Parenting Dilemmas: Heather and Ray

Parenting Dilemmas: Heather and Ray
Dr. Phil talks to a woman who wants to lose 50 pounds before her wedding.
"My 5-year-old won't stop flashing his classmates and I'm afraid he's going to get kicked out of school!" says Heather about her son, Scout. "He asked a little girl at his school if she would touch his wiener!"

Scout's father, Ray, explains how the problem has escalated. "The first time it happened, he was in the bathroom with some classmates and showed
them his privates," he says. "Another time he was in the gym and he pulled down his pants and mooned them." Over the past year, Scout has exposed himself at his pre-school a total of six times!

Heather speculates, "I think Scout is getting a positive reaction from the classmates, and he thinks it's really funny."

They've tried taking away his toys and TV privileges, but his behavior continues. "I just feel like we've done everything and nothing's working. It's very frustrating!" says Heather, turning to Dr. Phil for help. She asks, "Should I be concerned about my son's behavior, or is it normal for him to be showing his private parts?""We need to zip this problem up!" Dr. Phil jokes with Heather and Ray. He clarifies: "So y'all's question is, 'Is this normal?'"

Dr. Phil explains that, statistically speaking, the behavior is not normal. "Because if it was, then all the little boys at school and all the little girls at school would be doing it," he says. However, he does not see eye to eye with a physician who suggested
to Heather and Ray that this behavior could be a precursor to more serious sexual dysfunction in the future. "Let me respectfully disagree with that," Dr. Phil tells them. "I think you have no indication whatsoever that this is going to turn into some kind of major sexual disorder in the future, so relax about that."

In fact, Dr. Phil doesn't think the problem is sexual in nature at all. "It's kind of a curiosity and a 'look what I found' sort of thing," he says. "It would probably be the same thing if he had a dead frog in his pocket."

He continues, "But it's still an issue because it is disruptive, right? That's the problem. And here's the downside of dealing with this. If you come down on him too hard about this, then you can create a lot of shame and a lot of guilt, like your body is something to be ashamed of. So you have to be really careful."Dr. Phil suggests, "Here's the first thing we want to do. You want to demystify this. Because it's the taboo aspect and the shock aspect of it that psychologically give him some power ... And one of the things that I think parents need to do is first off, use the right symbol system. In other words, words like 'private parts' or 'wiener' kind of suggest there's something wrong or there's something taboo or secretive about this. I think it's very appropriate with children to use the
right words. Say, 'This is your penis' and get him to get that symbol system. And will he go shock some kids by saying that? Probably for a little while, but the point is, if you deal with it maturely, in an age-appropriate way but maturely and with the right symbol system, you do tend to demystify it."

He adds, "The real issue, rather than a sexual perversion or maladjustment or disorder, is a respect for privacy, a respect for social sensitivity." So, they need to emphasize not only that his genitalia should be kept private, but also that what he's doing is insensitive and disrespectful to other people. Dr. Phil reiterates: "I would focus more on the social impact of it rather than the sexual impact of it. I think you can overreact to this a whole lot, but you still need to suppress the behavior. Everything else in his life, he does really well. It's just he's found himself a shock tool and he's using it."