Son touched cousin's butt. How to react and how to act?
December 27, 2016 2:25 AM   Subscribe

My six year old put his hand in his cousin's pants and touched his butt on Christmas. It wasn't sexual to him. I'm worried about what this means for him, for family. I don't know how to make sure this doesn't happen again, how to correct the situation and I don't know how to react as the parent.

On Christmas my son did something that makes me want to cry and I could use help understanding and correcting the situation.

I have a six year old who is amused and I guess curious about butts. He has previously kept it to poop jokes/bathroom humor of which I am not a fan so I attempt to curb that but still see it as age appropriate kid stuff. We got a new dog in the house two days ago and I've heard him say once that the dog has a butt hole (where he gets this term I don't know) and I heard him being fussed at about looking at the dogs butt. Not touching or anything just looking. This whole butt this is relatively new as in December new. He's with me or a relative most of his day, he's allowed time on YouTube kids and anything else is generally mild.

With that said, I'm worried about what happened and how far past curious it goes and how I handle it. The story is that his cousin had his game phone and he wanted it back. He didn't get it so he put his hand down the back of his cousin's pants. I don't know if it was get his attention or what. I could cry. I don't feel prepared to handle this as he's never done this before. We talk about bodies and not touching other people without permission etc but then he does this. This is big to me. The other child didn't say anything about it (he's six, his brother who said it happened is ten) and they were back to playing. I heard a snippet of their conversation on whether he was mad at him or how long he was mad but didn't catch the answer.

Both their dad and I went upstairs to check it out when it was mentioned but we have different ways of handling things so I don't know if it's over for them. While there, dad told both not to touch anyone and don't let anyone touch you which I agree with. It was all fast and it seemed over to him but my reaction was that he was initially upset about it (rightfully so). This dad is very much a manly, "my son's wont be gay" "men don't cry" kind of guy so I'm worried there with how this will play out if it is in fact not over for him. Our son's see each other mostly on big holidays but the family has been talking about getting together more often to keep up with each other so this could potentially be a thing.

My son cried, is remorseful, wasn't ready to talk (the dad i guess intimidated him with his hands on his shoulders when he spoke - not something I do or has even been done to him) and I couldn't get as much from him in that moment. We talked here at home. I went over the talks we've had on respecting others, our bodies, etc. I told him I was disappointed and how others will treat him if this is a habit of his. I hope that was okay. He says his mind told him to do it and that it would be funny. I told him that he has control over that but he doesn't seem to agree. He was hurt about it and that it could change things if he kept on, I could tell. I have work to do there but I don't know how. It wasn't sexual to him from the sound of it but that doesn't make me worry less about what he did, how that will impact family gatherings, his relationship to his cousins and not to mention how his cousin does and will feel about this. Breaks my heart for the both of them.

I have it in mind to go over more talks on respect, boundaries, consent with more real life examples and more often than before. He can't write full sentences but I saw the idea of him writing a letter to his cousin on what he did and that he's sorry and also one on what boundaries or respect mean to him. I also think it may help to keep him in the room where I can see him on play-dates and maybe help the trust if it is indeed broken with them. I'm also thinking of talking with their mom, my cousin, about it. For some reason it doesn't seem like all the talks about bodies and personal space has stuck. I feel like I did something wrong so I would appreciate the help in forming a plan for the future and correcting what just happened. My fear is that my son will be treated as the kid who touches butts and will be jokingly ostracized in the family but seriously have every move watched. I can even see my mother reacting this way (even him looking and talking about the dog had her calling him nasty) and it truly worries me. I'm already considered to be "out there" as a parent (don't spank, get on his level, we talk. He still has consequences to his actions and "gets in trouble" but they don't involve me hitting him or yelling at him).

