A child exposed himself to my child at day care
August 11, 2006 7:31 AM   Subscribe

A child exposed his penis to my daughter at day care. What is the best way to handle this?

I have my three year-old daughter in a daycare run by nuns. I am overall really happy with the place, and I believe she is, too, due to the multiple occasions she doesn't want to leave because she's having so much fun. The daycare is for potty trained kids ages 2-5.

As I put her to bed last night, the boo said to me, "The boy in the yellow shirt showed me his penis." I tried to get some details from her, and the most I got was that it happened inside at school, and he showed it to her and another girl. She doesn't know his name. According to her, he didn't touch her or ask her to touch him. He did allegedly say, "Wanna see my penis?" then pulled down his pants. She did not tell the nuns, though she isn't one to tattle. For example, she was recently bitten by one of the younger kids and I talked to the nuns about it for her the next day.

I just don't know what to do. It sounds pretty innocent to me, just normal kid play. I don't want it to happen again, and I think the kid who did it should have a few words with an adult about it. I wish the appropriate thing would be to have my daughter tell me who it was so I could talk to him about exposing his penis and how it's really not so cool. That's not exactly the way things are done anymore, however.

There's a bit of a language barrier with the Italian nuns, and given the nature of this issue I hesitate to tell them because I wouldn't want them to overreact.

How should I address this? Should I even address it right now or wait to see if it happens again?
posted by frecklefaerie to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
As far as I know, having once been a three year old boy myself, this is normal behavior. Lil' boys are proud of their little appendage and want to show it off. They don't know any better.

That said, I think the best way to handle it would be to find out who it is and talk to his parents. Let them talk to him and explain appropriateness. Because, sure, it's your daughter, but it is the responsibility of his parents to raise him the way they want to, right or wrong.
posted by The Michael The at 7:35 AM on August 11, 2006


Doing nothing is probably OK, though if it were my kids flashing the family jewels around, I'd like to know about it. If you know the kid's parents, you night want to talk to them directly, in a non-confrontational way.

And normally I'd tell the daycare staff, but yeah, nuns... I don't know. They might overreact, they might not. If it was a non-nun-run daycare, I'd definitely tell them, so yeah, you shoul dprobably mention it to them as well - just so they can keep an eye out for it.

And I agree - it sounds pretty innocent. Crazy two to five year old kids.
posted by GuyZero at 7:36 AM on August 11, 2006


It sounds pretty innocent to me, just normal kid play. I don't want it to happen again

Seems a little contradictory. Like you say, it's perfectly innocent. Why get upset about it? Kids do that sort of thing -- they generally don't realise that it's any different to show someone your penis than it is to show them your belly button or your toes.
posted by reklaw at 7:36 AM on August 11, 2006


reklaw: If there's a pattern of repeated behavior in the kid who exposed himself, it sounds like a problem to me, hence why I wouldn't want it to happen again. The way I phrased it I can see how it sounds contradictory.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:40 AM on August 11, 2006


I guess short of telling the nuns about inappropriate behavior by one of the boys, you could tell your daughter to avoid being alone around the boy. Educating her about these actions is always the best way to avoid these problems in the future. Assuming the boy is also 3, then it sounds pretty harmless. It isn't worth getting hysterical over, especially if it is in Italy where nudity isn't as big of a deal as it is in the US.
posted by JJ86 at 7:44 AM on August 11, 2006


Caveat: I'm not a parent. And I've never been a 3 year old boy. Or a nun.

I'd do nothing. Ask your daughter to tell you if it happens again but unless it's a repeated behaviour it really isn't anything to worry about. Whatever you do don't tell a nun. They'll bust some scary penguin shit on his ass and the poor boy will be dealing with fetish clubs for years to come. Or become a linux sysadmin.
posted by handee at 7:44 AM on August 11, 2006 [3 favorites]


I'd ask the nuns how they handle that sort of behavior when they see it, maybe raising it in the context of an imaginary friend at some other daycare. You could throw it into a laundry list of other behaviors that aren't harmful but aren't perhaps the best things to be doing, either, like showing chewed food or shoving. If they press for what behavior has you concerned for whatever reason, tell 'em she showed you a mouthful of brussel sprouts at the dinner table.

To the extent you trust them to watch out for your child in all other matters of her personal safety, you have to expect that any penis displays are probably dealt with one way or the other when the nuns notice. They can't, theoretically, keep any more of an eye out than they are already for every other issue under the sun, food-showing and shoving included.

Barring some sort of barbaric overreaction ("Why ... we slap the little nipper on his naughty bit then mortify him with a special dance and song!") or unlikely underreaction (for nuns) like "We ignore it. We think penises are fun little toys and encourage the girls to pet them!" that's about all you need to know: How they deal with it and whether you think that's an adequate and appropriate reaction.

