Raising Kids is Tough : Gender Awareness

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More of those Unwanted Behaviors have been answered! This time its a pretty touchy topic but one definitely to be aware of. Is your child becoming a little too aware of his/her private parts, or worse, others?

These hands on experts have given their professional and personal answers to help deal with or accept those unwanted behaviors that you submitted.

The Hands On Experts:

Your Unwanted Behaviors:

  • Adult Differences : What do you do when other people try and manage your child’s behaviors… even though their expectations for your child (and other children) are not developmentally appropriate? Or you have a different opinion regarding what the behavior should be in the particular situation?
  • Gender Awareness (experts’ advice is below) : What do you do when a child in your class seems to be a little too aware of private parts & boy/girl relationships?
  • Acting Out :
    • My 2 yr old, otherwise well behaved, has started to change. She is getting stubborn and demands things to be in a certain way in public or else she raises her voice and if she gets angry she raises her hand on me too.
    • My two young boys want to fight, wrestle, kick, hit, and bite each other all the time. Do you have any suggestions for channeling this energy into a more positive direction?
  • Nagging Questions : How do I limit my children from asking the same question over and over?

(Do you have a question that wasn’t listed? Submit your Raising Kids is Tough questions and I’ll post them throughout the month on the hands on : as we grow Facebook page!)

The experts each chose a couple questions to give their input on, some questions have answers from multiple experts, while others may only have one expert’s advice.

unwanted behaviors :  gender awareness

What do you do when a child in your class seems to be a little too aware of private parts & boy/girl relationships? (Child drawing circles on artwork of himself say its certain private parts. Child constantly touching a child of opposite gender on the hips. Prolonged hugging, to the point where the other child seems very uncomfortable. Giving hugs while pressing private part to othe childs private parts. This scenario is in a pre-kindergaten school setting. Thanks.)  — asked by Ms. Cat

This week’s advice and helpful tips come from all four experts:

Mom Expert (Jill from A Mom with a Lesson Plan) :***If you feel like this child has been exposed to inappropriate behavior you should alert the child protective agency in your area!***If, however, this particular kid is just being curious I have a few ideas of how to handle it. This situation actually opens you up to a very important topic. PERSONAL SPACE. We all need it; some prefer more than others, there are many ways to moderate it. (Kids just need to learn the tricks!)  M and M are both very affectionate. It is a wonderful quality that most people like, but some people would prefer a little more personal space. We have done a lot of learning on this subject.This would be a great lesson for the kid who is doing the space invading as well as for those who are uncomfortable with the amount of space they are sharing.

  1. Start a new rule. Everyone (even adults) must ask, “May I give you a hug?”
  2. Teach kind, firm words. Instead of breaking the kids up immediately when you find a hug that has gone on too long, teach both kids how to use their words. “I notice that you are backing up from him. Does that mean you are ready to be done hugging? Try saying “Thank you for the hug, but I am done now. Please let go of me.””
  3. Body language. One of the best ways to tell if a person is comfortable with their personal space is body language. Make a game of it. Have the kids take turns acting out how they feel. See if anyone can guess. Later when an uncomfortable situation arises it will be easy to say “What is his body saying to you?”

(For the body part art, maybe simply acknowledging and distracting would work. “Yes, that is where your penis is, can you add elbows? How about eyebrows or toenails?” Most likely it is the attention that keeps the behavior going…I bet the other kids think it’s HILAROUS!)