Their mom is my cousin and I think she would be the best one to talk to and would likely say it's kid stuff but I don't know if it's best to assume so - both that it's kid stuff and that that will be her reaction. I also don't know if I should bring it up again, how to deal with the fact that they may be angry and it may change things between them and I don't even know how to feel. I love my son absolutely but I am disappointed. I tear up when I think about it even though I know they have every right to feel more upset about it. I don't feel prepared to handle this as a parent so I'm worried that maybe I'm not on the right track. I'm not around other children this age so I don't know what's normal kid stuff, what's exploring, what leads to sexual curiosity or if I'm taking it that far when it's not that.

I'm just sad and confused. Please advise if possible.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can see that you have really strong values and you are clearly motivated to bring your son up with a great moral compass too. That's awesome. At the same time, your son's behaviour here is totally normal. That doesn't mean it's right, and you are totally right to correct him. But he is six and he learns by experiment. Kids will flash their friends, spread their poo on the walls of toilets (it happened several times at our school), later simulate sexual intercourse (or what they understand of it) and probably stick their dick in things and put things up their butt. As adults we are not comfortable with any of that, but tough luck because kids will be gross whether we like it or not. So your son's behaviour is definitely not beyond what a normal kid might do. Your son crossed a boundary and he learnt that it was wrong without getting spanked or hit. 6-year-old boys have barely any impulse control so "my mind told me to do it and that it was funny" is a really accurate explanation by him, and it's great he was honest and communicative. High five to you and your husband for good parenting. You are anxious about the situation because you care so much, but from what you wrote I just see one normal boy and two good parents.
posted by askmeaboutboardgames at 2:55 AM on December 27, 2016 [115 favorites]

Wow. It sounds to me like you're making a huge drama over a nothing incident and everything you're considering doing is going to make this nothing incident into a Big Deal and something that would have been forgotten 10 minutes later by everyone involved is now going to be permanently seared into their brains.

All this shame and drama and naughtiness you're creating over his interest in butts is just going to make him more interested. Kids are dicks, the forbidden is way more inciting and interesting than the open. Touching butts is funny because its naughty.

Your kid was being bullied by his cousin and he did what he felt would end that situation. (did it?) What do you think he should have done in that situation? Talk to him about that, how could he have handled that better?

Its all very well teaching your kid the about personal space and everything but he's going to be in the world with kids who aren't playing by those rules. I imagine you've also taught him its not ok to take things that don't belong to him. But what you're also going to need to teach him is what to do when other kids do these things to him.

But you also have to remember, he's 6. He's not just a short adult, his brain works in a very different way to yours, you can't just reason with him and expect him to understand and obey. He's going to do things in the heat of the moment that you've taught him are wrong, he's likely going to get goaded by friends at school into doing things that are wrong and some of the time he's going to do things that he knows are wrong, on purpose. That's just normal kid behaviour and there's going to come a point when testing boundaries is a normal part of his behaviour too
posted by missmagenta at 3:02 AM on December 27, 2016 [84 favorites]

Yep, the poop and potty jokes are extremely common. If you Google "6 year olds fascinated by butts," you will see a host of anxious parents asking questions.

My son is 24 now, and he definitely loved the potty talk, and saying, "poop head" etc. My niece said stuff like, "nanner, nanner, boo, boo, stick your head in poo-poo!" And she grew out of that.

I was more inclined to approach it with humor, as I started babysitting at an early age, and had lots of cousins, siblings, etc.

One good suggestion I saw about the bathroom humor was telling the kid it's only to be used in the bathroom, so if he wants to say those words, he has to go into the bathroom to say them (by himself). That means they can't keep saying it for the shock value. Because when kids see something that will push Mom's buttons, they keep at it for the attention. Just like they have to all of a sudden come to you for attention if you're on the phone (you being on the phone is like a magnet for kids acting up).

Sounds like you told him it was not cool to touch other people's bodies, but that kind of stuff is normal. My son and another kid both whipped out their penises to go pee in the babysitter's yard, and then they gleefully told her, but that was it, no more of that, once they found out it wasn't okay (both 6 or 7, Kindergarten age).

