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Worrying behaviour

(33 Posts)
sapphire Wed 07-Aug-02 17:07:01

My son, aged four, recently became obsessed with bottoms and willies at school, and for a fe months he and two other little boys would disappear into the toilets and touch each others bottoms. Eventually my son was moved to a different nursery session where everything was okay for a while, but then just befor the holidays he firstly put his finger up another boy's bottom (according to the other boy) and then put his hand down a girl's knickers. The school and one of the parents have alerted social services who are coming to visit me next week, and I have seen my doctor who is referring Son to a child psychologist.

Everyone professional I talk to seems to think that he is showing overtly sexual behaviour and that it can only have come about because he has been abused somewhere down the line. He has had a tough year as his father and I separated, but I am 100% convinced that nothing untoward has happened to him either in my home or his father's. Friends seem to think he is just being a bit overcurious and its fairly natural behaviour that he will grow out of. Has anyone encountered similar behaviour at all?

sml Wed 07-Aug-02 17:28:33

I thought all children went through a phase of being obsessed with bottoms! I certainly felt it was something that we should teach them, ie not to touch anyone else's bottom, and not to let anyone touch theirs, in order to nip this sort of thing in the bud before it does develop into anything more serious.
Your school's reaction seems totally over the top to me. I've heard stories of more extreme behaviour than you describe from your son, carried out totally innocently by children of the same age, especially farming children who've had plenty of opportunity to observe from nature, if you get my meaning. Personally, I'd tell social services where to go.

threeangels Wed 07-Aug-02 22:25:02

Have you ever talked to your ds about any of this. His father may not have done anything to him but could someone else who comes in contact with him have and dad does not know it. This is just a thought. Its normal for people to stop and think first could something have happened. Your ds is probally just going through a curious stage. I would have a little mommy/son talk just to feel him out and see if there is anything possibly to wonder about. If you dont find any reason to worry then wait and see if he outgrows it.

sapphire Sat 10-Aug-02 15:29:47

I have tried talking to my ds but he either gets very defensive or denies he did anything. We've got a social worker coming round on Monday, because the school reported his latest behaviour - wish me luck, everyone!

PamT Sat 10-Aug-02 15:37:56

sapphire, what a nightmare, talk about guilty until proven innocent. I'm sure that it is just curious childhood behaviour and nothing more and I hope the people who you see about it treat it as such in a very sensitive way. I remember being 9 and having a boy in the class who used to dive under the table to show his bits every so often. He got egged on by all the rest of us of course and there was never anything sinister going on, he just liked the attention. Fingers crossed for Monday.

ionesmum Sat 10-Aug-02 19:03:20

My old next door neighbour did this and he was fine, and grew up to be a very nice young man.

Good luck!

zebra Sat 10-Aug-02 21:30:41

Sapphire -- I wonder if a more obvious explanation should be considered -- your son is doing all this because it gets him attention? With his parents separating, he probably feels out of control of his life, and getting attention with this behaviour could be a way to make him feel like he can control things.

Just a thought.

BTW... when I was 5yo me and another boy (4yo) used to get up to a lot of pretty sexually advanced activities. Why...? Because we were naturally curious. The boy initiated the relationship, and I'm 99.9% darn sure he was never molested by anybody.

JayTree Sat 10-Aug-02 21:37:38

so sorry to hear that you are having such a tough time - hope the child psych is able to be helpful and that the whole issue is not stressing you out too much. It sounds like you have had a hard enough year as it is without all this worry hanging over your head.

I was alarmed to read that everyone professional are suggesting child abuse before even speaking to a child pysch - this is a really serious accusation and needs to be dealt with thoroughly and sensitively for all of your sakes. I imagine that you are interpreting their concerns rather than having this said to you so bluntly without a full assessment. Obviously I dont know the full details but
I do agree with all the other comments - if there is nothing at all to even hint at possible child abuse then it could well be a form of extreme curiosity that may be a phase.
As an ex school teacher who has dealt with several child psychs and plenty of unusual and unexpected child behaviour, this type of behaivour is not as uncommon as you may think, it is more a case that many people just dont talk about their kid’s problems so openly. When referring children to see child pyschs through school, I always found it a long process that usually took ages as they were always booked up seeing hundreds of children about all sorts of things - therefore, please dont think for a minute that you are alone. It is also a fact that many of these children came from loving caring backgrounds. Also, many of these children successfully stopped with no long lasting effects - sometimes suddenly on their own, sometimes through open discussion with/without help of professional, sometimes through diversion tactics or other forms of therapy. I would also like to reassure you that I have not met a nasty or judgemental child pyschiatrist yet (but realise that I may just have been lucky...).
Remember you are not alone - we are all here to support you albeit in words rather than in person.

