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My son, B., has a close friend, G., and a class mate, M. They are all eight years old.

It has come to my attention that M. has offered G. money, if G. would hit himself. G. did and used the money to buy some sweets. Another time, while they were in their underwear in the locker room after sports, M. offered both B. and G. 50 cents each, if they would pull down their underwear and show him their penises. Both B. and G. complied, and M. bought them sweets at a gas station on their way home.

G.'s parents are all wrought up about this. They feel that being curious about each other's bodies is fine, but that the offer of payment involves an element of power that they find problematic. They are also afraid that their son might become the victim of a child molester, who, they think, might also offer sweets or money.

I'm not sure how I want to feel about this. The "money, if you hit yourself" feels degrading to me, but mostly I feel that there is a problem on M.'s part that needs to be addressed, while the money for nudity doesn't bother me much. Our family often spend part of their holidays at a nude beach. And I'd pull my pants down for a hundred dollars, also. I'd find it weird that someone would want to pay me for that, but it wouldn't affect me at all. I'd guess my son, who loves to run around naked at home, would have soon forgot the whole incident, if all the parents hadn't made such a drama of this.

What should I do?

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Is this a problem?

My personal feeling is that, yes it is. The issue here is one potentially of child abuse -- not your children, but of M. I would question whether M has been subjected to inappropriate requests, or even subject to CSE. It could actually be nothing, but if M is being abused at home or elsewhere it could save M years of hurt if things were actually flagged up and potentially stopped. Of course, it could just be an eight-year-old being silly, but it's actually not up to anyone to be silent because it could be explained away. Rather a false positive than years of unstopped normalised torture.

What to do?

Your child does need appropriate boundaries to protect himself. Teaching a child that, in your case, "You can be naked in the house, or when we go to the special beach or in the shower at school when you're having a shower but it's not really ok to be naked at other times. Your body is yours, not anyone else's." This is actually to protect your son, which is much better than normalising a behaviour that could actually turn quite abusive, if it isn't already.

Incentivise him getting money for good things that respect his body. Have a pot of money that he gets if he does chores etc, and if he does anything that results in him being paid for showing his body or hurting himself then take it out of the pot, so he doesn't gain anything from it. (he still has to do whatever chores etc). Just continue to make sure he knows his body is his and not anyone else's, and that he can say "No, what a silly thing to give money for."

One of the other issues is that it's almost a grooming precedent. I understand you have a relaxed view of nakedness, as do I with our kids, but they do have a boundary that their bodies are their bodies, and not for others enjoyment/whatever. The very fact that you've put the question on here indicates you definitely care and that's brilliant.

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    I can make pretty good guess at what CSE means, but could you please expand the acronym? – user11394 Mar 24 '15 at 15:33
  • @CreationEdge Child Sexual Exploitation. Sorry, didn't mean obfuscate. – David Boshton Mar 24 '15 at 15:37
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    "... it's almost a grooming precedent. " +1. If this behavior is normalized, how will he be able to tell it's wrong if a teen or an adult does it? – anongoodnurse Mar 24 '15 at 18:02

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