Confronting Grandparent about Innappropriate Touching - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't have a lot of time to write, so I cant' explain the whole story now. I need some important advice about how to handle innappropriate touching from my boys paternal grandfather. We just got back to our house from a week long visit and I'm just sick that I didn't say something while we were there.

My husband's father, while playing and different random times, was grabbing my boys' bottoms (grabs with both hands and squeezes several times). He does this in a playful way, but I find it EXTREMELY inappropriate. I talked to my husband about this and he said it's harmless behavior and that his father did that to all the kids in their family growing up. He did say he would talk to him about it, though. He never did. Now, I'm home from the visit and just sick to my stomach thinking about it.

I'm wanting advice on how to go about confronting my husband's father about this. I feel like an email letter would be easiest for me, but how do I say it showing the importance of the issue without complete outrage?! I don't think my husband will address this in a way that will prevent it from ever happening again, so I feel I'm left to do it. I want to let grandpa know I think this is NOT ok to ever do again to my children. What do I say? :

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#2 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 04:17 PM
 
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I'm sorry I don't have much advice to offer. I am coming here from new posts. My paternal grandfather would always "cop-a-feel" when he hugged me. It was so disgusting and confusing. When I told my dad about it, he just laughed.

I sure wish someone had made it stop.

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#3 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 04:18 PM
 
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To me the issue is less about confronting your FIL and more about protecting your boys (i.e. they should never be in FIL's care alone). This may be overkill, but better safe than sorry.
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#4 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 05:23 PM
 
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I guess it depends on how much you're willing to rock the boat. I would start with never leaving him alone with them, obviously, but to address him directly I'd say something like...we're trying to teach them about appropriate touching and it's confusing sometimes it's ok and sometimes it's not. That way if it really is just a generational thing you're not calling him a perv.

I think older people don't "get" how careful younger people have to be with their kids and touching. I don't think there are any more sickos out there, but we know more about them and are more prepared to act proactivly. So what to gramps is just playing with the kids, kids are kids, and who on earth would ever think of kids like that!!! - to a modern parent is stepping over some lines.
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#5 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 05:35 PM
 
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I guess....I squeeze my kids' tushies all the time. It's loving and affectionate, not inappropriate. Rather than ream out their grandfather, why not have a discussion with them about their bodies and tell them ANY TIME they feel uncomfortable, no matter WHO it is, they say "STOP!" and tell you?
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#6 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 06:02 PM
 
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I'd personally be thinking about cutting off contact. But, short of that, I'd say to grandpa "it is absolutely not acceptable for you to handle my kids in that way. It is never to happen ever again, period. This is not up for negotiation or debate."

IMHO your husband is the bigger problem, here. Does he understand why this upsets you?
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#7 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 06:07 PM
 
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Rather than ream out their grandfather, why not have a discussion with them about their bodies and tell them ANY TIME they feel uncomfortable, no matter WHO it is, they say "STOP!" and tell you?
I think it's unfair to place that kind of responsibility on the kids. If mom is too scared to confront, how the heck can you expect this to be the kids' job?

I squeeze my kids' tushies (baby and toddler). But I don't think it would be appropriate for their grandparents to do so, especially in the manner you're describing. I would never leave my kids alone with anyone who touched innappropriately.

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#8 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 09:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've thought of every angle of this issue. I have told my children to yell "stop" or "don't touch me" if they don't want to be touched, BUT they still don't know how to do it in the moment (for example, when someone is tickling them). My children are not "touchy" children. They only prefer to be touched on their terms. That being said, Grandpa pays no mind to what they want in these regards. He tickles and WE have to tell him to stop. He doesn't seem to care if the child doesn't like it......it seems more for his enjoyment. So, the whole "grabbing bottoms" goes right along with his "playing". He does it when people are around, meaning he isn't interested in hiding this whatsoever. I'm sure he sees no problem with it, but my children do and so do I. My children clearly do not like it. My children have NEVER been left alone with him. I'm sure my husband would take offense if I told him I didn't feel comfortable because I fear my children's safety. We feel differently about this issue, but I still need to discuss this further with him.

