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Need tips on teaching "private parts" boundaries

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

DD is about 2 years 10 months, and has a good friend (the neighbor boy) who just turned 7.  He is a good kid, but somewhat strong willed and really precocious.  Their family was visiting this evening and he and DD had been in playing on our bed for a few minutes (right off the living room with the door open) when his mom called him to come get his coat on and leave.  He came out of our room with DD behind him - with her pants and undies down around her ankles.  My first thought was that she was headed to the potty in our room, and it would be perfectly normal for her to do that in front of whoever since she has no sense of modesty yet.  When I asked her if she needed to pee or had just peed she said no, they were playing "baby."  Her friend explained that they were having a baby.  Then they went upstairs to her room (you bet I was following behind) and they were going to keep playing "baby" but his mom was leaving and made him go with her.  


We've been a little uncomfortable in the past with some of the pretend play they do together because of the age difference - they've played wedding where he actually kisses her, and they've played at having babies before (it's the actual delivery not the conception of the baby), but we've felt the need to keep a close eye on them.  After DD went to sleep this evening I called and talked to the neighbor boy's Dad about what happened, not in a confrontational way - I really think the kid is pretty innocent about it all - just telling him what I observed.  He said he'd try and get the story from his son and we'd reconvene to talk about it. I feel pretty good about how they'll probably handle things.


So my question is, how do I teach DD to keep her pants on with her friends without making her feel shame about her body or making her grow up too fast?  I'm not sure at what age most kids develop a natural sense of modesty, but she's not there yet and I don't want to push her into a concept that she's not developmentally ready for yet.  I'm pregnant, so we've talked a little about how babies are made, we've got a book ("it's not the stork") that she's looked at a little, and we've told her before that we don't run around naked in public.  It's hard to communicate the idea that there are parts of your body you don't share with your friends when she's still needing someone to wipe her every time she poops. 

post #2 of 10

Yikes!  That IS scary, IMO.  I don't know if I'd let them play unsupervised after something like that.


As far as tips go, I don't have any, but I've always thought it made sense to talk about these kinds of things in the course of daily life, so that you have a long period of building up your own norms about modesty and personal boundaries so that when you HAVE to have those talks, it's fairly natural.  If you don't feel that comfortable with it, there's great books/videos that cover these topics.

post #3 of 10

I think the last sentence of your post, OP, is absolutely true. We're just starting to discuss privacy and personal boundaries with our newly 3 yo. It is a very advanced concept for that age and quite alien to them since, as you say, they still need help with basic hygiene functions. In my experience with my older daughter, it's a concept that takes gradual understanding.


However, by 7 years old, one should absolutely understand personal boundaries and the inappropriateness of the situation. I'd be very concerned, in your place, that your friend's boy didn't seem to get this. Like Sageowl above, I would definitely not be comfortable allowing them to play unsupervised. While this does sound like a good time to begin gentle talks with your dd about keeping her clothes on, I don't think the onus should be on her to keep what happened from happening again. She is far too young to be made responsible for maintaining her bodily integrity ... which is why, if the other kid can't be trusted to understand, it's up to you to keep her body safe.


Usually, I'm not concerned with childish nudity, and I'm not even too concerned with kids' "playing doctor" games -- par for the course in childhood. But something about the situation you describe feels off to me. I think it's mainly the big difference in age between the children. If this were two toddlers or preschoolers, it wouldn't bother me at all, but a 7 year old should really know better. I would have a difficult time being OK with them playing together from now on unless I was right there.

post #4 of 10

Yeeeeah the age difference would make me worry. If it was two toddlers playing those sorts of games it wouldn't bother me (we'd have talks, but I wouldn't be alarmed) but a 7 and an almost 3 year old doing that? Hmm.


My six and four year olds STILL don't really understand that private parts are private. DH and I try to be relaxed about it because we don't want to shame them but we definitely remind them often about how to be appropriate. But they are boys are obsessed with their penises and butts! I know that true understanding will only come with maturity. Of course my older son has started to become more modest and hopefully my younger guy will follow suit soon.


