General Question

jonsblond's avatar

Parents- How do you tell your young child they can't play with someone you disapprove of (please read details)?

Asked by jonsblond (38530 points ) April 28th, 2010

There is a new family on our street. Susie (age 4) and Sam (age5) are brother and sister. Little Susie rides her bicycle up and down our street with no parent in sight. We live on a street with a cul-de-sac, so it is fairly quiet and safe, but who lets their 4 year old run around without any supervision? ughh!

I talked to another parent yesterday, and she told me to look out for little Sam. Sam was in her backyard with her son Timmy, and Sam pulled his pants down and told Timmy to “suck on it”. Sam is no longer allowed in their backyard.

Since I am a stay at home parent, my daughter will be in contact with these children almost every day this summer when she is playing outside. She already asked if she could go to Susie’s house, and I told her no because it was nice out and she needs to play outside. I know I’ll be asked again.

How do I tell her I don’t want her going to Susie’s house without telling her the real reason. You know how young children are, they repeat everything. I don’t want it getting back to Susie’s parents that I disapprove of their parenting.

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59 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

You have to make up a story that will achieve the result but not alarm her too much. The truth ain’t going to cut it. Sort of like teaching kids with parables and fairytales.

If I had experience of a small child demanding oral sex – I would involve Police. No hesitation.

Sophief's avatar

That is just disgusting. I wouldn’t want my children playing with them either. Can’t you speak to the parent about it?

Snarp's avatar

Ugh. People like Susie and Sam’s parents make me nuts. I figure when a kid gets a little older you can expect them to have some basic values instilled and not have to worry too much about the influence of other kids, you can at least deal with it. But it’s so hard to explain these things to a 4 year old. I worry about the kids at my son’s preschool, but I don’t think any of them are making inappropriate sexual gestures.

One advantage to a 4 year old though is that you don’t have to give a complete reason. She can’t play there, that’s it.

You could also call the police or family services and report them. A five year old who drops his pants and tells another child to “suck it” is exhibiting age inappropriate sexual behavior, a clear sign of sexual abuse.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

Oh boy. That’s a tough one. But you definitely have to try to keep your kids away from them. Especially Sam. It might come down to talking to the parents, altho that may make things worse. This family bears watching. Just what you need!!! :-(

stratman37's avatar

Oh yeah, I agree. Talk to the parents AND get family services involved before something serious happens!

john65pennington's avatar

Like you said, children repeat what they see and hear and it makes me wonder if Sam made this statement, then where did it actually come from. his parents? probably so. generally, you can judge the parents by the actions of their children and vice versa.

Eventually, you are going to have to have a talk with the childrens parents. if you have this meeting, you will quickly size-up the parents and you can take it from there. meet with the parents first. give them the benefit of the doubt, before you make a decision on how to handle your child and their childrens association.

wilma's avatar

Obviously you can’t let your child be near these children unless you are right there with them.
I have had this problem and there is never an easy solution.
I would never let my child go to that home, I would only allow Susie and Sam to be with my children under my direct supervision. If you don’t want them at your home then you can forbid them to come over.
The sad thing is that it’s not the childrens fault, eventually they (Susie and Sam) will have no friends, or friends just like them.
Keep your eyes and ears open, if you see abuse report it. If you don’t have evidence but report it anyway, then you could be opening a can of worms that you don’t want.

jonsblond's avatar

@Snarp We do have two police that live on our street. I could mention something to them. I was pulling weeds and Susie and my daughter came up to talk to me, just before I heard about this information about Sam. My daughter mentioned that she wanted to marry some Disney Channel star when she gets older, then Susie said she wanted to marry her brother when she gets older. My daughter told her she can’t marry her brother. Susie said she could, and that her brother has kissed her. There are so many red flags with this family. :(

MissAusten's avatar

My boys, age 5 and 6, have repeated unsavory things they’ve heard at school or from their cousins. Not everything a kid does starts with the parents. For example, when my youngest was 4 he told me about a game he’d played with his 7 year old cousin (the cousin made it up) that involved pretending to ride motorcycles, kidnapping “hot babes,” taking the hot babes home, and marrying them. The game also involved kidnapping babies and throwing them in the garbage. And yes, this resulted in a serious talk with the kids and a restriction on spending time with that particular cousin.

