L.W. asks from Huntingdon Valley, PA on May 10, 2010
Keeping 4 y.o. Daughter Away from Inappropriate Neighbor
We recently moved into my fiance's house. It is pretty secluded with 2 other houses nearby. An 8 year old boy lives next door and is always looking to play with my 4 year old daughter. At first, they played outside, then began going into the boys house (he live with his single dad). Each time, I would go over and bring her home, repeatedly telling her I didn't like her in their house. I don't know them, and felt uneasy about the whole situation. The dad is always talking about what a great kid he has, and badmouths any other children who come to play with him. He calls them foul and inappropriate names when talking about them.
Last week, my daughter started talking about the boy's "butt" and how he pulled his pants down to show her (she further said it was the "front" she saw). She said he also pulled her pants down and on other occasions, has been kissing her on the lips. My fiance and I are furious over this, and since we've seen and heard how the father reacts to other people talking negative about his son, we felt it was best to just keep her away from him.
This is becoming more difficult because he comes over and wants to play with her constantly and if I tell her no (which is what we've been doing) she cries that she just wants to go play with him.. I cannot allow anything else to happen to my little girl. He is way to old to be playing with her and now is proving that he is inappropriate. There are no other kids in the immediate area (but there are some within a short walking distance) and I don't want to have to leave and go places all the time to avoid the kid. We have a nice home with lots of room for her to play and a pool. What do I do?
1 mom found this helpful
J.C. answers from Fort Wayne on May 11, 2010
wow, let this be a lesson to you that kids need to play wtih kids their own age. An 8 year old wanting to play with a 4 year old of the opposite sex would just by itself be a red flag for me. I would just explain to the boy that she's a little too young to play with a big boy like him, but thanks for asking. Just remember this down the road because out of my friends, it seems like problems arise when their kids are playing with someone older than them.
1 mom found this helpful
M.R. answers from Columbus on May 11, 2010
I would listen to Marda, she seems to have the most experience you are going to find on this site with what you should do in this situation.
1 mom found this helpful
M.P. answers from Portland on May 11, 2010
I am a retired police officer who has investigated sex offenses including those involving children. Your description immediately caused me to wonder if this boy has been or is being molested. Looking at and showing private parts is common but this sounds like there is the possibility that it is more than that. In addition to the boys behavior the father is defensive.
I recommend that you call your local police jurisdiction information line and tell them you'd like to talk with someone about child molestation. When you reach that department tell them what you've told us. They will ask questions and perhaps want to talk with your daughter.
Definitely do not let your daughter play with this boy and have contact with the father. Do not let her play outside by herself.
When my grandchildren were that age their mother and I both agreed to not let them play outside by themselves and it was sometimes an inconvenient but we were able to do that. They live in an apartment complex and I am aware that even tho you want to trust others you cannot until you actually know them well. Even if everyone in the complex was trustworthy you do not know who will come by.
My granddaughter is now nearly 10 and her mother still will not let her play outside without an adult she trusts also outside. I might be a bit more relaxed but I still think it's best to err on the side of safety.
It must be disappointing to move into a house in a quiet area and have to deal with this possibility. I sometimes feel so sad that our world today is so different from the one in which I grew up. When I was a child we could roam the neighborhood. All the families knew each other and watched out for each other's kids.
I do want to emphasize that this may not be a case of molestation. It could just be that this father is allowing his son to watch inappropriate TV programs, movies, even himself and a girl friend. Even if that is the case you do not want your daughter to be exposed to it.
And, your call, may help the boy by bringing the father's inappropriate parenting to official attention.
You mention avoiding the son and father. Is there something about the father that causes you to fear him? I've found it's usually best to be up front about things. Unless you have a gut feeling that you can relate to something he's said or did that causes your fear, tell the son that your daughter cannot play with him because he's too old. Tell the father the same thing. It is reasonable that an 8 you and a 4 yo not play together. You don't have to tell them anything else.
If you do not have a fence, I also recommend that you build one with a gate that can be locked. I wouldn't want my 4 yo playing outside in an unfenced yard. Both of my grandchildren wondered at that age and still do. They're interested in knowing about everything. Even when I was a kid and we felt safe from predators my parents built a fence around our back yard.
It really is best to be safe than sorry.
Later, I want to add that calling the police and/or Child Services does not open one up for a law suit of any kind. The purpose of your call is to gain information on how to protect your child. It is not even to report the other parent although in this case the police and/or Child Services will investigate if in their opinion there is a need for more information. Calling is not make an accusation. It is asking a question.
