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On little girls who masturbate, R-rated movies, and irresponsible teens

Question

My 6-year-old won’t keep her hands out of her pants. I keep telling her it’s not appropriate in public or in front of other people. Should I be telling her not to do it at all, or just not in public? She started this after she watched an R-rated movie with my 17-year-old daughter, who watched her while I was in the hospital.

 

Answer

Your 6-year-old didn’t cause this problem. You didn’t cause this problem, at least not directly. You can trace this problem to your teenage daughter.

Unfortunately, your younger daughter will have to suffer for awhile to fix this one. It’s not fair, I know. But the only way you can stop your younger daughter from putting her hands down her pants is to punish her for doing it, and keep the punishments going until she changes her conduct.

Yes, you should tell her not to do it when she is alone, either. If your daughter were simply learning how her body works, I’d worry less about it. But 6 is a little young for that type of exploration, and the R-rated movie probably opened some doors that will be difficult to shut.

Start with a fairly serious punishment, the type you’d administer for using foul language or stealing. Then keep it up until she stops the conduct. Along the way, explain to her that she should not have watched that movie because it wasn’t appropriate for little girls. Assure her that you’re not mad that she watched, but that she must not copy anything from the movie, and that such movies aren’t really appropriate even for older girls.

Given your daughter’s age, and how many other distractions she will encounter, over time she should find herself gravitating toward other types of conduct, hopefully something healthier. However, when she gets older and begins to show an interest in boys, be prepared to reiterate the old lessons. Eight years from now, she might not remember what she saw. And then again, she might in fact remember it.

While the young girl should be your main focus, do not, under any circumstances, allow the teenager to get off the hook on this one. I suspect you never told her not to allow her younger sister to watch rated-R movies, and for that you probably deserve a little of the blame. But only a tiny portion. You probably didn’t tell the teenager not to shave her sister’s head, either. Some conduct doesn’t require direct parental instructions, and a 17-year-old knows better than to allow a girl of 6 to watch a movie that depicts masturbation or sex acts.

Just as you must punish the younger girl to deter future conduct, you must also punish the older girl. I understand that she’s 17. But you can still take away privileges. Take the mobile phone and rescind Internet access. Consider canceling cable or limiting it to a TV that only you control. Grounding, extra chores, lack of freedoms – pick a winner. Your teenage daughter has created a monster without even trying. Only you can keep the monster in check. But make sure the older girl understands her culpability, and give her plenty of reason to avoid such foolishness in the future.

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