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Grabbing Private Parts Not Normal Behavior

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Q. My son is 7 years old. For the last six months or so I've noticed that when he's playing with other boys he sometimes engages in sexual behavior that concerns me. I've seen him grabbing at their penises and his friends do the same. I've told him a couple times that he should never touch anybody else's "private parts" and nobody should touch his. Is this normal behavior that he will hopefully outgrow? Do you have any suggestions?

A. Cultures define touching private parts differently. In our American culture, touching other children's private parts is definitely considered inappropriate touching and is even defined by some parents and authorities as abuse.

Although I can't judge the situation by your letter, a counselor will want to rule out every possible abuse that your son may have experienced. In our sexualized television culture, he may only have seen such behavior on TV or the Internet, but I recommend getting counseling immediately.

For a free newsletter about growing up too fast, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094, or go to www.sylviarimm.com for more parenting information.

Grandchild Can Learn Manners

Q. My husband and I are taking care of our 5-year-old grandson who's outgoing and very smart. We spend a lot of time at public libraries and I know the people who work there. The problem is that my grandson worries for hours before we go that the ladies will talk to him and he doesn't want to respond. I've tried explaining to the ladies that he's shy, but he's really not. If someone talks to him, he gets a mad look on his face and then ignores him or her. Should we force him to be polite or explain that he doesn't talk to adults? He has no problem talking to children. He's an only child if that makes a difference.

A.

Spend some time teaching your grandson that he needs to be polite instead of worrying with him. You and his grandfather can also practice role-playing good manners with him. Explain that when he doesn't answer people or appears angry, it actually hurts their feelings and it's a mean thing to do. Most importantly, definitely don't tell adults within his hearing that he's shy. Even if he really is a little shy, that only provides him with an easy way out and makes him think he can't say hello. If he likes libraries, he should learn library manners. Being an only child is unlikely to be related to his avoiding talking to adults. It's more likely that you and his parents have been his only adult caretakers and he needs some more adult contacts to feel comfortable. Not talking to adults is a bad habit that's probably been fueled by the attention he's received for it. In review, the first rule is never to refer to him as being shy. The second is for him to role-play with you in fun practice sessions. Third, you can add reward points for every time he responds appropriately. Since he chatters comfortably with his child friends, it's not likely to be very long before he responds and enjoys the adults who welcome him to the library. And last, you should converse with your adult friends within your grandson's hearing about how polite he's becoming.

For free newsletters about shy and fearful children, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094, or read other parenting articles at www.sylviarimm.com.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or srimm@sylviarimm.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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