I also agree that this can be normal behavior for an 8 yo. That is why it's not appropriate for a 4 yo to play with some 8 yos. I'm not saying it's always inappropriate.
I am saying that I'm concerned because of the totality of the information. I have received similar information and found that even tho the situation wasn't a good one there was nothing that I could legally do except offer the parent some assistance. Some parent's accepted the assistance. Some didn't.
If you do not want the father of the other boy to know that you are the one that called you can ask to be a confidential informant. It is likely that he will guess that you are the one that called and the authorities will help you deal with the fall out if there is any.
I definitely believe that you should not get the two families together. You do not know the other father well enough to know his reaction. The likelihood of this being traumatic for you and your daughter is high. He's already shown that obscenity is a part of his language.
I do suggest that if he wants, to your husband could talk with the father about what has happened. But again, from what you've said about his defensiveness I believe that this will not help. In many circumstances I do believe that talking with a neighbor first is a good way to be a good neighbor. But, it sounds to me, that this man is not able to be a good neighbor. He shows this by being critical of other children in an angry way.
If he does decide to talk with the other father he needs to be aware that whatever he says needs to be the truth and said calmly. He doesn't have to talk about everything but what he does say should be accurate. What brings this to mind is the suggestion that your daughter will not be allowed to play with any older child. This is setting you up for difficulty if you do have an older child over to play and that is a possibility.
I am always in favor of protecting one's self and especially one's children. this doesn't mean that you have to talk with the neighbor if doing so will cause you to be verbally abused. We say that neighbors should talk with each other. Unfortunately that is not always possible.
Getting as much info as possible and thus being able to make an informed decision is talked about often now. Calling the police/and/or social services is a part of the process of making an informed decision about one of the most important parts of your life; that of the life of your child. Calling is a positive move and not a negative one as is intimated by some of these posts. You make the call to learn and inform and not out of anger and spite. There is a huge difference that professional people are well aware of and most often able to discern.
As other moms have suggested, if you haven't already begun to do so now is the time to have the "good touch, bad touch" conversation. There are some good books geared to a child her age that also have a page to help parents with this conversation. You can find some at the public library. A general rule to give her is that the area of her body that would be covered by a swimming suit is private. Then you can tell her who in her life is OK to see that area.
I liked Faye's post with a list of rules. Modify those to fit your family. Having such a list will make it easier for kids to know what is appropriate and what is not in your family. I raised a foster/adoptive daughter and relied often on the phrase "in our family." This is a positive way to teach values without judging others' values.
18 moms found this helpful
H.A. answers from Dallas on May 10, 2010
Tell the little boy and his father that you don't want him to come over any more. So the guy won't like you - it doesn't matter. It is what is best for your daughter. Your only obligation is to protect your child, not to win popularity contests with your neighbor. To hell with what he thinks.
I would go over and tell him, frankly, you feel that his son is too old to be playing with your daughter and you would appreciate if he didn't come over any more to ask. If he pushes for why - tell him. If he argues it didn't happen, you stand by your guns and tell him there is no way a child as young as yours would know anything about that to even KNOW to lie about it. Which is precisely why you are requesting no more playdates.
The other option is to still allow him to come over, but only supervised play at your house. I know another Mom said to tell your daughter that he can't come over because of showing private parts.... eh. I am mixed on this. My concern would be that SHE is going to feel punished because she can't play with her friend. If you tell her this is why, and she really doesn't think it was a big deal, or "bad" since she wasn't "hurt" (kids mind) - she may not want to tell you in the future because you won't let her go back to that friends house. While she's this young, I personally, think its best to tell her he needs to find friends his own age.
Good luck, whatever you decide.
5 moms found this helpful
J.K. answers from Philadelphia on May 11, 2010
I would make sure you are not jumping the gun before calling in DHS. Once you get the authorities involved, it becomes very hard to take back accusations. I agree that the age difference does seem like a problem, but I have a 3 and 7 yr old and we have teenage neighbors that like to play in our backyard and my kids enjoy the attention. Many people have children that range in age and still play together so I wouldn't just outlaw all playing based on the age difference.
That said I would also make sure they only play on your property and you have direct supervision. Don't give an opportunity for your daughter to be alone with the kid and his father.
