6-Year-Old Touching 4-Year-Old Brother

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My 6-year-old son has always been an exhibitionist and always the child who pulls his pants down or touches himself to get a laugh or reaction. All my kids went through this short phase but for him it has seemed to linger longer than i am comfortable with.

I have 4 boys, ages 10, 8, 6 and 4, and they are very physical, wrestling and playing games that involve that sort of behavior.

My 6-year-old has always had an interest in touching his brothers – but only the youngest really lets him. it started with rubbing his arms- or his back- sort of like a stuff animal- because it was soft- he also likes to touch the red marks he gets from the elastic of his underwear or the waist band of his pants. He touches this on himself and his brother if he can.

He is always trying to touch his brothers butt during bath time or while changing clothes- I feel like I have to monitor all their interactions.

I found him laying in bed watching TV today with his hand in his brothers butt. He does not touch his penis- or so he says he is not-It is almost mindless- if they are watching TV- he will stick his hands in his brothers pants to touch him- like a child petting an animal.It is almost like a comforting mechanism.

i have also asked repeatedly if someone has touch his privates and he says no.

I have talked to him about respect- touching his own privates- and not his brothers- doing it in the bathroom only- and I can’t get him to stop.

I am worried on several levels- I am worried about him – and his fascination with butts- and I am worried about my youngest child thinking it is ok behavior. I am also worried about my youngest child getting a rise out of it- and seeking it out later in life.

I have tried punishing, I have tried talking to him calming- giving him alternatives- to touch himself- or some object- but the behavior persists.

I do not want to shame him- because I am pretty sure it is innocent- and he has not experienced any abuse or other trauma.

I have talked to him about respecting his brothers privates, and I have talked to him about what they are for- I have also told him that bad people touch children in those areas, and I don’t want his brother thinking it is ok thing to do.

Am I over reacting? How can I get him to stop without shame? Should I take him to see a child psychologist?

This step seems extreme- but I really want to the behavior to stop and I am at a loss on what to do.

They share a room- but separate beds- but they use to sleep together a few years ago- all my kids did- Should I move him out of the room? I think he would see this as major punishment.

I am not worried he is gay- I really don’t care about that- but I do have a deep seeded concern that he will not shake this fascination with age- and he may be interested in children? I know this is crazy- from what I have read pedophilia are created by abuse- but I think I have been reading too much- and it freaks me out. I am sure this is part of why I over react when I catch him doing it.

But it seems just saying “that’s inappropriate behavior” is not enough to get him to stop.

A: There is a very wide range of what is normal in children’s behavior and the concern always is to not pathologize something too quickly. Of course, the other side of the coin as a good parent is to be attentive and help your child when he needs it. These are always difficult concerns to navigate.

I would make an appointment with a child psychologist and go talk to them alone. This way you are bringing your concerns to an expert and he or she can ask you questions that can determine if an appointment with the therapist is warranted. This way you are bringing your concern as a parent to a person who can ask you the right questions and help you move forward.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jan 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). 6-Year-Old Touching 4-Year-Old Brother. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/01/22/6-year-old-touching-4-year-old-brother/