Try not to let him see you get shocked when he uses potty humor. Put on your best casual face and say, "eh, that's not nice. We don't say those words all the time. Go into the bathroom and say them if you want." And then try to redirect him with a game or reading a book, or something physical to wear him out. I found with little kids, asking them how fast they can run back and forth across a yard or room, and using a stopwatch, to be a good way of wearing them out without me getting too worn out (unless you are up for a foot race).

If it gets really bothersome, you can talk to your pediatrician about it. But yeah, butt and poop and all that stuff, fascinating to little kids.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:08 AM on December 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I can't speak to the incident in particular but curiosity about butts is entirely normal and it sounds like you have squelched that from its innocent, developmentally-appropriate beginning. Curiosity about a new pet's normal bodily functions is healthy. He will presumably be expected to clean up the dog's poop, know its digestive routine, even manually express anal glands should your dog need it. Same with his own digestion/elimination.

You sound much more concerned about what other people think of you than about your son's well being. How is it ok that an adult who is supposed to love him called him "nasty" for being curious about the dog's body? Has your mother ever had a colonoscopy? I bet her M.D. wasn't shamed for his biological curiosity. I would also add that allowing an angry uncle to put his hands on your son's shoulders to drive home a point seems to fly in the face of your consent lessons.
posted by headnsouth at 3:12 AM on December 27, 2016 [42 favorites]

This is like picking noses and eating it--most kids do it because it seems like an obvious thing to try, adults tell them not to and why, they don't do it again.

Something similar recently happened in my son's first grade classroom. The person it happened to said "ew gross!" and the person who did it said they were trying to make the other person laugh. The instigator got reminded about what private parts are, and why they are private, and there haven't been any more incidents and no one seems all that bothered. (Heck I was a flasher at that age and went through the same process. To me it was just kind of an interesting thing to try, a fun social experiment like telling a new joke. I think I did it twice, and I'm a reasonably normal adult.) In your place I would maybe have one more conversation about it during a quiet moment with your son, keep half an eye on him the next time he's playing with bigger kids who might overpower him to the point where butt touching seems like appropriate payback, and leave it at that.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:41 AM on December 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Upon walking into the classical sculpture exhibit at the MET, our six year old buckled over and fell down laughing for a good fifteen minutes due to all the butts.

Let them have their moment of discovery and sure, nip it in the bud (butt) if it seems like there is some escalation about to occur (kid wants to pull down more pants, touch ancient statuesm etc), but it's only a Thing if you make it a Thing. Maybe circle back later and say, "Hey, we don't really do that. It's rude to touch other people's bodies like that."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:26 AM on December 27, 2016 [23 favorites]

This is so normal. The cousin's dad overreacted in a way that was probably traumatizing, honestly.

Two thoughts:

1. Do you read parenting blogs? Especially funny ones? This sounds like a ridiculous solution, but after you've read, for instance, the fifth blog post about kids saying "butt" all the time, it might give you some reassurance. There's one called Mimi Smartypants where the daughter is a teen now but the archives document her early years - and know there's a ton of others out there. Or click around on mumsnet, maybe?

As a culture I think we are so anxious about sexuality, child sexuality, abuse, pedophilia, etc, that we treat any child behavior that involves, like, butts or genitals as if it were a huge sin or crime - almost as if we expect kids to pretend that they don't have those parts. This is very different from how it was when I was growing up - "playing doctor" or doing what your son did, etc, would have been naughty, yes, but no more so than any other minor piece of misbehavior.

I think you're treating this as a much, much bigger deal than it is, probably because our culture is making you anxious.

2. What happened to your son with the dad was probably pretty traumatic and kids remember that, especially when another adult over-disciplines them and their parent didn't stand up for them. My feeling is that if you see another adult disciplining your son in a too-heavy way (scaring a six-year old over something naughty but totally common, for instance) it is okay to tell the other adult that you will talk to your son, and it's okay to tell your son, later, that the other adult should not have acted that way, even if your son was naughty.

