Two quick preamble statements:
1. As I alerted you to in the first post of this blog (scroll down, find the first post, then read #2) I would occasionally take the time to provide cultural analysis and feedback. This post will fit into that category.
2. I am willingly choosing to not be specific in names of people or institutions. I’m sure I could draw more traffic to this blog by doing so, but in this instance, I’m not interested in that.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in. If you own a computer and find yourself on the internet every now and again, or if you own a TV and sometimes watch it, then you certainly know about the happenings in a university town in Pennsylvania. Though I do want to be sure that I still honor the “guilty until proven innocent” principle, it does not look good for the man in question. Regardless of guilt or innocence, it still has provided me another opportunity to teach my boys a big lesson, and one that I hope many parents will have the courage to share. Yes, it is awkward and uncomfortable. Yes, I/you wish we didn’t have to give warnings like this. Yes, it does scare them a little bit. Yes, it is responsible and necessary for you to teach this to your children, and to do so early and often.
The beautiful bride and I have, on several occasions, taught our boys that their private parts are their private parts. We have instructed them that no one – other than a doctor with either Mommy or Daddy standing next to them – is to ever look at or touch their private parts. Ever. We have also taught them that they are not to ever show their private parts to anyone, for any reason. With all of the news coming out of Pennsylvania, it seemed a good time to have that discussion again. Perhaps next time I won’t do it over sirloin roast and garlic mashed potatoes, but then again, you take advantage of the opportunities when you get them.
I instructed my boys that if anyone tries to look at or touch their private parts, they are to yell, scream, kick, bite, jab, stab, cry, holler – whatever they can do to bring attention to the situation and/or get out of the situation. In a previous time, I demonstrated the yelling, which caused two of the three kiddos to burst into tears, so I did not practice yelling this go around, but wanted them to get a picture as to how loud I want them to be. I’ve practiced wrestling with them (in a playful way, but to hopefully develop some skill) and holding them in a way where they would have to fight to get out – I want them to know how to get away from someone who might have unpleasant intentions, or at least to create a disruption (the 4 year old loves the “going for their thumbs” trick, and has used it on me repeatedly and effectively).
The other component to that is telling. We have instructed them that if they are ever put into that situation, or if they see one of their siblings in that situation, they are to tell Mommy and Daddy immediately. We reassured them that we would never hold them responsible for those actions, that we want/need to hear that information, that they would not be disciplined for telling us, that we would defend and protect them because they told us, and that we would be thankful to them for telling us. We want them to know and understand that they can always talk to us about anything, even something as creepy and evil as the subject at hand. We’ve told them that there are people in the world who like to prey on children, and that those people: 1. need Jesus, and 2. need to go to jail for a long time, so please, please tell us so that we can get going on both of those things (definitely starting with #2 though).
There are a gajillion different ways of communicating this with your kids. We’ve chosen to be direct, without being graphic. You as a parent will know how to speak to your children. The question is whether you will or not. I am pleading with you, please teach them. We have been blessed that our children have not experienced this. But we know families who have, we know children who have, and we know the destruction it can/does cause. I am not suggesting that the people we know did not prepare their children – in fact in one instance, the child quickly alerted their family and the perpetrator was quickly addressed – but rather, to demonstrate that this kind of stuff happens more often and much closer than you would expect.
If you are looking for a helpful resource, particularly with younger children, I would commend the book “Yell and Tell” to you. There is a boy version and a girl version of this book, and presents a suitable action plan (if you can’t figure that out, re-read the title of the book) to help parents communicate with their children. If you have older children, I think you can, and possibly should, be far more direct and graphic. You should help them to see the ugliness, the grossness, the evilness of people who like to prey on children, so much so that they grow to detest it as much as you do, and if you have a larger family, they can also be a part of looking out for and guarding your younger children. Help them to see that it is not a “sickness”, or an “illness” but it is sin and a perversion of God’s intentions. Perhaps you have other resources, or another plan – if so, great. My hope and prayer is that regardless of your strategy, that you will arm your children with some plan of action if ever some potential pervert/sodomite/aggressor/abuser chooses to prey on them.