The Privates Rule

If you tell your children about “the Privates Rule”, you then have an easy way to reference the topic.  This is helpful not just for your own children, but also for the adults and other children with whom they spend time.  “Everyone remember the Privates Rule”  is an easy phrase to say, and helps to remind everyone that your family is aware.

As with all your family rules, you will find your own way of wording the Privates Rule, and it will change over time as your children grow older.  Just like most rules, The Privates Rule will need to be revisited and reminded and clarified from time to time.  The following are suggestions of things to include in your family’s Privates Rule.  It may seem like a lot, but over time, your child will easily understand it all!

The FOUR key parts of the Privates Rule:

  • “All grown ups and older kids know about the Privates Rule.”
  • “The Privates Rule is that Privates are Private! Grownups and older kids cannot share privates with kids.”  “That means: No looking at privates or showing them, no touching anyone’s privates, and no pictures of privates!” (It is best to be broad and general about what is included in the privates rule. It is not only about touching.)
  • “This is a rule for grown ups. Kids do not EVER get in trouble about the Privates Rule.”
  • Kids do not enforce the Privates Rule, only grown ups have that job.  “You can say No, but it’s not your job to say No. It’s just your job to tell me if someone needs reminding about the Privates Rule.”

Some nuances that may come up:

  • What about potty and the tub? “When you are really little, grown ups have to help keep you clean.  It’s not your job to decide if the touch breaks the rule or not, just tell me about it.” When you are helping to clean a child after toileting, you could say to them: “This is what it feels like when someone wipes your vulva. Back to front, just a wipe or two until you are dry.” “When someone wipes your butt, this is what it feels like. Wipes on the outside of your hole, just until clean.”
  • “Who would you tell?” (Make a list with your child, including a teacher, the school nurse, and a couple more adults who are not in the family. Encourage your child that if someone needs reminding about the Privates Rule, you want them to tell grown ups.)  No matter how strong your relationship with your child, children will often disclose more readily to a nonfamily adult.
  • “Sometimes kids get tricked into NOT telling. That is why kids never get in trouble about the privates rule. It’s only a rule for grown ups.” (You must give permission for a child to tell you, even if the child feels they gave consent for the abuse, initiated the abuse, or promised not to tell. Pedophiles have lots of strategies to silence children, so we have to make it clear they CAN and SHOULD tell, no matter what.)
  • As much as you may WANT to say something like “I would KILL anyone who touched you!” this backfires, and makes it difficult for kids to tell. So pretend like it would be NO BIG DEAL. This helps kids tell you, so that you can protect them. “If a grown up is breaking the privates rule, they do need to be reminded not to break it. So that is why kids HAVE to tell. So we can make sure the grown up follows the Privates Rule.”
  • An advanced lesson:  “If someone asks you NOT to tell, you can promise not to tell, but then TELL anyways! You can always tell about the privates rule.”
  • Boundaries and consent are ideas that children can learn very early, and which can be reinforced during all the regular interactions of childhood.  Young children can be reminded to follow the Privates Rule with each other, too, so that as they grow older, they have practiced respecting the healthy boundaries about privacy, and consent.  (“If he doesn’t want that hug right now, you can’t hug him.”  “You have to wear undies when friends are over, it’s the Privates Rule!”
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