Step 3: How Good Touch is Used with Bad Motives
I was thinking today about how good it feels to hug my kids. I get to hug them and cuddle them in all kinds of ways. I have three kids who are all pretty little. My oldest is 8, my middle is 6 and my youngest is 3. Each one of them hugs and cuddles in different ways. My son (the 6 year old) has so much variation in how he likes hugs. For instance, he runs into bed first thing in the morning, and finds my side of the bed and just holds on to my whole body like I am a life raft and he is lost at sea. Other times he lays his whole body across his dad while they play chess on his iPhone or watch Steelers football highlights. And yet, he loves to ram into me while I am cooking with a big smile on his face because in his world that also counts as good, loving touch. I look at him and say, “Why are you ramming into me?” And he, of course, looks confused because he considers that moment an exchange of love. “Sorry Mommy, I thought you would like it.” I soften my whole face and smile, “Buddy, I do like hugs, but could you not ram into me while I am cooking?” “Sure,” and he bounces away like Tigger.
We Know Kids Need Good Touch
All kids are made to be touched and different children like touch differently. Some like wrestling, others hugs, some like having their head or back scratched, other like kisses on the cheeks, some prefer hand holding, not to mention all the various combinations as well. Touch is a major way of expressing love and communicating care. As a matter of fact, science has highlighted that the power of touch is more than skin deep. Touch releases endorphins that not only make us feel good but help build emotional attachments with the one doing the touching. There was a famous experiment in the 1960’s by a psychologist named Harry Harlow that showed this. Dr. Harlow offered baby monkeys a choice between a surrogate mother made of metal who could simulate nursing by giving milk and a surrogate mother who was made of cloth but with no nursing capability. The question was, “Who would the baby gorilla spend most of its time with?” Hands down, it was the momma made of soft cloth, not the momma who simply fed him. The conclusion is as simple as it is profound: we are hard wired for touch.
Predators Use Good Touch To Build Trust
A predator’s second step in gaining a child’s trust is non-sexual touch. (Remember, step-one, from last time, is connection.) The first touch won’t be sexual; instead it will be touch that the child is made for, like wrestling, back rubbing, or tickling. Like we saw with connection, a predator usually mimics things that a mom or dad would do. He uses God-designed ways of lowering the guard of unsuspecting children, in this case through “good” touch. Additionally, if the child has a deprivation of physical touch, meaning little to no good touch is happening at home, then the child is even more likely to be selected by an abuser.
What Can I Do?
Can you see how tricky the whole method of sexual abuse is and how confusing it is to a child? This means we have a job to do when it comes to teaching our child about touch:
- We must touch them in loving ways that are specific to their temperament and needs.
- We must step-in and stop any adult who is touching them in a way we see our child feels uncomfortable with (a person at the Y who just likes to hug).
- We must not hug our child or touch our child to meet our own adult needs for comfort because it will teach them it is okay to comfort adults with their touch.
Image by: David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net