On preview, as much as I'm advising steering clear of triggering some sort of nunnish overreaction, I have an issue with that flavor of advice in general: If you don't trust the nuns to respond in a manner you consider appropriate, then there are broader issues to address. Some day your daughter might think it's fun to show off her vagina, and every concern you had about someone else's son and his penis will have relevance.
posted by mph at 7:48 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Reklaw: you can think that something is innocent ( i.e. not malicious ), and not want it to happen again.

Frecklefaerie: I second TMT's comment: talk to the boy's parents. I'd contact them in a non-threatening way, and share with them what happened and your thought that it was best to let them handle it... and then, maybe, invite them out — again, to make this a non-threatening conversation.

This is a big reason (though not the biggest) to get involved with your children's schooling: so you know most of the parents. It's easier to talk parent-to-parent when it's part of an on-going dialog, and not solely problem-management.
posted by silusGROK at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2006


Oh... and I'd instruct your daughter to say "no" when asked if she wants to see someone's penis ( et cetera ). A simple "no thank you" and walking away would have probably done the trick.
posted by silusGROK at 7:52 AM on August 11, 2006


I'd just view this as a little kid who doesn't yet know one of the many, many social rules of society- keep your penis to yourself in public. He doesn't need to be punished, or avoided, just taught. If nobody's told him that it's improper to go around showing that part, how would he know? I haven't specifically told my 3 year old son not to do that... we could brainstorm a huge list of things I've not told him to refrain from.

You just need to decide if the best teacher is you, the nuns, or his parents.
posted by Steve3 at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2006


Teach your daughter to point and laugh whenever a boy shows her his penis. It won't happen again.
posted by SenshiNeko at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2006 [6 favorites]


This is timely because on Tuesday, my five year old son and one of his cronies showed their penises to one of the mothers of a little girl. He won't be doing it again.

If they've been running a daycare for any length of time, they'll have seen this before, whether they're nuns or lay people or whatever. Don't whip out the "the nuns are going to paddle his penis until it turns black and falls off" stereotype.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with mph's advice.

When I was four or five, I clearly remember the little boy across the street pulling down *his* pants and underpants. I remember thinking something like "I probably shouldn't be seeing this," he pulled them back up and we kept playing. Never happened again. I don't even think I bothered telling my mother.
posted by Lucinda at 8:02 AM on August 11, 2006


Dwelling on it with your daughter and letting her see that you're bothered will (IMHO) do more damage than the incident itself, which seems to me totally innocent.
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:04 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Forget about it. You have know way of knowing if your daughter is actually telling the truth, and no way of figuring out which kid it was if she is telling the truth.
posted by footnote at 8:08 AM on August 11, 2006


Oy. No.

I have had a three-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter (at different times).

I have pictures of my then three-year-old son whipping it out and peeing straight up in the air at a birthday party, grinning his head off. Wanna see my penis? and wanna see my lunchbox? are the same to a kid that age.

Don't say anything, don't do anything.

How will you know when your daughter has been sexually harassed? When she is frightened or unhappy -- then go in with guns blazing. Until then, remember that zero tolerance on kids' sexual expression makes some very screwed up adults.
posted by Methylviolet at 8:15 AM on August 11, 2006 [3 favorites]


Dwelling on it with your daughter and letting her see that you're bothered will (IMHO) do more damage than the incident itself, which seems to me totally innocent.

Not a parent, but I agree with LeisureGuy. It's not just a question of not getting the boy screwed up about sex, but also about not getting your daughter screwed up about bodies and boys and sex.
posted by occhiblu at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2006


SenshiNeko : Teach your daughter to point and laugh whenever a boy shows her his penis. It won't happen again.

Yeah, ever! Which isn't necessarily what you want.
posted by The Bellman at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2006


Leisure and Occhi have it nailed. Overreaction is the biggest danger.

I like what Methylviolet said, too; I also have zero tolerance for Zero Tolerance.
posted by baylink at 8:28 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm the father of three daughters and I would a) politely speak to the parents about it if the nuns haven't already and b) tell my daughter the boy's behavior was completely inappropriate.

Then I'd chill.
posted by rinkjustice at 8:37 AM on August 11, 2006


With the boy: no sweat, he's a dumb little kid being a dumb little kid.

With your daughter: I'd laugh it off. If she thinks you think it's a big deal, that'll sure make it a bigger deal. If you can share a laugh at just another thing that happened at school today, then it's no big deal.

Of course, you've already had your conversation with her, so bringing it up again would contradict that...
posted by largecorp at 8:50 AM on August 11, 2006


I'd just view this as a little kid who doesn't yet know one of the many, many social rules of society- keep your penis to yourself in public. He doesn't need to be punished, or avoided, just taught. If nobody's told him that it's improper to go around showing that part, how would he know? I haven't specifically told my 3 year old son not to do that... we could brainstorm a huge list of things I've not told him to refrain from.

