From the U.S.: My seven year old son had a friend over the other day and they were playing in his room. My husband went to check on them and heard my boy asking his friend if he could “lick his butt.” His friend told him no and my son told him he would give him all the money in his pocket if he agreed.
We were completely blown away. My husband asked our son to come downstairs and I took him in the kitchen alone. I told him that he knows that privates are not for other people to touch. And he should not be touching anyone else’s. He knows this and we have been very careful in teaching him about private parts and what’s appropriate. We have never made it seem shameful. I asked him were he had heard such a grownup thing to say. He told me that another friend of his asked him to do it and he did it.
I contacted this friend’s mom and told her what happened. She then apologized and told me her son has been molested before and is in counseling currently because of it. I wish she would have told me before I allowed him to come over and play with my son. They are the same age and he did not force my boy to do anything from the sounds of it. But my son is now doing the same thing with his other friends.
Should I be worried? I have talked to my son a lot about being appropriate with his friends since this happened. What should I do? Does what happened count as molestation? He said he liked it and I just don’t want him to alarm any other children or anything like that. Is this normal sexual experimentation? Please give me some advice. I don’t know what else I can do to avoid this happening again. Also, he has a one year old sister and is very curious about her privates when I change her diaper or bathe her. Is this something we should be worried about?
Yes, as a concerned parent, you are right to be concerned. But it’s important not to get hysterical. Your son isn’t a molester. He was repeating something that happened to him. Usually kids do this for at least one of two reasons: If the incident felt good, they want to feel those feelings again. If it made them uneasy, they repeat it in order to try to make sense of the experience. Both can be true.
There’s a fine line here: You need to be clear that private parts are private, but if you over-react you can make the incident far bigger than you want it to be.
Please give yourselves credit: You’ve done absolutely the correct things. You’ve talked to him. You haven’t shamed him. You let him know it was wrong. You contacted the other parent (who is in the same position you are — trying to help her son understand that it is not okay). Neither of you want to isolate your sons. Both of you have some parental work to do.
Please understand that your son liked it because sexual feelings feel good. He has been introduced to it much too early and has been overstimulated by the experience. He needs to understand that the feelings are normal but that sharing his body is for much later in his life. Meanwhile, teach him the “bathing suit rule.” Touching anything covered by a boy’s or girl’s bathing suit is entirely off limits unless it is by a doctor or a parent who is making sure he isn’t sick or injured.
His curiosity about his sister is probably normal. At his age, he understands that girls look different than boys but doesn’t know what that means. To answer his questions, try sharing this book: What’s the Big Secret?: Talking about Sex with Girls and Boys by Laurie Krasny Brown. Read it together and have some matter-of-fact discussions to satisfy his curiosity.
Let him know that he can always come to you with questions but touching others and being touched by others on his private parts is supposed to come much, much later in his life. It may be a good idea to give him some role playing practice in saying “no” if someone wants to touch him in his bathing suit area.
Then move on to other things that delight and excite your child so he has something else to think about and talk about. Do keep a watchful eye for awhile but resist the temptation to bring it up or remind him of the rules unless he gives you reason to. You want the incident to fade into the background.
If it looks to you like he can’t move on, please do get a consultation with a counselor who has experience working with kids and trauma.
I wish you well.