Wanting to marry the brother and saying he’s kissed her could be completely innocent. My 5 year old still says he wants to marry me, and when my middle son was younger he insisted he was married to me because he’d kissed me. I don’t see anything wrong with siblings that young kissing each other on the cheek. That’s all it could have been.

That said, I think you should trust your instincts. :)

Maybe have Susie over to play at your house instead of letting your daughter go over there. You can just tell her that she’d have fun sharing her things with Susie, or that Susie’s mom is too busy for a playdate. I’d watch the kids playing together and go from there. Maybe get to know the parents a little better too, and if you still find a lot of red flags, limit contact with your children as much as you can.

When I was a kid, I ran all over the place with the other neighborhood kids. If my parents had known half the things I heard and saw, they’d have been stunned. We all turned out OK. ;)

liminal's avatar

I would go talk to my neighbor and share with them the two stories you shared here. How they responded would tell me the next steps I want to take.

cornbird's avatar

Before making any extreme judgements, why dont you invite the parents over for lunch with the kids and get to know them better. By knowing the parents you will know the kind of background the children comes from. If the parents seem to be unstable then I suggest that you keep your kids as far away from their kids as possible. It may seem harsh and isolating, but you have to remember that these are very young children that you are dealing with and they can be very easily influenced. Bottom line is get to know the parents first….that is the key to the soloution.

robmandu's avatar

At this point, I personally wouldn’t have any problem whatsoever if those parents found out that I disapprove of their parenting.

And while I understand @cornbird‘s insistence not to judge prematurely, at this point, there is no way that I’d take my family, my children, into their home. Nor would I allow any of them to enter my home at this point.

If you really want to meet and greet… I suggest taking the mother out for a cup of coffee someplace nearby… and leave the kids at home. Be frank in describing the events you’ve witnessed. And see what she offers in way of explanation or resolution.

If at any point your instincts tell you something’s not right, TRUST THEM and take appropriate action.

janbb's avatar

I agree with @MissAusten, @liminal and @cornbird – do some more assessing and meet the parents before rushing to judgement. My kids also played with some pretty rough street kids when they were young and are o.k., but they did have some painful times. Having Susie over to your house where you can watch her makes a lot sense. However, if you do see all these red flags, then you may well have to totally restrict your children playing with them. I think just telling your daughter that they are not nice children and you don’t want her playing with them should be sufficient explanation. Not a fun way to start the summer!

DarkScribe's avatar

@cornbird By knowing the parents you will know the kind of background the children comes from.

You do not get to know people after one social event where they are on their best behaviour. If they are bad parents or paedohiles you are not going to find out. There is no good way that a five year old comes to ask for oral sex. There is a problem and it will take experts to sort it out. Police or child services.

Snarp's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with meeting the parents, but a kid dropping his pants and saying “suck it” is not normal kid stuff. Some little kids like to get naked and don’t see the point of clothes, that’s not such a big deal, but this is entirely different, and the kid almost certainly was exposed to this behavior by his parents, even if it was something they let him watch on TV, it’s not appropriate or acceptable. Err on the side of caution and cut off contact with the kids first, then assess the parents and decide if you want to change your mind.

cornbird's avatar

Children can give their parents a real bad reputation without the parents even knowing it. I dont know exactly what is going on but im just saying that it may/ may not be the parents fault exactly; that is, I am referring to the issue of the boy saying to “suck it”. The part of the girl being unsupervised is THE PARENTS FAULT. There is no excuse for that. Sometimes kids can see an appropriate tv show, or can overhear some older person talking or pick things up from school and then manifest that behaviour in public embarrising the parents and giving them a bad name. We should be understanding and aware of this.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I disagree with @cornbird. I don’t think inviting the family into your home and having dinner with them is a good idea. Only because, if you decide you still dislike them and disapprove of their children’s behavior or their parenting (which is more than likely going to be the case), then it’s even more awkward for you to explain to your kids why they can’t play together. Also, if the parents take a liking to you and your family, they might start contacting you on a regular basis and trying to get together for another dinner. That will be yet another awkward position you will be in when you have to decline their friendship. I would simply keep your kids away from theirs as much as possible and come up with a story about why your children aren’t allowed over their house. And if you see or hear of anymore sexual or inappropriate behavior, I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to the police. Good luck with everything!