Good Luck, I hope it is all resolved soon,
let us know how you get on.

maryz Sun 11-Aug-02 12:52:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

robinw Sun 11-Aug-02 18:58:38

message withdrawn

Batters Mon 12-Aug-02 15:55:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Rhubarb Mon 12-Aug-02 16:00:27

It's terrible that these days children are not allowed to just *be* without someone labelling them. Sexual abuse is a nasty, horrible and evil thing but as a society we can go too far with the finger-pointing and accusations, and too often the children end up being more scarred by so called do-gooders, then they would have been if they had been left alone.

At 4 years old your son is in no position to be labelled an abuser and I think this is a case of hysteria prompted by your sons school. Obviously if they've received complaints they need to be seen to be acting upon those, but they also have to take into consideration your child's wellbeing.

I would take the stance of sml and tell them all to sod off! Explain to social services what is happening and if they have any sense they will drop the case. Good luck

Jendy Mon 12-Aug-02 16:20:03

Sapphire what a worry for you - hope everything goes well and resolves soon. But agree with rhubarb et al. children have a natural curiosity which may not fit in with the norms of the adult world, I believe that most will learn what's acceptable or not. I heard lots of tales from people with older children about what they're kids did when they were younger. Many professionals have to make living out of being an expert at something even if what they believe is hypothetical/tenuous rather than actual.

Khara Mon 12-Aug-02 21:11:57

Aren't they supposed to be bringing in legislation whereby teachers can be sacked if they fail to spot the signs of child abuse? If so, I think we're going to see a lot of totally innocent cases being referred to social services. After all, teachers aren't experts so they're going to refer anything even slightly suspicious if their jobs are on the line. Hopefully the real experts will realise when it's totally innocent and when it isn't.

sapphire Mon 12-Aug-02 23:20:03

Thnaks for all your support! We had the meeting today and the social worker was okay, she seemed happy that there wasn't any abuse going on in the family, and was planning on referring ds to a child psychologist, which of course I've already seen to! Coincidentally, the appointment came through today, for the beginning of September.

Zebra, I agree that it is more likely to be an attention-seeking act. Ds is very much a ring leader and does seek attention all the time - he's always said that someone at nursery touched his bottom first, and being the child he is if he thought it was funny/put him in a position of power he would carry it on. I've voiced my feelings to the social worker and to the school, but the school have kept banging on about how it must have come from home, even to the point of asking me if I have any pornography! Will have to see how things go in Spetember. I'll keep you posted!

Rhubarb Tue 13-Aug-02 15:49:51

I think I would register a complaint at the school - how judgemental of them!!! How dare they suggest that you are responsible for your sons behaviour by having porn or abusing him!! I would go to the governors and lodge a complaint. Schools have to realise that they cannot jump to conclusions in this way, it is potentially very damaging for both you and your son. Can you imagine if one of the teachers started telling parents!!! They may well do this to another poor parent who may not be as strong as you, so please do complain to the highest authorities!

I'm seething with rage for you!

lou33 Tue 13-Aug-02 17:51:45

Sapphire I agree with Rhubarb, you have to make an official complaint. It is not their place to treat you like this. Keep complaining until you get the response you are happy with. Good luck.

WideWebWitch Tue 13-Aug-02 18:05:23

I must admit Sapphire, it would scare the c*** out of me. It doesn't sound like excessively unusual boys behaviour so I think involving social services sounds a bit heavy handed. Mmm. Not sure how I'd handle it, but I'm pretty sure I'd be upset and angry at the jumping to conclusion-ness of it all and of the effect on my son. Good luck whatever you do.

ionesmum Tue 13-Aug-02 21:39:04

I do agree with the other comments that you should complain - I would even consider taking legal advice. I really don't want to worry you but there's so much talk of registers being set up of people who are only suspected of abuse. I really feel for you and wish you lots of luck.

tigermoth Wed 14-Aug-02 09:37:28

sapphire, I've just caught up with this thread. What a worry for you. I agree, there seems to have been lots of mismanagement of the situation by the school. I too have heard that new legislation is coming in and teachers face the sack if they ignore possible signs of child abuse. I agree with Khara, this opens the way for a lot of misunderstanding.