Just to recap: what I'm hearing here is that your mother called your son "nasty" for being curious about the dog's butt; your son touched another kid's butt as a joke, which is developmentally normal but needs to stop; a grown adult had a homophobic freakout of some kind and treated the whole thing like a capital crime, frightening your son; and now you're plausibly worried that your family is going to treat your kid like a freak and an abuser, based on a very average act of childhood misbehavior.

Honestly, I think your family is kind of a problem here. Your family has some not-evidence-based ideas about children and child-rearing. Do you have friends locally that you can talk to? Could you find a messageboard where people share your values about parenting? I know we recommend therapy for everything here, but would you have access to a therapist for three or four sessions to help you sort out your values about parenting and how to handle your boundaries with family?

Reading between the lines here, it seems like much of your anxiety is about whether or not your family are going to act like huge, overbearing, bullying jerks to a six year old over something totally developmentally normal.

Do you usually feel able to stand up for yourself? It sounds to me like you're doing a good job and have appropriate, evidence-based parenting practices, but you doubt yourself a lot, maybe because of your family's culture or because of your experiences as a kid.
posted by Frowner at 6:08 AM on December 27, 2016 [76 favorites]

My 5,5 year old tried to pressure her male friend into undressing. (They were playing doctor and the doctor always makes them undress.) I stepped in and told her that it was his body and he gets to decide what he does with it. And that was it. Kids don't really *understand* boundaries until they've run up against them a couple of times. They may understand things in theory, but they still won't get it until they've experienced the action and its consequences.

I've read your post and I don't quite get why you are this upset.
Is it your husband's homophobia? Then your husband is unreasonable.
Is it your family's likelihood of ostracising your son? Then your family is unreasonable.
Is it because your are desperately trying to handle everyone's emotions? Your expectations on yourself are umreasonable.

In fact, the only one so far who has behaved in an utterly age appropriate manner is your son.

Please go and hug him because his parents confused him and made him cry and feel ashamed of himself for liking butts. Please tell him he is a wonderful little boy and that dog butts are indeed funny (because come on! They are!) Please tell him that as long as he has this consent thing figured out he'll be absolutely fine.

It's ok, by the way. We all have things where we make a big deal out of. I commend you for teaching your son consent. You will both be fine.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

I was a children's therapist at one time, and I typed up a whole big thing here, but on preview, I read Frowner's answer, and that nailed it. Please be assured that your child's behavior would raise zero concerns for me, but some of the adult's reactions to it could be problematic. Please be assured almost every child has behaved similarly to this at some point.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2016 [19 favorites]

making a huge drama over a nothing incident


This is so normal. The cousin's dad overreacted in a way that was probably traumatizing, honestly.


"Hey don't do that, remember hands-to-yourself, that goes double in bathing-suit areas. Now go finish your dinner."
posted by French Fry at 6:24 AM on December 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

No harm no foul, Anon. Normal behavior for that age, don't make it something it (probably) isn't!
posted by bentpyramid at 6:28 AM on December 27, 2016

Just something I was surprised not to see in your post: you've taught him about not touching other people without permission, but have you taught him that some specific body areas are private? Some parents are uncomfortable getting that specific and just hope the kid will pick it up by osmosis, but that doesn't necessarily happen.
posted by ostro at 6:30 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think this is an issue at all. I have a 6 year old, and I would have just been like "ewww you touched a buttttt, grossssss!" Laughed about it, made a fart joke, and forgotten about it. Please don't beat yourself up over this. I agree with everyone above saying the adults reaction to this non-issue is over the line and traumatizing. Including your reaction.
posted by katypickle at 6:31 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I. Um. My cousins and I did this kind of stuff when we were around that age. Just looking. Maybe a poke. The parents told us to quit it, don't touch parts, now go wash your hands and watch TV. And that was the end of it. We're all fine, and it only gets brought up whenever the next-gen of kids start poking at butts.