When in doubt, I blame society. So if my kids wonder why it's not okay to go out in underwear, I say that we just don't do that in our society because everyone at some point decided that it was wrong to do so. It doesn't mean it's wrong or bad for them to wish to leave the house naked, but people just don't do that where we live so we have to more or less go along with it. I don't know if this is the best approach, but it's the easiest one for me to explain that they more or less accept.

post #5 of 10

Listen to your instincts, they are there to protect your child and don't hesitate to act. Children cannot be responsible for their own welfare, they are too young, too weak and just plain inexperienced. So no matter what rule or guideline you try to teach a three year old right now, she can be persuaded to do something out of confusion, guilt, threat, etc.


 I just finished reading the book 'Protecting the Gift' Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe by Gavin De Becker. The situations that you described would be of serious concern to me.


Book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0440509009/ref=oh_details_o05_s00_i02

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

I agree that the responsibility is the older child's and ours to keep an eye on them, but I also feel like it's important to start teaching her some things to help her look out for herself.  DD says that her friend didn't tell her to take down her pants, but her versions of events are not always super dependable.  We talked to the boy's parents about it, and they said that he claims she just took her pants down of her own initiative, which isn't really hard to believe, but again, who knows?  It all seemed pretty innocent since they were in a room just off of the living room where we all were, and DH heard the friend calling his mom to come in to deliver the baby shortly before I went into the room.  But we're still uncomfortable with the situation.  DH talked to his dad, and it sounds like they haven't done much intentional teaching about private areas with him yet, and I'm really surprised and unhappy about that.  It may be that his mom has talked to him and dad just isn't as aware about what's been discussed, but I'm planning on saying something to her about it soon, since he needs to know about appropriate touch for his own safety as well.  


We live in the country, and they're the only close neighbors other than my parents, and they're good friends.  We generally agree on parenting issues and other things, and I'm sure we'll get things worked out, but we're still going to have to keep a close eye on the kids.  It really is an unfortunate age difference, and will continue to be a problem as they get older.  When she's 13 he'll be 17, which could be major trouble.  But maybe they won't want anything to do with each other by then.

post #7 of 10

Wow, I see red flags everywhere with this whole situation. I would no way ever let my 2 year old DD around this boy without my direct or my husband's direct supervision. 1 in 4 girls are molested. And 90% of those cases are from someone the family knows and trusts. I do not see this as innocent behavior. Personally, it seems like maybe the boy has been or is being sexually abused, and now he's playing the "games" with your daughter. You said the boy's parents haven't talked to him about private parts yet??!! I would be very leary of these people. I know you trust them, but I wouldn't have them watch my daughter if I were you. I'd read "Protecting the Gift" for sure if I were you. It will give you more things to watch out for.

post #8 of 10
Originally Posted by dejagerw View Post

Personally, it seems like maybe the boy has been or is being sexually abused, and now he's playing the "games" with your daughter.

I wondered that too. 

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by dejagerw View Post
... Personally, it seems like maybe the boy has been or is being sexually abused, and now he's playing the "games" with your daughter. ...


I should have explained that his mother is a labor and delivery nurse and lactation consultant, so him playing at "having babies" (and it is the DELIVERY part not the conception) is as normal as a carpenter's son playing with toy tools.  He's around talk about birth every day.  I'm still keeping a close eye on them when they're together, just in case, but I don't see reason to really freak out about it.

post #10 of 10

I think you bring up a good point in that he wasn't trying to hide anything.  Doctor type games are on average in the 4-6 year old age range.  Obviously some kids are younger, and some older when they become curious.  I would wonder about the boys maturity level.  I had a similar situation with my daughter who was 2 1/2 with a 4 year old. Both girls had been to appointments while moms were pregnant.  Kids imitate what they see.  I am fortunate the lady who watches them did not over react.  I think many people do and it is detrimental to kids understanding of themselves. 


It sounds like you have a good handle on what was going on. Of course we wonder a bit because it is such a huge issue in our society.  But I think we have to go with our gut. Communication with his parents is really key.  It is great you can be open and honest with them.


My two year old is pretty mature so I told her that her butt and labia are hers.  She is allowed to touch them but no one else, unless they are helping her wipe.  I told her she is supposed to say "no that is mine" and we practiced saying it a couple times so she thought it was awesome to yell it. She has a little brother that she bathes with so we have had to make it clear they don't touch each other.  She originally said, "but we were doctors". We had to talk about that doctors go to school for a really long time and get a license.  So if they don't have a license it is off limits. 


It is such a hard subject!

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