4 moms found this helpful
A.W. answers from Kalamazoo on May 11, 2010
Tell the boy why she can't play with him! "Sorry she can't play with you because you acted inappropriatly with her. She says you showed her private parts of your body and that you kissed her. We believe her and you need to find some childern your own age to play with because you are not welcome to come over here and play with her and she will definetly not be coming over to your house EVER AGAIN!!!!!
You then explain to your daughter that everything he did to her was wrong and that he has some problems he needs to work on with self control and discipline. That he is not a nice little boy or her true friend or he would not have treated her that way. If the dad confronts you, just tell him that as the kids get older it's just not appropriate for a 4yr old girl to be playing with a 8yr old boy all the time especially unsupervised.
My opinion is you don't need to worry about what anyone (your daughter, the boy or his dad) think about this. You KEEP YOUR DAUGHTER AWAY FROM THAT BOY! You play with your daughter, she can play by herself, find some girls her age and get together for playdates once or twice a week.
2 moms found this helpful
K.M. answers from Boston on May 11, 2010
Wow. Like someone said, Marda knows best. Remember, she is only 4, what she wants in this case is irrelevant. It may all be innocent "you show me yours" stuff but best to assume that it is NOT. To entice her to play "his way," the boy may be giving her candy or some other treat that she finds exciting and fun, but she will forget about him if you distract her. The onus is on you to invite friends to your home or take your daughter out more. Perhaps you can set up one or two playgroups at your house -- invite 3 other girls each time. Your daughter will have a great time and forget about this boy.
2 moms found this helpful
G.R. answers from Dallas on May 11, 2010
why did you let your 4 year old play with a 8 y/o boy?that's is a big red flag.
i would not let my kids play and never leave my kid when he was 4y/o playing alone with others kids,i was always supervising him.
just tell the kid she can not play with him anymore and thats it.
2 moms found this helpful
I.G. answers from Seattle on May 11, 2010
You have already gotten a lot of great responses and I will just add my two cents:
If your REALLY want to let your child play outside by herself fence your property (high fences make better neighbors...) and put a lock on the gate, so she can't get out and noone else can get in.
You say you have a pool - make sure that is fenced and gated as well, if she's going to play by herself.
Then start making friends with other neighbors and invite them over for playdates if you like them. If that isn't an option look into sending your daughter to a preschool for some peer interaction. It is boring for kids that age to play by themselves all the time.
Once she has a few new friends and gets to play with others on a regular basis, she will lose interest in this boy really fast (he's too old to play with her anyways). I bet she's just begging to play with him because he is the only kid that is close and that she now knows.... give her a chance to make some new connections and she will stop asking.
2 moms found this helpful
F.H. answers from Sharon on May 11, 2010
While it is very normal to be curious about each others bodies and perhaps a kiss at this age can be deemed innocent we live in a world where kids are exposed to way too much.
In our home we have body rules. Some of them reflect our religious beliefs (we believe our body is a sacred gift), but some of them may work for you.
1. We look after our bodies by eating good food, exercising and bathing regularly.
2. We don't do drugs or alcohol or any other substance that could harm our bodies.
3. We dress modestly to keep our bodies covered and to show respect for it and we don't speak crudely about our bodies.
4. We don't touch our special body parts becuase they have a special purpose.
5. We do not touch anyone elses special body parts and no one may touch ours except a medical professional to check for a problem and then only with mummy or daddy in the room. Mummy and Daddy can see and touch a special body part if they need to wash you or help check you for a problem.
We periodically review these and we always have a discussion about what may be appropriate affection between us as a family (hugs and kisses) isn't always appropriate for other people. We tell them how there is a level of commitment in our relationships that allow us to hug and kiss but that may not be appropriate to show other people as we don't have the same relationship.
We also have talked about the way mummy and daddy kiss and how that wouldn't be appropriate for us to kiss them that way or for them to kiss another person that way unless they were ready to make a commitment to them to get married etc.
We have a little bit of a laugh when we do it so its not too serious. I have five boys and I feel that I need to feel comfortable that my boys know the proper way to act around others as boys do tend to be a little more relaxed with their bodies.
Rules and an appropriate attitude about her body will help her see what is right and wrong. She will be better able to defend herself.
As for playing with him you are right, too big of an age gap. We don't live in the same times as we used to. Some children these days have been exposed to pornographic movies while their parents lay drunk.
My kids also no stranger danger info and techniques so they know this kind of interaction isn't appropriate. (We had a 13 yr old boy try to come and play with them! ) It was the perfect time to review our rules and luckily he never came back. (I just kept telling him they couldn't play.)
2 moms found this helpful