Teaching a Child the Difference Between Good Touches and Bad Touches
Good touch, bad touch (GTBT) is gradually learnt through a child’s day to day activities but we can accelerate this learnt behavior by making a concerted effort to teach children the difference between good touch and bad touch at an early age. We live in a society where touching is common. We live in a society where people tend to overreact at times too. In addition, threats or secrets often go hand in hand with bad touches. All of these serve to confuse the child. Parents must take the time to explain to their children what good touch and bad touch is and what danger signals to look for.
Firstly, make sure you give the child a list of trusted adults. This may be your preacher, their teacher, a neighbor, a relative, or someone else you feel the child may trust if they have questions or need assistance. These adults should be the “go to” people if the child feels someone may have touched them badly. Periodically ask them to recite to you their list of trusted adults. Point out that this does not mean those adults are allowed to touch badly though, only that the child may tell those adults if they feel someone is wrong.
Parents should point out that how well the child knows a person can affect what is deemed good touch and bad touch. You have to be very careful with this lesson though. Most abused children are abused by someone they know and in fact, the abuse usually starts with good touches that slowly, over time, migrate to inappropriate touches. But a child should know that what may be a good touch from a parent, would be a bad touch from a stranger. Strangers should rarely touch a child they do not know, even if it’s a simple hug or pat on the head – period. Your child should understand this.
Parents should explain that a bad person may begin with good touches and slowly work towards bad touches over a period of time. Known as “grooming“, the abuser may take days, months, or years to acclimate the child to innocent touching before they move into the abuse phase. The child should know that they must consciously think about touches and how to interpret them.
Explain to the child that bad touches go both ways. It may not always be an adult trying to touch the child but may indeed be a adult trying to get the child to touch them. Let them know that an adult should never have to ask a child to touch them, especially if they ask the child to touch their private parts.
Explain to the child that a dead giveaway of a bad touch is if the adult asks them not to tell anyone about the touch. They should know that a lot of the time, an adult that touches a child badly will either threaten the child (or threaten someone else) or ask that the child keep the touch a secret. Any time an adult asks them to keep something a secret, the child should tell their list of trusted people and ask for assistance.
Parents should also explain that there is no single factor that makes a touch good or bad. The child must learn to analyze several factors to make the determination. For example, you teach a child that touching is how people show each other they that love and care for them. On the other hand, a child abuser will deceive the child by telling them that they love them and are touching them to show them that they care. If there is any doubt whatsoever, they should ask another adult that they trust for guidance.
Explain to your child that good touch is how people show that they love and care for someone. They can probably tell if a touch is good by how they feel about it. If it makes them happy and smile then it’s likely to be a good touch. Give them examples of good touch such as:
- When the teacher pats you on the shoulder while telling you that you did a good job.
- When your mommy tells you “good morning” and gives you a hug and a kiss.
- When Daddy hugs and kisses you goodnight.
- When grandma and grandpa come over and everyone hugs and kisses.
Explain to your child that bad touches are when people hit, kick, or touch your private parts. You can explain that private parts are any body part that is covered by a bathing suit (the “safe body rule”). If the touch makes them nervous, scared, or just feels funny, then it’s probably a bad touch. Teach them that a touch is bad if:
- It hurts
- It makes them feel scared or nervous or ashamed
- If the person forces them to touch
- If the person asks them to not tell anyone about it
- If the person threatens them or someone else if they tell someone else about the touch
Explain to your child that their body belongs to them and they have a right to protect it. It’s ok to tell an adult “no” if the adult tries to touch them on their private parts. In addition, they should know that it is very important to tell an adult if they feel someone has touched them badly. Give them a list of people that they can trust and tell them that they should tell each of these people if they feel someone has touched them bad or if they even question whether or not someone has touched them bad.
It may still be difficult or confusing for the child, especially considering the trickery that child abusers use to deceive the child. Telling the difference between good touch and bad touch may be difficult and may take practice or role playing. Give them plenty of examples and ask them to tell you if the touch is good or bad.
Role playing examples
Grandpa comes over for a visit and you meet him at the door. He smiles, bends down, and gives you a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Is this good touch or bad touch?
You are good friends with a neighbor. The neighbor seems much like a parent at times and always hugs and kisses you when you come over. One day you tell the neighbor that your stomach is hurting. The neighbor touches you between the legs and asks if it hurts there. Is it good touch or bad touch?
You are alone in the store and a man walks up and asks where your mother is. You explain that she is shopping and you are going to go find her. He then squats down and gives you a big hug and kisses you on the cheek. Is this good touch or bad touch?
Anger Roar readers: submit your examples of good touch and bad touch in the comments section below. Fellow parents can use these examples with their kids!