I really need help with words to use addressing this. I want him to know I don't want him doing this to my children ever again. Period. I want to express the importance. My husband has told him the boys don't like to be "tickled" or "touched" and he doesn't listen. More extreme vocabulary needs to be used, but I don't know what. I don't want to accuse him of being perverted or anything, but I DO want to address the importance of this grabbing to NEVER happen again.

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#9 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 10:45 PM
 
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I agree with the previous poster that it's not going to work to have the kids say no. I'm a grown up and I have been struck speechless more than once when an authority figure in my life has done something inappropriate or that made me uncomfortable. Brazen feminist that I am, the words nonetheless stuck in my throat when my then-boss started making sexual comments and trying to grab me. It's hard to confront the person above you, especially when you're suddenly physically overpowered.

I wish I could help you think of the right words to use. I suspect that maybe I have a stricter policy about this kind of thing than what your husband would tolerate. If it were my FIL, I'd give him exactly one chance to listen to me and take it to heart. Having "no" respected is an absolute in my household. People who cannot respect "no" when it comes to physical boundaries do not have any place in our lives; I consider them potential if not actual dangers.

I think it would be ideal if your husband were the one talking to his father, but since that's clearly not going to happen, I'd say to FIL, "I need to talk to you about something important and I need you to hear me out. We've spoken before about how the kids do not enjoy being grabbed or tickled. I don't know if you have forgotten those conversations or if you are simply disregarding them but I am reminding you now. We do not tolerate unwanted touching in our family, no matter how well-intentioned it may be. It is simply not something we allow. I will not remind you of this again. If you forget again, I will need to keep the kids away from you until you are able to respect the word no."
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#10 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 10:47 PM
 
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Man, that is a HARD one. I really respect that you're going to bat on this one - your boys are so blessed to have a strong, supportive mama! Have you thought about ways that you might be able to communicate to your DH your concerns without him coming away with the impression that ol' Grandad is some nasty perv (which is what I'm getting from you that he will think you're saying)? Could you possibly approach it with him that it's simply inappropriate because your boys don't like it, and then figure out how HE can best communicate that to Grandfather without any wiggle room? I know you have had discussions about it, I'm just wondering if there's any strong language you can use that will be effective in communicating the situation without DH getting offended, like, "When GD was tickling the boys and grabbing them to play, on their tummies, bottoms and feet (or wherever the contact occured), it was obvious that the boys were upset. What can we do to communicate to GD that our boys need to be respected and that he cannot play with them in that manner?" That way, it's less, "Holy crud, bottom-grabber!" and more, "General inappropriateness" IYKWIM.

Obviously, if DH isn't going to get on board, it's up to you, and that's disappointing, but again, kudos to you for standing up for your boys' safety. What if you gave GD a very specific idea about what's acceptable and what's not? Something like, "I know we've discussed this before, and there seem to still be some questions about how the boys are comfortable playing with other people. I've sat down with DH and the boys, and we're having this discussion with the people in their lives that they care most about, so they feel comfortable around them. As you know, the boys don't particularly care for rough play, or being tickled. During our family meeting, these are the guidelines we decided are appropriate for us, and we are sharing them with our close family so that we can all be together in comfort. First, the boys are not to be tickled at all in any manner. If you would like to connect with them, then you are welcome to give them a hug around their necks or backs. Second, the boys are not to be pushed or grabbed in any manner. If you would like to play with them, it is perfectly appropriate to <insert activity here, like playing ball or another non-contact game>, but again, the boys are not to be played with by wrestling, roughhousing or any other contact sport. We know that you love our family and that, just as much as we do, respect and honor each other, and this is how you can best do that."

I dunno, that's my best effort...I really do wish you much success in this and I know you won't back down until your boys are safe! Will you give us an update when you decide what to do?

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#11 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 10:54 PM
 
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it doesn't matter that some find that inappropriate and some don't. everyone is different and have different comfort levels. if YOU find something wrong or creepy about what fil is doing, than say something, mama.

i really think you need dh to back you up on this. i know you say he doesn't listen to dh alone, but if you both sat down and had a talk with fil i think he may realize that you're serious. i don't think there's any reason to use strong words or get mean with fil. just let him know that even though he may not mean it that way (after all, he does it right in front of you guys and it's not like you caught him in the act), you would prefer that he doesn't do that anymore. bottom line: those are YOUR kids and what you say goes. if he can't respect your wishes than he can take a hike. some people are just more touchy-feely than others, but if you're not cool with it, you gotta draw that line.
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#12 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 11:05 PM
 
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First, I should tell you that my words here are probably a bit biased, as an incest survivor (this hits even closer to home, because it was my grandfather who molested me).

