5-Year-Old Inappropriately Touches Sister

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

my nephew is 5yrs old. I have caught him touching his younger sister inappropriately several times. I have told his mother my sister and she has dealt with it the best way she knows how. I think a lot of the reason he’s acting this way is because of her relationship with him. he’s to clingy, always wants to be the center of her attention & when his sister has her attention, he immediately wants it on him. Also her husband and herself discipline my nephew way differently then they do my niece. I don’t know if it’s because he’s not really my nephew’s dad, but you can tell it is messing with his head. he’s also been caught playing with a toy that goes to a kids mechanics set that vibrates and putting it on his private parts. I’m not exactly sure if that’s appropriate seeing as how he’s been acting out.

I also don’t think it’s right that my sister leaves him here at the house because she has doctor appt’s back to back and doesn’t want to take him cause she doesn’t want him to miss soccer practice. so she then leaves him for almost 3 days at house with us causing drama here, but more than that my nephew was confused why they wouldn’t just let him miss 1 practice & take him with them like they did his sister. they’ve done things like this to him in the past & I know it’s messing with him in the head. cause when he talks to me he sounds very upset & talks down about himself and that’s not something he should be doing at the age of 5.

it does not help that his step dad can be a jerk to him and his excuse is always well I didn’t grow up in a loving family, my mother never gave me praise or encouragement. to which I always try and tell him it’s not about you anymore it’s your kids and you definitely need to be a better parent then your parents’ ever was, that’s how this whole “job” parenting works. we learn from what our parents’ mistakes and love our kids a whole bunch more than our parents loved us, even if our parents were god like!!!

A: Your nephew is very lucky to have you as an aunt. Your statement to your brother-in-law was right on target. Our job as parents and adults is to love and protect children – regardless of how we were parented.

His parents don’t seem to get it that this little boy is showing every sign of being quite troubled. From what you report, it’s no wonder. Your sister and her husband are acting as if they wish that she didn’t have a prior relationship. Your nephew is evidence that she did. Your nephew isn’t stupid. He knows he is unloved and unwanted. He senses his mother’s rejection and clings to her. That only makes her reject him some more which makes him even more clingy — which makes her want to push him even further away.

In addition, I worry that this little boy is being abused. 5-year-olds generally don’t know about touching another person sexually. Often (not always, but often), it means that someone has touched them that way. Another possibility is that he quite accidentally discovered that touching his sister or himself in certain ways finally gets him the attention he craves.

As difficult as it may be, I think you should be contacting children’s protective services. Leaving him for 3 days at a time is abandonment. I’m not sure what you mean by “discipline” but if it is harsh, you may be skirting around the fact that it’s abuse. His sexual acting out may indicate something even more serious going on. Whatever the case, this little boy needs an evaluation and help.

I realize that calling in authorities can be terribly disruptive to relationships in the family. But if he is being abused, it needs to stop. I don’t have the whole story, of course. If you are uncertain about whether you should be taking action, it might be helpful for you to first talk to your nephew’s pediatrician or to make an appointment with a therapist to seek some advice and support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). 5-Year-Old Inappropriately Touches Sister. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/09/04/5-year-old-inappropriately-touches-sister/