But I agree with the others that it's the adults who are off-base here. I'd actually channel a polite but firm Mary Poppins demeanor with them. "Yes, we've talked about it, there will be no more hands-down-pants going on, and we're just filing this under 'embarrassing things that kids do.' Now who wants some more cookies?"

Go hug your kid and hug yourself. It's going to be okay.
posted by kimberussell at 6:31 AM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

A kid had your son's toy and wouldn't give it back. What strategies did your son have available to try to compel him? Asking hadn't worked. Your son either knew not to physically overpower him or calculated that it wouldn't be effective. At six your son probably knows people don't like having their butts touched, so he went with that. I don't see this as much different than if he had bitten the kid or thrown something at him. I would focus the conversation on what he should do next time when someone isn't cooperating him. So instead of focusing exclusively on "we don't touch private parts" (an important message of course!), you could talk about "how did you feel when kid wouldn't give you your toy back?" and "what are some things you could have done when he didn't give it back?". Really the only answers I can think of are "go tell an adult" or "let him keep playing with it." But you two can probably think of something better.

For me, this would just be something unfortunate that happened.

Of course, keep an eye on him on playdates but I don't think you need to have a conversation about consent before every playdate. Maybe one about sharing and role play some scenarios around that.

As for your family, that is tough. I had a terrible visit with extended family where half of the people in the house were really upset that I didn't spank my preschooler. You have to protect your child above all else and that includes making sure that he isn't treated as "the kid that touches butts" and made fun of for it. I wouldn't bring it up further and if someone else does I would say "yeah, we've talked about how that was not the right thing to do."
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 6:31 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just to add, in case you need more voices telling you: this is completely, 100% normal, usual, age-appropriate behavior. This is what kids this age do. They experiment with boundaries, often in very (to adults) shocking ways. It's normal! I promise! Six-year-olds, especially boys, are pretty much obsessed with bathroom humor. They just are. Anything with butts and poop and pee and farts and private parts is interesting and hilarious and fun. They're figuring out what is and what isn't appropriate and frankly, the other parent in this situation just freaked out over pretty much nothing, and has you all tied up in knots.

You don't need to put your kid through a special lecture on consent and for the love of all that is holy, don't make the poor kid write a letter to his cousin about this! Just keep casually talking about boundaries and private parts when it seems appropriate (when bathing, for example, or when he's at the doctor and has to undress) and it will eventually stick. It's not going to happen all at once. You'll find yourself telling your kid things like "Don't put markers in the VCR" about a million times before he really gets it. That, too, is developmentally appropriate.

You might find it helpful to read some books on child development, so you have a better handle on what's "normal." This one is really, really good.
posted by cooker girl at 6:44 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have spent time with lots and lots of kids. Mine is older now, but I still hang out with friends with little kids. A six year old touching another six year old's butt in this context seems completely, totally normal. In my household, we would handle this by a) telling the kid, "Hey kid, it's not OK to touch other people's butts" and b) probably laughing heartily about the situation and trying hard not to let the kid see how funny the whole thing was to us.

I'm sorry this is really a stressful situation for you. I see you're in a situation where you already feel like an outsider in how you parent. This may be a wild idea, but I wonder if reaching out to some other parents, who follow different parenting standards, might be a resource for you? So you don't feel like such an outlier? For example, the Mothering forums might be a place to see a different set of ideas about parenting, and potentially meet some like-minded people.

Good luck, and I hope you take away from this thread that your kid, and you, are normal!
posted by latkes at 7:19 AM on December 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

will be jokingly ostracized in the family

There's no such thing as jokingly ostracizing someone.

butt hole (where he gets this term I don't know)

It's not an unusual term. If he says it again you could tell him "it's called an anus" if that makes you more comfortable; you need to call it something, though.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

I would honestly be more grossed out and upset about the homophobic dad and the way he made your child feel physically threatened. A six year old touching another kid's butt is just being a kid. The father is an adult and knows what he is saying and doing.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:58 AM on December 27, 2016 [21 favorites]

He says his mind told him to do it and that it would be funny.

