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Is your child a pervert? By BRIGITTE ROZARIO

Does your young daughter like to touch your breast? Have you found your young son peeping at you as you change your clothes? Have you found evidence that your teenage son has been masturbating?Most parents are not sure of what to do when they are in such a situation. Do any of these actions/behaviours mean that your child is a pervert?

Can children be perverts?
Elaine Yong, developmental psychologist and lecturer at Sunway University College, explains that children can indeed be perverts as there is no age limit.She explains that a child who is a pervert can be someone who was previously abused and he is just modelling the behaviour towards someone younger.
“I don't think it's not possible for children to be perverts.When you say a child is a pervert that means the sexual behaviour is unhealthy; they are using aggression and it interferes with normal childhood activities and interests. That's when I would say that person is a pervert.
“If a 12 year old is forcing himself on a three year old and is deriving pleasure out of it, that's twisted and perverse.” Having said that, she explains that it is actually perfectly natural for a child to masturbate or even be curious about the opposite sex and the human body.She stresses that if parents find their child has been exploring their sexuality, it's a good time to have a talk with the child.

It's better that the parents explain sex to the child rather than he hears it from his friends or gets information through the Internet because he will pick it up from other sources.“Parents shouldn't be embarrassed to talk to their child about these things but don't make it too big a deal either because it's just a phase that they are going through and it's natural. But if you make a big deal about it and turn it into a taboo, the child will just be stunned.“If parents over-react the child can have an unhealthy attitude towards sex. Then, they will not even dare talk about it. That's not what you really want because when sex becomes taboo then they can't talk to you openly about it. It's perfectly natural for them to be curious and you can't do anything about it except to address it. If you curb the open communication about sex, you are forcing them to go to other avenues to find information to understand what is going on. Do you want your child to go to the Internet to search for information and stumble upon adult websites?”

Yong offers advice on how parents can tackle some actions / behaviours in children and teenagers:

Child who keeps touching mother's breast:
“For children up to preschool age, it is still natural for them to do this because they are just becoming aware of others and also the different genders. So, in that sense, it is actually okay for a small child to touch the mum's breast.“It's normal for young children to do this because at that age they are curious about their body as well as their bodily functions and they are aware that there are boys and then there are girls. So, that's when you will find more touching, rubbing and even peeking at other children.“However, when they reach preschool age of five or six years old, it is actually a good time for the parents to start telling them that they are getting older and there are certain boundaries; some things are private like mummy's breasts.
“Parents could perhaps say, 'You cannot touch my private parts just like your private parts are yours – only you can touch and no one else can touch you there.'That's when the boundaries must be firmly made known to the child that this is really not acceptable. The fear is that they are going to be hitting puberty soon and if they are still touching the mother's breast, it may turn into a fetish. And, if you're outside the home and your child is seen to be rubbing the mother's breast it's really inappropriate in society's eyes as well. So, that's a big no-no.”

A son who likes to touch the mother's or sister's bras and panties:
“Again, if it's a younger child, it's normal. They're just beginning to explore things. Sometimes it could also be the tactile feeling that they like. Maybe the undergarment is made of silk and they like the sensation so it's more a tactile stimulation that they are looking for.“In that sense for a younger child up to six years old it's very normal to exhibit curiosity towards the opposite gender. They are just being curious.“But again, the parents need to start telling the child what is appropriate and what is not because at that age they can understand. Parents can explain that certain things belong to you and certain things belong to me and shouldn't be touched. The fear is that, if not checked, the child will develop a fetish for women's undergarments.”

Peeping Toms:
“For younger children, it could just be mere curiosity which might begin very innocently and accidentally. But if the parent catches the child peeping on purpose that's when they need to put their foot down and start talking to the child in a very calm but firm manner on what is acceptable and what is not.“When parents explain what is acceptable, they should also explain the consequences of such actions. For example, if the child is caught peeping at the neighbour's daughter or son. The parent can explain to the child what will happen if the neighbour catches him peeping on their young daughter or son and reports it to the police. Give the child a worse case scenario to drum it into them that this behaviour is really not tolerated by society.”