DarkScribe's avatar

@cornbird We should be understanding and aware of this.

You can be understanding, I don’t risk kids so I say Bullshit. There needs to be some expert evaluation. If Police/Child services are called and there is nothing wrong, then no harm TO THE KIDS – I don’t care about the parents – I have already heard enough of a negative nature about them. If they get their nose out of joint, tough!

Snarp's avatar

@cornbird I understand what you’re saying. My child says things that sound terribly inappropriate, but really aren’t. He also has been exposed to other kids and things and talks about guns and killing far more than I would like because of them. But the behavior of this child is beyond anything that a child that age is likely to have been innocently exposed to. This isn’t a kid who has been allowed to watch law and order or gangsta rap and talks about guns and killing, this isn’t a kid who has inadvertently heard and begun repeating a swear word. This is a child exposing his genitals and making a very specific sexual comment about it. He may very well have no idea what he is saying or doing, but the fact that he has been exposed to that is troubling enough to not take chances.

cornbird's avatar

@Snarp and @DarkScribe I am not saying that she should allow her kids to play with them. The issues described are very very serious and alot of caution should be applied. I agree that there are sharp signs that this child is being exposed to sexual abuse, but I am just saying that we should be still aware and not underestimate the amount of mischeif that a child can create. BOTTOM LINE THOUGH….I suggest that she does not allow contact with those other children unless more knowledge of the parent or family life is discovered. At the end of the day we all here agree on one thing…..KEEP THEM AWAY FROM THE OTHERS.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I agree with @liminal. This is a much bigger issue that you realize. There’s red flags EVERYWHERE with this family. ABSOLUTELY talk to the 2 police officers on your street. Make them fully aware of what’s been said & done here & find out what to do. This isn’t something to ignore. Not only for the safety of YOUR kids, but for the mental well being & growth for these 2 kids. Something is REALLY wrong here. Act on it NOW before something bad happens.

liminal's avatar

I realize I didn’t answer the original question.

I wouldn’t tell my children why I was limiting where and with who they played with, until they directly asked. Once, and if, they did ask I would keep the answer short and simple. ”I don’t want you playing someplace I am not with you and I don’t want to go over there with you right now.” or ”I don’t want the neighbors over here playing right now. Here look at this plant I found for our garden.

If they ask why again, that is when I say “I don’t want our family to be friends with them for grown-up reasons that I don’t want to talk about with you right now._” and stick to it. My kids usually move on without much distraction. (edit: There have been cases when I’ve said to my kids that “They play too rough and don’t respect people’s privacy. That is not okay for our family.” But this has been in situations where my kids have had negative experiences I can refer to.)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@liminal Those are great answers, IMO.

Snarp's avatar

I think if I felt the need to answer the why question, I would actually be fairly honest and go with “I don’t know those parents well enough to leave you in their care.”

Cupcake's avatar

@jonsblond I didn’t catch how old your kids are. My answer would be different depending on their ages. (sorry if I missed it)

jonsblond's avatar

@Cupcake So sorry. I can’t believe I left that part out! She’s six, just about to finish kindergarten.

whitenoise's avatar

I would limit unwatched access to these kids for my children. I would also suggest that you start educating your children. Talk with them about sexual behavior and how that is not yet appropriate for them. You cannot shield your children from these types of inputs and given the inappropriate setting in which Sam displayed his behavior, I guess he has not been properly educated by his parents either.