This is basically the definition of childhood. Humans don't really establish fully-operational Executive Function until their early 20s, and frankly many humans continue on in the grand tradition of "hold my beer/watch me do this bad-idea impulsive thing" into old age, so you can't really expect a 6-year-old to have it totally locked down yet. He doesn't have enough life experience with cause-and-effect to know what bad ideas are, for the most part, and learning lessons by experience is always going to work better than just being told not to.

This isn't the last problematic thing he's going to do, or any of the cousins are going to do, so don't just decide that your child is going to be The Worst Child In The Family And The Butt Toucher Forever And Ever and play into making that so. I don't think you need to have ten conversations with him about That Terrible Thing You Did To Your Cousin That Time, but rather many conversations when the time and place is right, from now until he is 18, about all the factors surrounding consent and privacy and respect (both giving it and expecting it from others) and kindness and conflict resolution.

And you do have to protest when adults in the family try to treat any of the kids as if they are making calculated adult decisions about these things. Nobody needed a hands-on-shoulders lecture about this - this was a "cut it out, both of you apologize for not cooperating and not being respectful, okay now it's over" situation. Maybe you need to rethink the increased togetherness plan if your family overreacts on this level to everything.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:28 AM on December 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I have a very distinct memory of being 6 years old, wiping my butt and getting a huge glop of poop on my finger, and then draping my finger with some toilet paper and running across the street to show my neighbor because Oh My God butts and poop are hilarious. This act of comedy did not get the response I imagined, and I never did it again.

I have grown up to be a normal adult. This fascination with taboo stuff is 100% normal, as everyone else here has said.
posted by megancita at 9:29 AM on December 27, 2016

Mod note: From the OP:
My son and I chatted again yesterday and he was still feeling a bit down. I realized that it may have been my reaction that was causing it so I made sure to give him extra love, let him know I wasn't disappointed in him and that it was okay. Luckily nothing else has been put into action. Only me looking online for advice, figuring out what to do and talking to him.

When I was back downstairs after, my mother and I had a side talk and I remember her saying "he would never do something like that" and it stuck with me how she reacted so I definitely worried how she'd treat it in light of the way she treats other things. I really do worry how me and my son are judged by family which is sad. I thought this would make it worse. I definitely went all the way left with my thinking. There aren't any stories like this or "playing doctor" in my family that I've ever heard. Nothing like this or sexual is really talked about and the reactions that I got just from my mom and the dad are why it freaked me out a bit. Like my son was the odd one out and we'd have more to deal with.

I think my son is a hilarious person, very honest (never once said he didn't do it) but because some things get nipped by my mother (we live together temporarily) I tend to feel the need to step in and handle it first before it's made even worse. I try to keep certain things at a minimum to avoid further issue. The way my family reacts definitely colors my parenting and there are many background issues with family that I am working through - boundaries, etc so everything mentioned above is so very true to the situation. It's just me working it out (single parent) so I don't have another person to chat about it with. I do think that there is counseling needed to be able to assert myself a bit more as a person and parent. I've been working through this on my own but will seek outside help before I make anything worse. All of this advice is all so spot on. Frowner you are definitely right with your recap and assessment.

The situation with the dad happened while I was talking to my son and wiping his face. It took me by surprise that he stepped in as he had been with his two and I was with mine and I eventually got control again but damage done. In the moment it seemed to happen fast but I really didn't handle that the way I should have. I'm good at saying what I don't do or want to happen to him when there's nothing going on but in the moment is where I falter.

Thank you all so much for letting me see that the issue is with us adults and not my son. I can't tell you how glad I am to see other examples of it, blogs and forums to read, how to handle potty talk and a lot of my own feelings written out. I have work to do for myself and with them but I am so glad to be able to let this drop where my son and his cousin are concerned. We'll continue with our talks and private parts and all that but I wont increase them or make him feel bad about having done this. I'll let it go with him as I think he gets it and I think I get it too. So glad to read all these I could cry!!