I understand you not wanting to rock the boat, but I've got to tell you, once you say something, no matter how gentle it is, you need to be prepared for some sort of backlash. Chances are you're going to get one. However gently you phrase it (and I really like a pp's suggestion of explaining that it's confusing to the kids "sometimes it's okay and sometimes it's not") grandpa is going to hear "You're a perv, stop squeezing my kids' tushies". Which, I think, is what he SHOULD hear, but that might be my bias talking.

So, if you go with that, or if you come up with something else, be prepared for him to go defensive. You can either sooth him, or tell him the truth. That's up to you. I can tell you that *I'd* personally tell him the truth, but that's because of my own history. I do not mess around with that crap at ALL. and I don't are whose feelings I hurt.

You may want to take the other route and you probably should, to preserve family peace. So, "No Gpa, I certainly have no problem with you touching the boys, but really, we are trying to teach them boundaries so that if, heaven forbid, someday, someone with less than pure intentions touches them, they know it's NOT okay. At their age, we have to deal in absolutes, so it's just NEVER okay." might be something that will placate him if he becomes defensive.

I definitely agree with you that it needs to be addressed. I'm sure you'll do the right thing, and you'll do it well, Mama.

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#13 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 11:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Joannarachel View Post
I guess....I squeeze my kids' tushies all the time. It's loving and affectionate, not inappropriate. Rather than ream out their grandfather, why not have a discussion with them about their bodies and tell them ANY TIME they feel uncomfortable, no matter WHO it is, they say "STOP!" and tell you?
Same here. This kind of affection can be completely non-sexual and should only be stopped if one of the kids is bothered by it or if you feel that it's titilating to anyone involved.
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#14 of 92 Old 10-16-2006, 11:58 PM
 
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she said the kids don't like it.
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#15 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 12:06 AM
 
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I agree with SharonAnne. Good post and great advice.
OR Mom...I'm so sorry you have to deal with this.

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#16 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 12:10 AM
 
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#17 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 12:17 AM
 
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What about discussing this with your husband's Mom? Maybe tell her that your kids really do NOT like it when anyone tickles them and they don't want to hurt grandpa's feelings by telling him that.

Maybe mention they are feeling reluctant being around him because of this physical contact and you certainly want to respect their feelings on this. Remind her how she would feel if she was grabbed in a way that made her feel uncomfortable.

I do wonder why you didn't say anything while you were there and witnessing this behavior.

If grandma isn't around, then you must just tell grandpa that this behavior is a no-no anymore. No discussion, no argument, no excuses. Explain, nicely, that if the tickling occurs again, you and the kids are out of there until he respects your request. Explain the same to your husband.

And, remind your husband that just because things were done when he was a child and it was no big deal, times have changed and these are your children and THEY DON"T LIKE IT!
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#18 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 10:35 AM
 
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That being said, Grandpa pays no mind to what they want in these regards. He tickles and WE have to tell him to stop. He doesn't seem to care if the child doesn't like it
Oh, ok. That's where he's crossing the line, IMO. Sorry, I didn't see that part before BelgianSheepDog mentioned it.

One way to frame it is to talk to the grandfather and say that you're trying to teach your children how to protect themselves from unwanted touching and that his tickling and grabbing them against their wishes is sending them the wrong message that it's okay for people to do things to their bodies that they don't like.

Unless I had deeper concerns for this particular person, I wouldn't alienate him by going on the attack but would instead try to bring him over to my and the children's side in terms of teaching them how to take care of themselves. This could be a good lession for everyone involved and could actually make people closer rather than further apart.
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#19 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 10:53 AM
 
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I also come from a family where a little tushie squeeze was appropriate and not upsetting.

I think that's the key. In some families, that feels normal. In your family, it doesn't. That's what you tell the grandpa. Your dh wasn't freaked out by the horseplay (tickling, squeezing) but you aren't so touchy-feely, and your kids don't see him so often so they don't know each other's cues--and that's how to put it to him. It might be a cultural difference between the two families, but you want him to respect your wishes on this and not tickle or squeeze.

