Should my daughter be alone with her brother?
Dear Stop It Now!,
My 10 year old son kissed my 4 1/2 year old daughter on the mouth to practice, because his girlfriend wants to have their first kiss. Should I be concerned?
Dear Concerned Parent,
If this was a one–time practice for a first time kiss with his same-age girlfriend, it does not necessarily appear overly concerning, although certainly still offers an opportunity for education and safety planning in your family. Additionally, I would ask you to carefully review your son's behavior, and any overall concerns you have to help everyone have safe and healthy interactions.
Are there other warning signs?
Knowing your son as well as you obviously do, does his explanation make sense to you and seem plausible? Have you noticed any other concerning behaviors in your son? Have there been any other sexual behaviors between your children? I would encourage you to take a look at the Signs That a Child or Teen May Be At-Risk to Harm Another Child. Look especially for patterns in the behaviors, behaviors that you’ve tried to redirect before that keep coming up. A single sign is not necessarily meaningful, but seeing a group of them could be concerning and call for follow-up.
Further assessment questions
Even if you do believe that this is an isolated incident, please still consider addressing any concerns that may come up about how your son may have gotten his little sister to participate in this behavior. These questions may help you to further assess your son’s behavior and this incident:
- Did he threaten or bribe his sister to get her to kiss him?
- Did she try to refuse to participate?
- What’s your daughter’s presentation? Did she seem scared? Or did she seem more pleased that she was “helping” her big brother practice for something important?
- Did he try and keep this behavior a secret?
If any of these questions raise worrisome thoughts, or if you are seeing other behaviors in your son that concern you, then yes, increasing supervision is very important and it’s possible that you may want to seek out other professional supports. Overall safety planning is always important, regardless of whether a concerning incident has come up or not. This way safety planning is a normal thread in daily family life - not something that just happens once in awhile in response to an incident. Our prevention tip sheets can help you think about safety in your home.
Responding to your children now
Regardless, talk with both of your children about this experience. Avoid blame and shame – rather use this opportunity to make clear and re-establish your family’s rules about appropriate and inappropriate touching, and about personal and privacy boundaries.
This is a good time to learn about child sexual development, and particularly about the differences between typical and common behaviors for different age groups, and behaviors that could be concerning. Our online listing for Resources on Age-Appropriate Sexual Behavior can help you locate accurate and age-appropriate information. Additionally, our tip sheet, Talking to children and teens can support you in ongoing conversations with your children.
As a final note, I don’t know whether one of your children told you about this behavior, but if they did, they should be commended for sharing this with you and you should be commended for raising children who know that they can tell their parents when something unusual or inappropriate occurs.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: August 24th, 2012