Girly/'Nudie' magazines:

It is actually normal right up to adolescence for them to explore because they are displaying their curiosity towards the opposite gender. So for them to be looking at girly magazines is normal. And, if the child is hiding the magazines this means although they are curious about the opposite sex they know this type of sexual behaviour is becoming more private. So while they are curious they hide it away from the parents.
“Here, under normal circumstances, I would say they are developing very normally.“If the parents find these magazines hidden away in the child's room, they can turn this into a discussion about healthy sexual behaviour and also approach the subject of dating and what is healthy dating behaviour. For example, the need to respect the other person's boundaries. It's okay to hold hands; it's okay to give the girl/boy a good night kiss but here the parents should tell the son or daughter that it's normal to be curious and want to explore their sexuality. It's healthy that they're showing an interest in the opposite gender.

“This is when parents can talk to the child about sexual needs, the reproductive system and even contraception. Then at least you turn it into a positive, a chance to teach your son or daughter.“You can draw the line on what is acceptable at home in terms of harmless magazines rather than outright nudity. You can also put some consequences to it – you can confiscate the magazines to show that these types of magazines actually belittle women (and men) and doesn't show respect to them. You can use that as an educational opportunity.“But don't blow it out of proportion, otherwise, the child will just get better at hiding it and not tell you.”

“For a young child below the age of four years old, this is normal actually. They are just curious. You may see a bit of touching here and there. It should be fairly innocent. From four to six, you may sometimes even catch them doing it openly. It's a very innocent thing and they are just curious. They feel that it's nice and that's why they do it. It's harmless and innocent so parents shouldn't blow it out of proportion or punish them unnecessarily. Use it as an opportunity to explain that boys and girls are different in a very simple and easy to understand manner.“By the time they reach seven to about 12 years old, some children will still masturbate and it's common but they would do it privately. So, they are aware by then that these are things that they should not let others see them do.“For boys, I think parents have to understand that boys will be boys and this is a phase that all boys go through. It's a sign that the boys are growing up. If the mothers are not comfortable with these behaviours, then perhaps they can get their husbands to talk to the son about it.

“What is important is that the parents tell the child (boy or girl) that their body is changing and what is going to happen and that they need to be responsible for their actions.

Surfing adult sites / Storing photos of naked women on the computer / Buying adult movies
“This is when they are hitting puberty and it is normal for the child to be curious and surfing these sites is normal.“But for anyone younger, I would say it is not age-appropriate. Parents should have a discussion with their child for this and for masturbating but more for this if they find images of ladies or gentlemen in revealing clothes or naked photos on the computer.“My big question would be where did they find these images – was it through a website or through online chatting? Or did they get the movies from a friend? I would stress safety issues – the types of websites they can go to and how they should react because there are a lot of paedophiles on the Internet. I would drum into them the safety issues to teach them to protect their privacy when they are online or chatting.

Naturally, it is a shock for any parent to find their child has been masturbating or hiding “nudie” magazines.
If you face such a situation, stop, take a deep breath and consult your spouse before proceeding. How you react and what you say can backfire on you.
Reacting negatively or exploding in anger can make your teenager more secretive and it probably won't stop them from continuing what they have been doing.
“Both the parents can be present, or only one, when talking to the child about these things but what is important is that at the end of the day the child gets the message.
“It doesn't matter who sends the message but it should come from the parents,” advises Yong.
A lot of parents in this God-fearing country still use religion to teach their children “proper” behaviours and actions.

However, Yong says sometimes, when you place sexual behaviour as a “sin”, it actually makes children and teens more curious and that indirectly encourages early exploration and even earlier sexual intercourse as well as unwanted pregnancies.“They are just basically searching for answers and sex is one of the most basic, natural urges.“If we put a lid on that, how and where is that energy going to go? One day it's just going to burst so it's better to let it come out in a positive manner rather than a negative manner.“Put everything down according to the facts. Then it's easier for the children to understand. But, we have to take their behaviour and explain it in an age-appropriate manner.

“Once you paint it as a 'sin' it promotes unnecessary fear, I think. For parents who want to incorporate religious beliefs on sexual behaviour, they could perhaps explain to the child what is accepted and what is healthy.”Yong suggests parents stress the importance of respect for the body and that in your religion your virginity is special and should be kept for your future wife/husband.In that way, you are presenting a more positive attitude towards sex as well as encouraging respect towards the other gender and religious beliefs.

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