You just need to decide if the best teacher is you, the nuns, or his parents


His parents, most definitely. But yeah, I agree. Try not to make a huge deal out of it. And Reklaw, I don't see a contradiction in those statements at all.
posted by Stauf at 8:57 AM on August 11, 2006


Another vote on the don't overreact side of things.

That said, the very fact that your daughter told you about it means that the incident lodged in her mind for whatever reason and she came to you looking for a way to make sense of this. It's most likely that this was an isolated incident, normal kid play, as it were, and as such doesn't warrant an ugly, angry, denfensive repsonse.

What your daughter needs is the reassurance and the guidence to know that sometimes other people do strange, inexplicable things. The world is, sadly, a scary place at times; people do silly or mean or bad things to other people, and are completely ignorant of the consequences of their actions. The best thing you can do for your daughter is to give her the tools she needs to defend herself. Empower her to say, "No." if she ever feels uneasy about a situation. Most kids will doubt their instincts, and unfortunately that tendency can get them into bad trouble (trust me I know).

And don't give a second thought to the boy. He's not your child, and as such isn't your repsonsibiltiy. Everything you do sets an example for your daughter, and the best thing you can do is show her that you love her first and foremost.
posted by perelman at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hey, my son goes to your daycare! When he was 3 and 4 he showed his penis to the other kids at daycare a couple times, because he will do absolutely anything for attention. The teachers talked to me, and I spoke with him, and he went back to more benign attention-getting tactics like shooting milk out of his nostrils.

It is no big deal and will not harm your daughter in any way. In normal circumstances I would mention it to the daycare staff so that they could talk to the child's parents about it. But with the communication difficulties, dropping it would be fine too.
posted by LarryC at 9:03 AM on August 11, 2006


Tell her to say "no thanks" next time. This is a non-issue, and any attempt to turn it into one will only result in tears.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 9:06 AM on August 11, 2006


As a parent of a 3 year old boy who likes to yell "Come look at my big giant penis!" as he's going potty, I know two things:
1. It's perfectly innocent on his part
2. If he was doing it in public I'd want to know, because we live in a zero-tolerance world where kids can be shamed, ostracized and punished by other hyper-vigilant people who have their own issues to work out, and also a handful of creepy old men who would be delighted by his offer.
posted by muddylemon at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'll just echo the majority sentiment here:

As a mother of a 4 year old boy and a 3 year old girl, I believe that boys showing their penises are Very Normal. Personally, I have no problem with a same-aged boy showing my daughter his penis since in most cases there woudl be nothing sexual or threatening about it. If she didn't want to see his penis, I would emphisize that she communcate that to him. If he didn't listen to her limits (about his penis or anything else), I'd talk to the nuns/his parents and ask that they reinforce the importance of him listening to limits.

Of course, I do explain to my son that penises are private and that he should not show his penis in public, and he gets that, but if he occasionally forgot or pushed that limit, I wouldn't be alarmed, I'd just remind him of that social limit.

Even my daughter likes to hold a stick up to her groin area and say "Look at my penis!"
posted by serazin at 9:53 AM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


muddylemon writes "As a parent of a 3 year old boy who likes to yell 'Come look at my big giant penis!' as he's going potty, I know two things:"

Funniest thing I've read all day.
posted by chiababe at 11:46 AM on August 11, 2006


I'm a little confused on one point - you said there is a bit of a language barrier with the nuns - how do you communicate with them on other matters? How do they interact with the children properly if different languages are spoken in the classroom?
posted by agregoli at 12:08 PM on August 11, 2006


Muddylemon has it, Point 2.
posted by DrtyBlvd at 12:19 PM on August 11, 2006


I remember when I was in kindergarden, a similar thing happened to me. I didn't tell a parent, it never happened again. Kids are kids.
posted by Meagan at 3:21 PM on August 11, 2006


Get used to it, it happens.
posted by Jimbob at 4:33 PM on August 11, 2006


I'm not overreacting. I just had no idea what to do in this situation.

It's a little difficult to figure out who the parents are without getting the nuns involved, so I am going to do nothing. I am working on instilling a healthy sexual attitude in my kid ("Touching your vagina isn't bad, just do it someplace private like your room.")

As for the nuns, well, they do fine watching the kids. The majority of my daughter's classmates are latino, so their Italo-spanish works pretty well. As for indoctrination, I'm not so worried. I was raised Catholic, grade school and all, and I feel like I'm in a good healthy place with my spirituality. Also, when I asked the girl, "Do you know who God is?" Her reply was, "God is love." I feel pretty good about my kid being taught that the higher power is associated primarily with Love.

Their English is good enough, and I communicate okay with them when it comes to other less delicate issues.
posted by frecklefaerie at 4:40 PM on August 11, 2006


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