I respect your feelings about it. i get a little freaked out about tickling. My son likes to be tickled and enjoys that kind of horseplay, but it's really a challenge to make sure he gets to keep control. He's only a little guy, an adult tickling him could easily overwhelm what he wants, you know? I know one family that didn't allow any tickling, and that's a good way to deal with it, but it's also kind of restrictive.

Anyway, I hope this works out more easily than you are anticipating.

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#20 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 10:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So many great points. I get a bad feeling about this whole situation. I've tried to view this in a "harmless" manner and it just doesn't feel like that. At this point, I don't want to ever leave my children with him. He doesn't see or care what my children want or like (or the parents). I will talk to dh to have him do the talking, because I think that would be the best way to get this across. Now I have some words to use, so mabye he will feel more comfortable doing it. We should have handled it before leaving fil house. I feel so lucky that I only have to deal seeing fil 2 times a year (we live 2500 miles away).

I do get some sort of peace hearing that others find this acceptable. I REALLY don't want my fil to be a danger to my children. He's a good grandfather other than this. And my boys don't have many male role models in the family. We have raised our children to be in charge of their own bodies. One boy doesn't give or recieve kisses. That's his choice. It's going against our family rules to just ignore this, since my children DO NOT like this touching. I feel an urgency to let this man know its not ok to ever do again. I really need my husband's support on this, though, or his family will not take it seriously. They already think our parenting is strange....they are VERY mainstream/we are VERY crunchy!

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#21 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 11:05 AM
 
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I guess....I squeeze my kids' tushies all the time. It's loving and affectionate, not inappropriate. Rather than ream out their grandfather, why not have a discussion with them about their bodies and tell them ANY TIME they feel uncomfortable, no matter WHO it is, they say "STOP!" and tell you?

I tend to agree with this and can't imagine being upset if my kids' poppy was playing with them this way (actually, I'm sure he has grabbed their booties at some point, we all do, and dd grabs ours).

I think telling the kids that they are always allowed to say no to physical contact that makes them uncomfortable is the best way to handle this.

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#22 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 11:17 AM
 
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Since you only see him twice a year, I would definitely recommend handling him gently, but firmly. Definitely never leave the boys alone with him.

As to the fact that since he does this out in the open and therefore it's probably harmless, I just want to point out that this isn't true (though it may be in your specific case) -- predators often start out with this kind of touching in front of other relatives, in order to desensitize the child and the family. Tickling and bottom touching are often precursors to more serious behavioural issues later on. I'm not saying that this is what your FIL is doing, but you're right to take it seriously. The biggest red flag for me is that he doesn't respect the boundaries of your children; doesn't stop before they've had enough, and definitely isn't reading or caring about the cues that they offer telling him to stop.

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#23 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 11:33 AM
 
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I want to add that my FIL always wrestles around with my boys (they call it "rustling" ), and hugs them and the like, and this is healthy and necessary. They have a very strong bond and healthy relationship otherwise, and he totally respects their boundaries and physical autonomy.

My step-father, on the other hand, has never been allowed anywhere near my children. His hugs, kisses, bottom squeezing, etc, have always been massively inappropriate and borderline criminal.

Sometimes, it's hard to see the difference without having seen examples of both, but usually if your hackles are going up, then you have reason to be concerned. It doesn't mean that you have to do anything drastic, but it does mean that you have to take precautions to protect your children. It isn't the child's job to protect himself from this kind of behaviour -- that is a disservice we have done them. It is *always* our responsibility to protect them, as long as they are children, no matter where they happen to be, and no matter from whom we are protecting them. Of course, they need to know the difference between "good" touch and "bad" touch, but we should never assume that that alone can keep our children safe. Anymore than saying "no" and "stop" prevents a woman from being raped.

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#24 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 12:42 PM
 
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It isn't the child's job to protect himself from this kind of behaviour -- that is a disservice we have done them. It is *always* our responsibility to protect them, as long as they are children, no matter where they happen to be, and no matter from whom we are protecting them.

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#25 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 01:18 PM
 
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There are a couple of members of my husband's family who do similar things when playing with kids. Thankfully, we hardly ever see those people, so it's not really an issue for us.

