How to yell at other people's kids Part II

Oh, and the saga continues.... So my neighbor drops off her 3 kids at my house this afternoon to babysit, and tells me she doesn't want her daughter, "Mary" to be alone with "Melanie", another neighborhood girl who often plays at our house. (All names have been changed.) That's weird, I thought--this mother is not the paranoid, judgemental type. I asked her why, and she told me. After she told me, I didn't want my child playing alone with this girl, and even wondered if I could keep Jacob out of their home (they live VERY close to us). Here's what happened between Mary(5) and Melanie(7). On one occasion, Melanie pulled her underwear down and showed Mary what was underneath. (Keep in mind she's 7, not 3). On another occasion, Melissa asked Mary to touch what was underneath her underwear. Mary, luckily, told her mother she refused. Mary's mother thus, for good reason, asked me to closely supervise any play-time these 2 little girls had. I wholeheartedly agreed. But now I'm wondering what to do with my own child. Do I let him play over at Melanie's house? She's got 2 younger brothers who Jacob adores. Both parents work, and Melanie is consistently left in the care of her 12 year old sister until after 5:30. Is this behavior normal for 7 year old girls? Are Mary's mother and I the only ones who think it's weird? Do I just chalk it up to little kids figuring things out about their own bodies, or do I make absolutely sure that every minute spent with this family's children is either in my home or in the street where I can monitor it? Do I invite the kids over for FHE and teach them about Jesus? I don't know, I'm just a little bit at a loss, here. Anybody had similar experiences, and could advise?


Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I'm not an expert, but I used to volunteet at a shelter for abused children and I can tell you that one of the most obvious symptoms of child sexual abuse is that the abused child will act out sexually. To my mind, what this seven year old is doing is right on the border between 'normal' exploration and sexual acting out. In your situation, I would NOT allow my child (or any other child that I was responsible for) to play with any child from this family unless all were in my field of vision. I would also seriously consider taking more action, such as talking with the child's mother and/or filing a report with CPS.

5/02/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kaimi said...

Agreed with Julie.

There is a certain amount of normal figuring out how the other gender works -- curiously observing a diaper change; "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours" discussions in kindergarten or first grade. Kids are curious about how things work.

The behavior you describe _may_ be just normal acts, but it sounds awfully like that little girl knows too much about sex. Not just curious observance, but touching for pleasure -- which says to me that she may be being abused. You've got two problems to watch out for, then. First, that the 7-year-old doesn't abuse your child. Second, that whoever is abusing the 7-year-old, doesn't abuse your child.

5/02/2005 07:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Matt Jacobsen said...

Touchy subject where most of us would like to err on the side of caution.

However, I'll ask how does the mother of Melanie know all this? From the words of her 5-year-old? I've ceased to be surprised at the stories that some children will tell.

We had a similar situation with our daughter, then 4, and an 8-year-old boy. Despite the age difference, it was our daughter who was the instigator. We talked with the mother of the boy, and she was shocked and confused about what to do. She ended up having a good talk with her son, as we did with our daughter. Our daughter, now 6, still shows quite a lot of curiosity about everyone's body and needs reminders about propriety. I wouldn't be too surprised if she did the same thing that Melanie allegedly did. (Though the language Melanie uses sounds eerily like something she may have heard from an abuser, but then, how else should she say it?)

One thing I certainly would do is talk with Melanie's parents before talking with any other neighbors about the incident. Did Mary's mother not do this? She'd be the most likely person to do it. If you did then Melanie's family will just think the whole neighborhood is talking ill of them. What better way to alert Melanie's parents of a potential problem, or send a warning if they in fact may be abusers. The parents' reaction would be crucial to understanding how to interact with Melanie and her family in the future. This sounds like gossip at its worst until someone has more to go on than a 5-year-old's story.

5/02/2005 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous matt jacobsen said...

My wife has reminded me that the boy in the story with my daughter was actually 6 years old. He was very precocious, though, so I didn't remember him being so young. Still, the conversations we and our neighbors had with each other and our children were open, non-judgmental and very helpful.

5/03/2005 01:21:00 AM  
Anonymous claire said...

I think Kaimi has a point, that there could be a pedophile in your neighborhood, and also Matt, that the parents need to know what happened. It might wake them up the the idea that their daughter might have been abused/be being abused. Perhaps they already have a suspicion and this will help it all come to light.

Might be a good time to have a talk with your kids about how and when (alsways) to tell you if someone asks to touch their body or wants to show them their body. Like Matt said, do this in a matter of fact way but stress it's important. Kids that obviously have good communication with with their parents are less at risk; predators look for kids (sounds like Melanie might be one because of the lack of supervision) whose parents aren't around much or are preoccupied. Is there a 'mom's boyfriend' (or sister's boyfriend?) around?