Lastly, robocop is bleeding, my son did the very same. I took him to the MET this year and got a picture of him pointing and laughing at a statue. Happy to hear he's just a normal kiddo.

Thank you!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:59 AM on December 27, 2016 [21 favorites]

He says his mind told him to do it and that it would be funny.

Also normal self-defense statement from a six-year-old, btw. I have twin grandsons, one of whom is having a hard time controlling his impulsive handsy touchy-feel and can't quite keep his hands to himself. (Nothing sexual, he's just a handsy kid.) They just turned six, and he's really trying to work on it, but it takes time. This is what he says when the discipline escalates.
posted by raisingsand at 10:45 AM on December 27, 2016

It might also help to talk about people who have different standards and reactions -

For example - You need to use more polite language in front adults (and little sisters). Some words are OK to use with your friends (if it is OK with the friend) but not OK when adults around. Grandma likes things to be extra polite so you need to pay special attention to your words around her. (So, butt hole is OK with friends, behind is OK with most adults but you should use bottom around Grandma). By the way, I was pretty strict about this when my kids were this age - some words were only to used with friends - I didn't want to hear them. The result was that my kids were very good at context switching and knew how to politely talk to teachers and authority figures vs. playground language by the time they got to middle school (where playground language was pretty rough)

Also, it might help understand why his uncle came down on him so hard if you explain: There are some things adults don't do. Children are still learning the rules. It can be hard to remember so if you do these things, I will remind you. However, sometimes when a kid breaks the rules, the adults forget that they are just a kid and react as if you are an adult, who should know better so they get really upset. That's why your uncle got so upset. I know you are still learning - it's ok that you make mistakes, I know that you are working on it and I can tell you care about learning to do the right thing.
posted by metahawk at 1:00 PM on December 27, 2016

OP, you're taking our responses really well. It's hard not to get defensive when it feels like everyone's piling on your parenting. And it's great that you're taking the time to think what people are saying.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:39 PM on December 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

boundaries are important, which you know. but also, butts are funny, especially when you're a kid. when my twin sister and I were 6, we used to touch our naked butts together (or bums, since we were living in vancouver at the time) and run away screaming with giggles. our mom said something like "quit that, you goofballs."
hell, everyone on this site is a grown-up -- and lol butts is still a thing!
thank you for being a thoughtful parent.
posted by changeling at 3:00 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The butt thing is very much normal for kids that age. Normal enough that I'm kind of surprised that the adults aren't pretty used to it.

You are absolutely correct that it's important to teach children about consent at an early age, and that he should also be introduced to the idea of extra private areas. At that age, the whole idea of private areas is pretty much a prescriptive rule. The idea of parts of the body being for sex is still a bit foreign to most six year olds, and they're just going to have to take your word for it that that's the rule.

Sadly, it sounds like the other kids' dad undermined the nonconsensual message somewhat by holding him by his shoulders the way he did. I'd actually address that with that guy, too. Let him know that you're trying to teach your son not to manhandle people, and he's added a layer of difficulty to that. And let your son know that that wasn't OK, either.

Of course, the 'no touching without consent' thing is especially tricky with kids, because sometimes people do have to touch or even restrain them for their own good, for medical treatment, to keep them from running into traffic, etc.

But again: It is very unlikely that there was any sexual motivation to this. It's not completely impossible, but I wouldn't assume sexual motivations on the part of a six year old. He's a kid being goofy, and he went a little too far and did something that required some gentle correction and some reminder of the rules.

As far as the obsessive butt talk, again, that is not sexual. So while you should probably start to introduce the idea of private areas, most six year olds are not going to really relate to the sex part. I'd approach that as being gross and rude, and let him know that it makes people kind of uncomfortable when you talk about it and can even give them stomachaches and make them not be able to eat when you keep talking about the dog's butt, and also that people get embarrassed when you talk about theirs.

You sound like a very conscientious parent. It looks to me like you're doing a great job, and he's a normal, healthy kid.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:26 PM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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