Don’t be too fast to judge Sam. Children quite often engage in these types of games in their experimenting with their gender roles. Some children even go as far as getting undressed and licking each others genitals. These could very well still be normal child behavior. Most often parents will not find out, but if one does, it is important to keep one’s cool. Sam needs a chance to learn that his behavior doesn’t make him sick/evil/ or what soe but is still way out of bounds.

So… talk to the parents and give these people a fair chance with an option to correct Sam. These situations have a tendancy to spin out of control, given their sensitive nature, anyway.

You may want to read this:

All in all… please take it calm

thriftymaid's avatar

The little fellow has simply seen or heard something he should not have. Talk to his parents. If they are shocked, that’s a good sign. If they are defensive or offended, tell your child they may not go to the little boy’s house. It would be hard to keep any two kids from playing together outside, so keeping an eye is what you have to do there. Your story is not something new.

Someone suggested calling social services—that happens somewhere around R; you are on D.

Cupcake's avatar

I would tell her that I disapprove of some of their behavior and don’t want her to play with them without me present. I would ask her to not talk about their behavior with anyone other than me, so as not to spread gossip or hurt their feelings.

In a couple of years, I think she could handle some more details… but I would leave it simple and straightforward for now. You have nothing to be ashamed of… you are looking out for the safety of your child. If Suzie wants to play with your daughter (or vice versa), she just needs to say that she has to check with you first. Plus, this will give you the opportunity to get to know Suzie better. Maybe you’re just what she needs.

liminal's avatar

I meant the parents when I said neighbors. Of course, that may result in talking to the neighborhood police.

Rangie's avatar

@jonsblond The neighbor that told you this, did she see this or did her son Timmy tell her that is what happened?

Trillian's avatar

@jonsblond You could take a different approach, though it will be time consuming. You could restrict the play to your yard and only when You are with them. You can keep a better eye on things that way.
The other thing is that people forget that children are not small adults. They do not have reasoning powers and are not in a position of decision making except what their parents give them. it is completely unnecessary to give a reason for your rules. If you don’t like “because I said so” because of your own upbringing I can understand, but ultimately the parent makes the decisions and children need to learn that sometimes the answer is just “no”.
I agree with the other parents here, and it’s unfortunate that you don’t already know these people. When my oldest daughter was five I was bathing her one day and she pointed to her crotch and said “That’s where David licks me.” I saved my meltdown for after she went to take her nap, then I went and talked with Davids mother. She freaked and I left her house in an uproar. I also threatened her which I should not have done. She blamed her husbands collection of porn. I don’t know what these kids have been exposed to but a thorough investigation by professionals is most likely in order. What a shame. It isn’t Susie’s fault.

jonsblond's avatar

@Trillian I agree, just telling her no is really all that is needed. (My husband said the same thing to me last night.) We told her no so many times yesterday, she ran to her room crying saying all we ever tell her is “no”. It’s going to be a long summer.

@Rangie The neighbor witnessed the incident. My neighbor also told me that Susie told her she hates her dad. My neighbor asked her why, since hate is such a strong word, and the little girl told her she hates him because he gets drunk at the bar all the time. another red flag

@all Thank you so much for your help. I’ve received some excellent advice! I appreciate it.

janbb's avatar

@jonsblond Oy – they do sound like trouble! Take your kids to the beach, the park, the playground. Go out in the car – the two troublemakers in my neighborhood would always ask me if they could come when they saw me walking to the playground with my two.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There are some red flags here, that’s for sure and I wouldn’t hesistate to talk to the parents. I wouldn’t get the police involved, that’s for sure – it would only be worse for the kids. I don’t even trust Children’s Services around here until I know for sure there is a threat because they’re often worse than the family. I would discuss the ‘suck on it’ incident and watch their reaction. I wouldn’t necessarily assume sexual abuse – he could have heard it on TV. There are too many unknowns here.

There was only one time I didn’t like the family of someone my oldest likes to play with. The mom constantly makes ridiculous statements about drugs (like any of our toddlers do ‘em) and about how her boys are going into the military academy as soon as they’re out of diapers – added to this their obnoxious father who shows up to the pre school and the park in his soldier clothing (I mean, really?!) and struts around yelling and smacking his sons, I was really hesitant to invite their sons to my son’s upcoming b-day party but those are the children he picked to invite so I will swallow whatever dislike and welcome their family into my home.

