married and in here lies the greatest threat to our children! This is a factually based statistic! We as women are drawn into our relationships with men in hopes of having a loving and stable home for ourselves Zi’s for our children. We put our hearts and souls on the line in our pending new relationship , but also the well being of our sons and daughters. Predator’s don’t look nor do they act like they could of would harm your children, nor you, in fact the polar opposite, and they are very good at hiding truth and deceit, at least if they’re any good at it and wit much practice, they are able to prove themselves very well to not only us, but friends and family alike, and have quickly earned our trust and the love of our children! In fact they are often very charming, loving and kind on their exterior and mostly very likable! They do and say and look like exactly what is expected in their blooming relationships. We have all heard how the grooming process goes, but in these cases it is through our needs as women, wether it be loved, wined, dined, sex or stability of marriage we seek, these charmers are there for us, our knights, filling our hearts with love and desire. Of course the end game for them is exactly that to gain our love and trust that goes along. Before we know it our home is once again full of love and laughter and wedding bells, planning our new lives together is at hand,?and the smiles on or child’s faces says it all! We fail to notice little things, red flags even, we’re already in, hook, line and sinker! This is where the true demons live! This is where the worst of our nightmares exist in reality, especially for our precious children. You don’t see it coming and you don’t see it going and our children cannot or will not tell. You can tell them a hundred times to protect themselves and how to not allow these things out there to happen, all the while what’s happening under our nose and not on Our radar! This is not our fault, it is all set up by design and goes against all our instincts. You may feel underneath it all something seems off, perhaps it’s your own insecurities we blame it on, and these monsters are very good at making it appear as if that’s the case, as they slowly undermine this in you. I’m not tslk Nrg about the terrible cases of a natural mother knowingly accepts the word over their own child? If or when they are told or discover th truth,, in most cases the molestation can occur without an inkling for years. Your child may be most likely an adult before anything that has happened to them is told or known if at all! Less likely with your sons! My daughter was only 3- yrs old and lived through sexual abuse inside the wall and safety of our home until she was 12-yrs old, on a regular basis, and involved her younger brother as well. I did not know, wasn’t on my radar at all! We divorced after a son we had together was a 7-yr old, he did not molest his own child. My daughter finally told in her late 20’s and only when she became aware he was about to marry a woman with 2- young children, a boy and a girls who were of around the same age as when she and her brother were when it began! Later learned the same had happened to not only them, but within several other relationships he was in with young children. No one ever suspected this from him, not one! He did go to prison for a short time and he’s now free to do this again to probably a grandmother of young children! And yes I did warn my children of stranger danger, of. It allowing anyone to touch them in those ways, even if it was someone we know well, family, friends, teachers etc. I believed I well prepared them. Things I know now may have better prepared me to be aware of then, looking back, subtle and red flags I should have been aware of, but how do we prepare ourselves for this let alone our children, when this seems like how could it happen to me or to them. I would know? Right? Well no you wouldn’t, how would you,? Not of course I would! This is something so far from our normalcy, so far from our experience, hopefully, honest to god you would not know! You’re family wouldn’t know and your friends wouldn’t know! They most likely even have encouraged you in this relationship and even love your choice in this man!! Please be diligent! Check out everything and anything! Don’t introduce your children or even have them around them and take time., a lot of time! Be aware in changes in child’s behavior. Bed wetting where there was none before. Don’t leave it to chance in leaving someone you really barely know alone with your children. If the person you are considering as a partner has a track record? Marriages? Live ins? Past or present drug abuse. Pay attention to red flags, how he treats people over time, lies? Willingness to deceive others? Dishonest behaviors, even regarding others? Quickly wants to be with you, moving in soon after, you’re the one he was waiting for? And you’ve known him less than 6-months to a year., how the he’ll would he know this? Or you for that matter! Does he drink too much? Does he slip and get a bit out of line, Dr Jekyll , mr Hyde perhaps. Does he apologize for being a jerk a. It too often. Does he disappear without good reasons too often? Does he treat his mother well? Is he from an unstable childhood, past abuse? Was he abused? Abandoned? Does he have closer ties and relationships? Check out closely his face book pages. My children became sexually active, permiscuous early on. Began drinking and drug abuse, early in life, failed a lot at school, trouble at school, didn’t follow rules or boundaries, in trouble much if the time, one openly, one sneakily, angry outbursts. This all becomes what it is, a bit at a time. You, feeling overwhelmed, sad, depressed. What did I do or didn’t do? The reasons for divorce? Cheating is usually involved. The man who drew you in with his charm now begins treatment disrespect,emotionally abuse is it too hard for you to do one thing use my car you use mine I do everything that you basically I know your life sucks but you know you pretty much taken care of here I ask you to do one thing down you’re always not good enough. Trust your instincts, it may just be the feeling of off, a sinking feeling. They will make you think it’s you, you’re unstable, depressed, bi-polar, on the rag whatever to throw you off the mark. Just please, don’t just look after your kids, look after yourself! Be kind yo yourself, love yourself and don’t take anything from anybody who doesn’t show you respect and loving behaviors arcall times. You need and deserve no less. You may need first to love and respect yourself before you find yourself involved with another relationship. You’re kids will be living in that space too!