5/03/2005 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous catherine said...

I work with abuse survivors and have several close friends who were abused as children. The fact that Melanie asked someone to touch her sexually is a HUGE red flag. Her parents or her 12 year old sister, or anyone else who is spending time with her, may be abusing her. I would always keep your kids in sight, and not let them alone in the neighbor's house. The parents should definately be spoken with, preferably by your friend who heard from her child. Also, it is very very seldom that children lie about this sort of thing, so I would tend to believe a child that reported that.

5/03/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I wouldn't jump to conclusions about the girl being sexually abused. To me, that kind of behavior is perfectly normal. I was the same way growing up, and I was the FURTHEST from being sexually abused (grew up in a loving mormon home where sex wasn't even TALKED about).

Seeing how bothersome this is, though, I'd talk to the girl's parents about it. Maybe they could sit down with her and let her know what is and what is not acceptable behavior when playing with other children. That kind of stuff should be left in private.

I'd definitely talk to her parents about it.
The behavior is normal. If everyone freaks out about it, though, then that girl will grow up with some serious sexual issues (and she'll most likely have an unhealthy attitude about sex and her body--like it's something to be ashamed of. Which it's not).

5/03/2005 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Wow--I have to say, I honestly hadn't thought of sexual abuse. There isn't a mom's boyfriend around, but the mom is divorced, and I think she had Melanie when she was a teenager. Melanie told me that they moved here because they "didn't like my dad's girlfriend banging on our door all the time", and her 3 year old brother said to Jacob, "If you hit me, I'll kill you, or call the cops!" Definitely weird, but the kids are basically nice kids.

Matt said, "This sounds like gossip at its worst until someone has more to go on than a 5-year-old's story."

I think you're right--who knows what really happened. Although I have to say, the 5 year old is not the kind of kid to lie. She's whiny, bossy, and can be a bit of a brat, but she's not a deceptive child. I told her mom to talk to Melanie's mom about the whole thing. Sounds like I need to make sure that conversation happens, huh! Maybe I'll make sure Mary's mom also should suspect some kind of abuse, too.

5/03/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My 2 cents: About a year ago, we had an issue with a 5 year old neighbor boy that was my 4 year old boy's little buddy. My boy was never allowed to go to their house, the mother was just kind of "out of it" and she didn't seem to mind, as her little guy spent inordinate amounts of time at our house (it felt a lot like free babysitting and I figured it was better for him to be playing at our house rather than watching tv at his). One night my son came to us after we had put him to bed and told us that his friend had been asking them to put their "privates" together. The kicker? He also wanted to put his mouth on my son's private part. Luckily (and I thank the Lord), I had the presence of mind to just praise my son for talking to us like I had always told him to, even though I was freaking out inside. We've had numerous conversations about this situation and I was so grateful that he came and talked to us. When I confronted the friend's mother the next day, she broke down crying and said her son had been molested by the son of a babysitter the year before. I was blown away and so frustrated that this woman had not disclosed this information to me!! I know she doesn't want her son stigmatized, but on the other hand, my son was at risk as a result. It is not her son's fault that he was the subject of abuse, but with the information if I had chosen to let the boy play with my child, it would have been with much stricter guidelines. I don't know about all of you, but my kids love to just play in the backyard on the swingset, etc. and I don't sit out there and monitor their every move. I would have done things so differently with that information. Lucky for us, our home had just sold and we moved from the neighborhood literally the next week. But I made the hard choice to inform the other parents in the neighborhood of the incidence with my child. There were many children in the neighborhood that played together, some very young girls and boys and I decided the risk to them outweighed the mother's feelings on the matter. There did not need to be any more people affected by the sad thing that happened to my son's little friend. I feel nothing but compassion for this little boy. I think if we had stayed in the neighborhood I would not have completely restricted his friendship with my son, rather it would have been SO VERY controlled when they played. My son seems fine, it was just important to praise him for talking to us, not make TOO big of a deal of it and learn from the experience.

Hope that experience helps.

5/03/2005 07:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought was sexual abuse. We've had a few times with kids acting out sexually with our kids, and we've handled it quietly with their parents and talked to our kids.

Now it appears that one boy may have molested many girls in our neighborhood. I am in shock. I love this boy still, but obviously, just talking to his parents didn't stop the problem. Actually I think his father, who was the one we talked to, never discussed it with the mother, and the situation escalated. True story. This kid now may go to jail. We really didn't have any idea, just thought it was kid stuff.