Trillian's avatar

@jonsblond Long summer – Hehehehe. Yep, I remember. Please just remember to keep us posted. Apparently we’ve all been remiss in this area, and I for one, am curious to know how it turns out. Good luck!

Rangie's avatar

@jonsblond I think I would suggest to your neighbor that told you this, to go talk to the parents. Or perhaps both of you can go talk to the parents. Body language can tell a lot, how a person reacts to what you are saying.
I would keep your children away from them. I agree completely with @Trillian .
When my granddaughter was in the 1st grade. She was riding the school bus, and was sitting next to a boy in her class. He turned to her and said “I will show you mine, if you show me yours” Typical kid thing I am sure, but when my granddaughter got home, she told her mom. Mom told dad, they discussed it and then dad call the boys mom. The boys mom was quite upset with her son. All of the parents were acquainted and friendly with each other. After the phone call the boys parents made him apoligize in front of my granddaughter and her parents. All of the parents are still friends. My granddaughter and the boy are not friends, but not enemies either.
Your case is obviously not that easily solved. If you and your neighbor get no satisfaction, I would not hesitate to call CPS. The kids are the issue here, the parents apparently are not doing their job.

skfinkel's avatar

Susie riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is not a red flag to me. The story about Sam is, but I don’t know how firsthand that was. I would be present as a parent when your children are playing with these children, but unless something bad happened that you saw, or your child reported something upsetting, I wouldn’t restrict your kids from playing with them. If there are problems in the family, having another adult who is solid around might just make a big difference for those children, since when they are on your turf, you can tell them if they are out of line. And they will watch you interact with your own child and can register how you do that. “It takes a village” comes to mind. If you think the parents are over their heads, maybe trying to talk with them away from the children might help them—maybe it’s just one, and the other needs another viewpoint. I guess it depends on how much you want to get involved, but at this point, the children should not be blamed.

Janka's avatar

Think about this: if your son did something like that in a neighbor’s yard, would you like to know? I think either you or the neighbor needs to talk to the parents. Maybe it is someone else the kid has seen act that way, and the parents are completely oblivious. How would you feel if that was the case with your child, and you later heard the neighbors had suspected, but did not say anything because “they did not want you to know you did not approve of their parenting”?

A four-yo driving around in a cul-de-sac might be innocent, again… I don’t know, I seem to recall it was fairly standard in my childhood that pre-school kids played outside and moms checked on them from windows. Depends on the four-year-old really.

MissAusten's avatar

My five year old said something to me tonight that made me think of this discussion. In fact, it’s almost creepy just because of the timing.

He was goofing around with my other son, basically seeing who could come up with the most disgusting comment. My six year old said, “Why don’t you suck on my toe?” Not to be outdone, the five year old said, “Why don’t you pull down your pants and underwear so I can suck on your butt?” They are so charming. I intervened and reminded both of them that talking about private parts of their bodies like that is not acceptable. Once my youngest gets going, it’s hard to stop him if he thinks he’s being funny. He took the conversation to it’s next logical step in Little Boy World and said to his brother, “Maybe you should suck on my penis.” At that point he was sent to his room, but I did ask him later where that idea came from. I know for a fact he hasn’t been watching adult TV and my husband and I never talk like that. He’s in preschool, but he’s the oldest in the class and I’ve never heard any of the kids use that kind of language. He said, “It just came out of my brain. I never learned it, I just thought it.”

I know it isn’t quite as explicit as the little boy dropping his pants and saying “suck it,” and I could see how the general conversation led to that moment. At the same time, it was a good reminder of how kids are capable of coming up with wildly inappropriate things even if they haven’t been exposed to those things before. I only hope that after being disciplined and talking about why it was wrong, he doesn’t come out with it next time he’s around one of his friends, or we’ll be shunned!