When the teachers say they think the 'influence' comes from home, do they mean they suspect 'abuse'? It seems they are not communicating clearly to you. I think their tone and approach is judgemental and over the top, even if this is not the intention.

Is the school seeing the parents of the other children who also initiated this behaviour? You say it started in another nursery class and a whole group of boys were involved. Then your son was moved to a new class. Couldn't the major 'influence' have come from this group of boys and that your son has just carried on with this experimental play? He's so young anyway - it might not have sunk in that it's time to stop. As you say, it could well be a way of getting attention. Your son has told you another boy did it to him first. At worst, he or another of his playmates could be an abused child - has the school investigated this? Are they taking your son's words seriously, too?

I'd want to ask the school how often they encounter situations like yours and if they always call in the social services and school psychologist. If not, why this time? What happened was not desirable, but considering the ages of the children, surely not unique.

I think you should ask the head if the other parents are putting lots of pressure on the school (you say they have talked) and the teachers fear an official complaint if they do not comply. If you suspect that parental pressure is largely behind this, perhaps it's time to say you will also consider launching a complaint and will be keeping a diary of all conversations.

Have you also thought of getting the social worker to contact the school direct to say that they have found no evidence of abuse, or is this what happens anyway. Definitely worth knowing. And is it possible for the social worker to meet the head with you and mediate? This might clarify things all round.

Good luck

Willow2 Wed 14-Aug-02 10:43:22

Sapphire, what a nightmare, you poor thing. Can only add that, having read Tigermoth's answer, I agree with all that she suggests. I think it is really important that you ask as many questions as are asked of you, and that you keep records of all conversations. I know that sounds alarmist, but I think that in any potentially serious situation it is better to be proactive. Good luck.

JayTree Wed 14-Aug-02 12:52:52

As I have already said, I really sympathise with your situation and hope that it is resolved quickly and as sensitively for all your sakes.

A lot of comments are critical of teachers and the social services- as an ex teacher I have winced at a couple of points and feel the need to speak out a little! Of course there are many terrible teachers out there (like all professions) but there are equally many hard working dedicated ones who really care about the wellbeing of their pupils. I have gone home on numerous occasions from a large school in the Midlands worrying about individual pupils, spending restless nights pacing up and down concerned about what actions to take/ whether I have taken the right actions - and soon enough, etc. etc. I could give you so much anecdotal evidence of the immensely sensitive work that teachers are expected to deal with - very often. There is basic training for dealing with these situations but every situation is unique. Apart from the black and white rules where teachers who fail to follow the correct procedure will face prosecution, there is a lot of grey area left up to our professional judgement. Rightly or wrong, I doubt very much that 99.9% of teachers would ever involve social services unless they really believed it was the in child’s best interests (I am not commenting or passing judgement on your particular case). There is undeniably a pressure not to miss any possible form of abuse - but, surely every mum would hope this was the case - and there is an unspoken code of always acting on the side of caution. In 100 hundred cases you would want to get all correct, but it is better to be over cautious with one than miss one altogether.
One word of caution to you about records - I know someone mentioned that records are kept - this is very true. There are standard forms that will have been filled in concerning these incidents and will be held in your child’s file - it is a legal requirement for schools to do this. These forms will be kept and are likely to be passed on to your secondary school and read by their new head of year and form teacher - so this incident may not go away totally. I am not 100% sure, but I would imagine that you have a right to read the whole contents of your child’s file to put your mind at ease once this is all dealt with.
Sorry to rant on and on but when it is suggested that experts are just making tenuous links in order to justify their job is really insulting. Sorry.

Jbr Wed 14-Aug-02 17:29:21

It's normal for children to be curious. However, if they don't stop, especially when requested by the other child or an adult, that's when it is something to worry about. The act in itself isn't.

Boys also go through this phase when they are aged between 9-12 according to one American psychologist I was reading about (I can't remember his name) and some boys get stuck in that phase (it's called being emotionally retarted) and are still curious about children even when they get older eg 20s and 30s. That is certainly more worrying but it doesn't make them "evil" or "bad".

At the moment though I wouldn't be too anxious - even for me to say I know - unless as I said, he is not responding to requests to stop.

robinw Wed 14-Aug-02 18:43:19

message withdrawn

SueDonim Wed 14-Aug-02 19:18:01

It's been very interesting to compare the responses here with those on the thread about the crude letter addressed to a five yr old. I wonder if we are guilty of double standards?

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