5/03/2005 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do have some experience with kids "playing doctor" in our neighborhood and I researched it as best I could and talked to experts.
1. Showing private parts can be normal curiousity. Age 7 is late, but not unheard of for normal curiousity.
2. Touching goes farther than normal "playing doctor" behavior and usually indicates abuse. I agree that it is a HUGE red flag that the girl suggested touching.
3. Telling you, as his mother, is the #1 thing you want your child to do if he has been in a situation like this. It is the NOT telling that causes the real damage of sexual abuse. Warning your child, specifically about what to do if it happens is important. And you need to approach the topic and ask if any kids have already tried to show or look. It is scary for a child to say anything.
4. Never, ever let your child be alone in a room (or out of sight outside) with this child. If this child has been abused, she will act out sexually. It is a never ending chain. Most sexual abusers were victims once. A child is capable of abusing your child.
5. Calling CPS is irreversible. Luckily your child is not involved so it means that your child would not be subjected to possible horrible interviews that you can't control, or investigations into your family. You need to feel pretty strongly that reporting is the right thing to do before you subject your neighbors to that nightmare. You might consider suggesting counseling to the mother....to see if the girl has issues, etc. A good mother would rather pursue counseling to explore the possibility of abuse instead of having CPS descend on her.

5/04/2005 02:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is the NOT telling that causes the real damage of sexual abuse."
I should have instead said "It is the NOT telling that causes some of the worst damage of sexual abuse." Even after a child tells and abuse stops, there is incredible trauma. But if a child tells you, then you as a parent can help them deal with it....get counseling, etc. which can at least help with healing.

5/04/2005 02:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also like to add that it would be a very rare story for a 5 year old to make up. It is possible to have miscommunication, and have the 5 year old misunderstand what she is being asked, but unless that exact situation was described to her (by lets say her mom as a "what do you do if..." situation--which I highly doubt since it included the girl showing asking to be touched rather than a less detailed scenario) she wouldn't think of it on her onw.

5/04/2005 02:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I volunteer on a crisis hotline for sexaul assault, and so I'm not an expert, but I can tell you that the touching is huge red flag and that asking another little girl to touch her is not normal play behavior. I also have a close girlfriend who was abused by an older sister growing up. I'm not saying that is what is happening, but I do think when/if they look to see if abuse has been going on, you need to look past the stereotypical sister's or babsitter's boyfriend. Both parents must be spoken to, and if you continue to suspect something, you may want to talk to an expert before calling CPS. Something in that house is not right.

5/04/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Heather O. said...

"I don't know about all of you, but my kids love to just play in the backyard on the swingset, etc. and I don't sit out there and monitor their every move."

That's like me, too. We have a community playground right behind our town house, and I used to just open my back door, listen to them play, and do something around the house (like blog:)). Not anymore. Yesterday, none of the kids were out of my sight for longer than 2 seconds as they ran to the back of the house to the front. The days of leisurely supervising them with checking on them every few minutes are gone, I guess.

5/04/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Heather O. said...

Also, I've tried to have some conversations with Jacob about the whole touching thing. Anybody have suggestions about how these are best handled?

5/04/2005 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous JKS said...

Here are some ideas. Keep it simple, add more details as they get older. Make sure you don't make it sound like private areas are bad. Try not to be too nervous about the whole subject, it gets easier. Don't worry if they don't understand everything the first time around.
Sample sentences (probably not all used in the same "discussion" if its the first one). There are several issues here. Privacy and bad touching.
Your penis is private. Private parts of our body are special. Nobody should touch our private parts, except Mom and Dad when they help you take a bath. If someone touches your penis, you yell no, run away and tell your mom and dad. Has anyone tried to touch your penis? If someone does, you should always tell your mom and dad. Privacy means that we close the bathroom door while we take a bath or go potty.
Your penis is a really important part of your body and that means it is special and private.
Privacy means we knock if someone's bedroom door is closed. What do you do if someone tells you to touch THEIR penis or private parts? You should yell no, run away and tell your mom and dad.
Do we pull down our pants when we go to the bathroom? Yes. Do we pull down our pants when we are watching TV, no. We keep our clothes on. When we take a bath are we naked? Yes. But when our friends come over and play, we have clothes on.
You are a big boy now, and you can learn about when to be naked, and when to wear clothes. And if someone ever wants you to not be private about your penis, you yell no, run away and tell your mom and dad, ok? And we'll make sure they don't do that again.
(When he gets older, get into more of the psychology of the abuser trying to trick you with a puppy or candy, threatening etc., being scared to tell but you should tell anyway, that it is never a kids' fault if an adult breaks the rules and hurts you.

5/05/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Melanie pulled her underwear down and showed Mary what was underneath. (Keep in mind she's 7, not 3). On another occasion, Melissa asked Mary to touch what was underneath her"

Oopsie, looks like you slipped and said her real name!

5/15/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Sorry to burst your seemingly delighted bubble, but I didn't "slip" and tell y'all the real names. Apparantly I'm just lousy at keeping my fake names straight.

5/16/2005 12:14:00 PM  
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