Now you all know better than to let your kids play with my kids, too! ~

jonsblond's avatar

@MissAusten Thanks for the warning. We’ll make sure to stay far away from your house! ;)

My sons are in high school now,. but I haven’t forgotten how inappropriate (and gross) young boys can be. I have a story similar to yours that I would love to tell, but I have two children bickering and noodles that need to be boiled. I’ll have to come back later to tell it.

The fact that this mother lets her young daughter ride her bicycle in the middle of the street without any supervision at all bothered me before I heard the story of the young boy. The only time the mother comes out to check on her is when it is time to come in. I also just found out that the little girl is 3, not 4. That just seems so young to me.

MissAusten's avatar

Wow. Three is young, even in a safe area with a dead-end street, to be going around unsupervised. That would be enough to make me not want to let my child play at the other child’s house, just because I would worry that the adults in charge wouldn’t be attentive enough.

I totally understand your reservations, and in the same situation I would be just as leery. Honestly, the biggest red flag, to me, was the little girl saying she hates her dad for drinking at bars all the time. That is really sad, in part because someone must have said something either to her or in front of her about her father’s behavior. :(

cornbird's avatar

@MissAusten and @jonsblond Thats what Im talking about. Childrens imaginations are so vast that they can embarass their parents without them even knowing. I mean lets not dismiss the possibility that the child is exposed to sexual abuse, but lets keep in mind also that kids could be just gross at times…talk to the parents.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Gadzooks, I would just tell my daughter that they are way too busy even if they say they don’t because they don’t want to seem mean, so be a good girl and don’t put them on the spot and when they have time they will come over here, and leave it at that.

Provlear's avatar

I’d let my kids play with them, confident in my kid.

bubbabeartb's avatar

You can always have the child over to your house and see how it goes and go from there? My Boys(14 and 10yrs old) have a few friends like that, and I let them have them over for a few hrs every once in awhile, and the kids are really good cause they are at my house and have to go by my rules or else I take them home. I am an at home Mom too and I will have my hands full this summer as well. Good Luck and remember these Children need Guidance, cause they arent being taught properly at home. Have a Happy Summer :)

Val123's avatar

@Provlear Uh. No. Not a good plan. Kids that age learn things, and some things we don’t WANT them to learn. They don’t really have a good idea of what is right and what is wrong. They just learn stuff.

janbb's avatar

@jonsblond Any updates on the situation?

Val123's avatar

I had a kid in my daycare once who knew too much. It didn’t take long for the other kids to start copying him. I had his mom find different placement, then worked on getting the other kids back to appropriate normal.

jonsblond's avatar

I haven’t spoken with Sam’s parents, but I have been able to observe how he plays with the other children on our street. Let’s just say he does not play well with others. He was a little rough with my daughter the other day when she playfully grabbed his cowboy hat. He tackled her to the ground and wouldn’t let her up until I told him to get off of her. Some might say that she asked for it by grabbing his hat, and this is something that my sons would have done with their friends when they were younger, but I just didn’t like seeing a boy being rough with my little girl and holding her down.

Luckily my daughter has found a new friend on our street to play with. I’ve known the family for years, so I feel comfortable with her playing at this house. She’s allowed to play with Sam still, but only at our house or while riding bikes when I’m out front with them.

janbb's avatar

Sounds like it’s working out.

Val123's avatar

Good job @jonsblond!
Another thing….sometimes you don’t have to give a kid a reason. It’s better if you can, or give them a reason that’s more benign than the truth,but there are times when you can just say, “Because I said so.” I hate it too, but sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.

jonsblond's avatar

OMG! My daughter just told me little “Sam” showed her his penis the other day. wtf! I’m shaking. My husband is going to flip.

janbb's avatar

Aren’t you moving away from there soon? It may be a blessing in disguise.

jonsblond's avatar

Yes @janbb. My husband is making the phone call at this moment to seal the deal. I can’t wait!

janbb's avatar

Yay!!!

kaitlyn's avatar

I cannot believe anyone would let their child go play at a house where the parents obviously don’t give a crap. NO WAY!

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