— Jill, A Mom with a Lesson Plan

Teaching Expert (Deborah from Teach Preschool) :It could be that the child is seeing these behaviors being modeled at home. Best to talk with the parents but you don’t want to just walk up to a parent and say something that catches them off guard! Instead, you need to respectfully and sensitively and privately let the parent know about your observations and why they concern you. Let the parent know that you will be working with the child on social boundaries he needs to respect and would like to make sure the same type of communication is happening at home. Don’t accuse the parents of any inappropriate modeling, only talk about what you are observing in the classroom and how you intend to address it. The parents will self-correct any behavior happening at home if needed.Next – don’t give big attention to the small stuff but do intervene if the child is affecting another child. If the child draws a picture of a naked body at the table then say, for example… “You can draw that if you wish but you will need to go over to the other table where you can finish your private drawing. At this table, we are drawing trees and things that we all can look at.” Give the child choices – to sit with his friends and draw something we can all enjoy or to sit at a private table to draw private drawings. If the child needs to draw private drawings – then let him draw them but you don’t have to let him draw them where everyone else has to see.As far as touching others – you do need to intervene if a hug or another type of touching seems to make someone uncomfortable or it is inappropriate. One way to intervene is to stop the action by saying this poem, for example, “A friendship hug is very worthwhile – you just give a light squeeze and a great big smile!” Reinforce what a hug should look like or feel like rather than attacking the child for what it shouldn’t. You can have private talks too but the best place to focus is helping the child to learn positive interactions that will help him build positive social skills to come.– Deborah, Teach Preschool

Lifestyle Expert (Sarah from Füdoo Boards) :Many behaviors like playing doctor, talking about private parts and showingcuriosity about where babies come from are age appropriate for preschoolers,even if it makes us adults uncomfortable. It is really important to face these questions and behaviors in a matterof fact way and then set the scene for a more appropriate topic forschool.Itsounds like the behaviors you are seeing from your student are impinging on personalcomfort zones of other children. You areprobably already explaining to the student that the behavior is inappropriateand must be stopped with consequences. It sounds like it is time to speak to your school counselor and to havea discussion with the parents. When Ihad this discussion with parents of an offending child in my kindergartenclass, I had a counselor lead the meeting. It was a very uncomfortable situation but the issue had to beaddressed. Check out this article Ifound on the topic and get ready to take the next step.
— Sarah, Fudoo Boards

Parenting Expert (Erin from The Intentional Parent) :I think that you are right to be concerned. While some degree of curiosity about the body is normal, it seems as though this child may have been exposed to something that is not developmentally appropriate, and may need counseling.As the parent of another child in that class I would speak to the teachers about your concerns, letting them know that you are uncomfortable with this child’s behavior and you have concerns about your child being in the class. I know that it is an uncomfortable topic, but if it is making you uncomfortable think about how confusing it may be for your child, and other children in the class. The school should be equipped to deal with scenarios like this (they are unfortunately not that uncommon).I would talk to your son/ daughter, empower him/her by letting them know that if anything makes them uncomfortable (such as a prolonged hug, or a certain kind of touch) they can (and should) speak out, say no, etc.  As simple as this concept seems many kids don’t know this.
The best thing that you can do though, is continue what you are doing, being involved and aware of the situation in the classroom.

— Erin, The Intentional Parent

Thank you Experts! Let us know your opinion on the hands on : as we grow Facebook  page too! Please check out the experts’ websites, too!
And thank you to all the readers who have submitted questions! Head over and submit your question – next month’s topic will be all about those unwanted behaviors that probably embarrass you and how to nix them, or maybe they’re just normal! (All topics are welcome, we’ll get to your question in the future!)

Next Monday, I’m combining two questions that hit close to home. With two boys at home, I often wonder how much of the acting out and fighting I can take, or what should be tolerable.

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  1. Aunt Annie says

    What a great post! This is such a common problem, sadly… every year I see children displaying inappropriate physical behaviours like this. Great to get some different perspectives on how to handle it.

    I have always taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, and talked about private parts of our body with preschoolers using puppets- I have a kangaroo puppet with a pouch, and this models a 'private' part meant only for her baby which she doesn't like others touching.

    I also use school readiness time to talk about the reason why schools have separate toilets for boys and girls, as a way to approach the topic with the larger group. This is a great way to break the ice about personal space and social expectations of behaviour- and I've noticed that those who exhibit the undesirable behaviours tend to be the ones who are most interested in this discussion.

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