Obviously your DH doesn't see the problem and isn't going to say anything to his father about this. He probably was touched in the same ways when he was growing up and doesn't think anything of it. If I were you, I would be the one to take the stand, since your DH obviously isn't going to. I wouldn't make a huge deal about it at first, maybe just casually say something like, "Let's don't grab each other's behinds, please. We're trying to teach the boys that it's not okay to do that." If he doesn't stop after that, I would have a serious conversation about it with him.
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#26 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 02:41 PM
 
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Well we give tushie squshies all the time so i wouldn't jump tot he conclusion he is a perv based on that.

However if you are the boys are uncomfortable with that sort of play one time telling him is all it should take. after that he needs to respect your boundries. i think you could approach it from a really neutral place and just say "ya know, I know its perfectly innocent and ya mean no harm, but i am not comfortable with it and the boys aren't because they haven't been raised with that sort of touching and we would like you to not do that any me. Thanks. They really appreciate it when you show them affection like **** and play with them this way : ***** "

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#27 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 03:03 PM
 
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We do tush squeezes in our house too - it's just part of overall hugs, snuggles and kisses that we share. But I can't imagine dd's grandparents being that physically familiar with her, kwim?

Dd snuggles in my arms, puts her little face right up to mine, takes baths with me... But O'ma and O'pa? The most she'll do with them is sit stiffly in their laps or give them little cheek-peck kisses. Most kids think it's kind of a big deal getting hugged or kissed by a grandparent. Unless your FIL has some unusual intimate closeness with your boys (which definitely doesn't seem to be the case), then I'd say butt squeezing is a little too personal.

But how to deal with it?

I agree with not leaving the boys alone with them. After that, I favor encouraging the boys to dictate what they're comfortable with - with your support. So, if grandpa grabs them in a hug squeezing their buttcheeks and they say 'stop!', or whatever you've discussed with them, I'd be sure to stand firm with them at the time: "Grandpa, Johnny doesn't like that. We'd prefer if you respected that, please."

That makes it seem more like an annoyance for the boys than an impropriety, which leaves Grandpa some face. I suspect if you approach it from the 'inappropriate' standpoint, it will forever devastate your (and your sons') relationship with their grandparents.
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#28 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 05:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm so glad people are understanding how the wording of this confrontation is important to the outcome. I haven't been able to talk to dh, since he's been working long hours. We are usually such a joint force, I need him to be on my side with this as well. His parents will listen if he says it (hopefully).

I did equip my children with words to say if they didn't want to be touched, tickled, kissed, etc. They just aren't old enough to do that. I have to help them. For example, grandpa is tickling, my boy runs away and starts throwing toys at him. I say, "Please don't throw toys in the house". He continues to throw. I pick him up and start to carry him into the other room. He says "But I don't want grandpa to tickle me". I say, "ok, let him know that by using your words so he will know not to tickle." He says it to grandpa. My husband says, "yes, the boys don't like to be tickled or touched unless it's on their own terms". This played out several times during the trip. Grandpa never got the hint.

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#29 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 05:47 PM
 
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if grnadpa isn't getting the point it is time to get firm and demand that grandpa respect boundries. all boundries. not just this one.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#30 of 92 Old 10-17-2006, 07:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OR Mom View Post

I did equip my children with words to say if they didn't want to be touched, tickled, kissed, etc. They just aren't old enough to do that. I have to help them. For example, grandpa is tickling, my boy runs away and starts throwing toys at him. I say, "Please don't throw toys in the house". He continues to throw. I pick him up and start to carry him into the other room. He says "But I don't want grandpa to tickle me". I say, "ok, let him know that by using your words so he will know not to tickle." He says it to grandpa. My husband says, "yes, the boys don't like to be tickled or touched unless it's on their own terms". This played out several times during the trip. Grandpa never got the hint.

If the boys were verbally expressing to him that they found the level of phsyical contact inappropriate and he CONTINUED to do it, then I'd like to edit my original advice

I can't tell from your posts whether Grandpa is just a fun ol' Poppy who isn't too good on picking up on hints, or if it's something more sinister.

Either way, I agree that he shouldn't be left alone with them, and that you need to address him about the issue in a calm, quiet moment. Although a letter or a phone call might be the easy way out, I would probably do it face to face (or rather have DH do it), because it will carry more impact and have less room for misinterpretation.
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