Dear Margo: To Mention or Not To Mention Disturbing Behavior?

One of my sons playmates is overly sexualized, how do I tell his parents? Margo Howard’s advice

To Mention or Not To Mention Disturbing Behavior?

Dear Margo: I live in an affluent community where my 7-year-old son has many playmates. Directly across the street is one of his closest friends, “Sam,” 8, who’s the youngest of three boys. I know the parents, etc. Sam has recently started acting out. It’s nothing serious, but he often does hip thrusts toward others. I initially thought it was the result of the “I’m sexy and I Know It” video. However, this past weekend, my son told me that Sam said he’d performed oral sex on his brother.

What do I do here? I don’t want to shirk any responsibility, but I don’t know what to do or how. I’m not close to the parents, although we do talk. Is this normal childhood experimentation? What do I do with this information? And should I worry about my son being unsupervised around these kids? — Alarmed Mom

Dear Alarm: An 8-year-old who is this sexualized is getting input from somewhere. Either he is being molested (possibly by that brother?), or he has unfettered access to porn, which I somehow doubt. Playing doctor is one thing, but fellating a brother is quite something else. I would risk being rebuffed and approach the mother. Tell her what you’ve observed and what you’ve been told. She deserves to know. Then let the chips fall where they may. With luck, the “chips” will fall into a child psychiatrist’s office.

As for your own son, I doubt he’s in any danger because his telling you proves he knows there’s something wrong with the situation. For good measure, explain to him that his buddy’s behavior is nothing that children his age do and there’s definitely something wrong. — Margo, preventively

Things Best Decided Before Committing

Dear Margo: I am trying to figure out whether to break up with my amazing long-term boyfriend. The short of it is he has very suddenly (like on a trip home one weekend without me) decided he wants kids, after telling me for the longest time that he would be happy either way. As for me, I am deeply undecided on the issue, and despite having tried to badger myself into wanting what he wants, I can’t seem to do it. I don’t rule children out, and the idea of adopting appeals to me on an intellectual level. But all the arguments I’ve heard for having children seem pretty sentimental, while the ones against seem more rational.

He is saying this is “not a deal breaker” for him. I have attempted to tease out why he feels this way, and what he says boils down to his being incredibly happy with me and children being something he doesn’t need “right now.” It’s this latter thing that worries me. If he broke up with me over this issue, I would feel that he was prioritizing a potential relationship with someone who doesn’t even exist over me. It’s the suddenness of my boyfriend’s decision that has thrown me for a loop. — Spooked

Dear Spook: Reading between the lines, I would venture that, right now, you do not see yourself as a mother, and you believe he will love you less if he loves a child. While I find your thinking about primacy and different kinds of love unrealistic and perhaps competitive, these are your thoughts, and I respect that. There are women who think “absolutely not me,” and then, often by accident, they have a child and wonder how they ever could have thought as they did. For now, until both of you figure out what you do want, I would coast. Time has a way of revealing answers that often seem unknowable. I do feel strongly, however, that the issue must be resolved before you move to the next phase. — Margo, decisively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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83 comments so far.

  1. avatar mjd4 says:

    LW1 – a 7 year old told you that an 8 year old told him that he had oral sex with his brother.  There is plenty of room for confusion here.  Do either of them have any idea what oral sex even means?  

    Not that there is no cause for alarm.  Even a kid who has been exposed to a lot of inappropriate language would not necessarily come up with a story like that.  Even if the oral sex with brother part is nto true, there could something going on.  This is definitely a warning sign.  Not to mention, there is the possibility that it is the literal truth.  

    By the way, in a long-ago column, there seemed to be some confusion about when to call CPS.  A number of commenters felt that you should be sure you know what is going on before you make that call.  But CPS will not take any action based on your conclusions.  CPS doesn’t even want to know your conclusions – they want to know what you heard or saw.  Then they decide if it merits an investigation, and then they make the determination.   

  2. avatar mjd4 says:

    ” I would venture that … you believe he will love you less if he loves a child”  

    Um, that is quite a leap.  

  3. avatar Lym BO says:

    For those who are suggesting the molested bout might be making it up I would doubt it unless the kid is the type who constantly tries to shock others. 
    We had an incident in our school when my son was a KINDERGARTENER where one boy had another boy give him a BJ in the bathroom. Flipped me out because at the time, I could totally seeing my kid being coerced into this. Boys on the bus paid him a dime to kiss an older boy & he did it without a second thought. It was a dime after all. FOr those who no longer have small kids, a dime is the same as a one million dollar bill to a young kid. They also had him pay them a quarter to make paper airplanes.   Kids are naive and if they aren’t taught wrong and right they know no different. Who knew this needed to be taught in kindergarten. Nonetheless, the kid was removed from the school at the urging of many of the parents. I hope the kid got the help he so desperately needed & not just shuffled to the next school.   
    As for little Sam, supervised play for sure and no contact with the older brothers. As Briana mentioned once the mother knows she will likely cut off her boy. Some parents believe no negatives about their children, others can not be so defensive. It’s a tough call whether to contact the mother. As a mother, I would want to know & deal with it privately. Telling her is the route I would likely go. Even if she denies it hopefully that is only her front & she will deal with it.
     The easiest option outside telling mother or calling CPS is to have your son tell his teacher or counselor so they can investigate. Sam will know who told so there’s that, but he will get counseling.  And any healthcare or education person is required to report to CPS. 
    I will say a boy was calling my son a nasty name (at 7) involving the F word. His Liuetenant police mom drilled him & reported back to me that her son claimed he never did & she believed him. My kid didn’t know what it meant nor had ever heard it before so I know he wasn’t making it up. THe kid’s father uses it every other word so it’s pretty believable.