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Little Girls, College Guys -- and Nervous Parents

By Brian Reid

When we moved, a year ago, there were certain trappings of D.C., that we wanted to maintain. I kept my cellphone number. We held onto our house. And we wanted to work like heck to ensure that our eldest child didn't lose the Spanish skills she'd built up during two years in a dual-language classroom. We dutifully lined up a fabulous tutor and -- a year later -- her Spanish is stronger than ever.

Unfortunately, the unavoidable reality of college towns is that everyone leaves, eventually. Our old tutor had hardly packed her belongings after graduation when we started looking for a replacement. I had a rough set of criteria: the tutor had to be an exceptional speaker, had to be good with kids and had to have the kind of schedule where a year-long commitment wasn't going to end the moment the schoolwork picked up.

It turns out there was also another -- unspoken -- requirement: the tutor ought to be a woman. This was something I felt in my gut, even though I knew it made me a huge hypocrite.

I have written over a thousand blog posts on fatherhood, mostly making the point that there is no reason why guys can't do the childrearing thing as well as women. And I know that unfair stereotypes are a reason why so few men end up in primary education. But it's one thing to defend my days as an at-home dad and another to put an elementary-school girl alone with a college guy for hours a week. Yes, I know the risk is low, but why accept the risk at all?

Still, out of a sense of open-mindedness, I did interview a male tutor earlier this month. He was a lovely kid, well-spoken and polite, bearing a letter of reference from a parent who trusted him to work with her children. While I haven't talked to everyone on my list of candidates, there is no question that he'd make an excellent tutor. It is entirely possible that I'll hire him, even though the idea still makes me uncomfortable.

I'm curious if any of you have had similar experiences. Is it fear-mongering of the worst sort to prevent this sort of one-on-one interaction, or is it a you-can-never-be-too-careful kind of thing?

(Update: I did hire a tutor for my daughter, a sharp, on-the-ball college student, who just happens to be a male.)

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  August 20, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Education , Safety
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Comments


Wow, Brian I am surprised. Would you have the same reaction if this was your daughter's violin teacher? Swim teacher? Karate teacher? etc...

I hate to say this but you have no idea if the female tutor is not a pedaphile or a lesbian into kids thing either. So it is strange you would jump to that idea about a male Spanish tutor.

My guess is most college aged males/females are not sexual perverts. They merely want to earn a few bucks while in school.

I think at the very worst is your daughter develops some sort of crush on her tutor (perfectly normal) and the college tutor will know how to handle and would in no way encourage an inappropriate relationship. This is very common in middle elementary school through high school.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 20, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I'd interview, check references and go with your gut.

As you've noticed, in a college town people come and go. It's not likely he'll be your tutor forever. Men and women have different styles and ways of speaking a language. Moving to a teacher of a different sex could be a positive thing.

I'd evaluate them all and then pick the tutor your daughter gets along with the best.

Posted by: RedBird27 | August 20, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Are you serious? You are dismissing 50% of the college population based on gender? Not only is that undoubtedly the most sexist thing I've heard in a long while, but it is insane to expect the worst out of one tiny, infinitesimal percentage of one group to the extent that you eliminate them all without consideration. Holy cr*p.

Posted by: falltillfly | August 20, 2009 7:50 AM | Report abuse

wow. fear-mongering of the worst sort.

This issue frequently came up in my tutoring work in DC public schools. While the vast majority of our tutors were female, the male tutors did a fabulous job. I'd argue that the male tutors were generally better than the female tutors, because the self-selecting of the process made only guys who really wanted to do it apply. Still, some parets were paranoid--and in our program, tutors were never alone with the children!

My argument, though, is this: how is she ever going to learn to trust and communicate with men if you never give her the option? I feel like the male teachers and coaches I had over the years as a child significantly impacted my adult relationships. I learned how men and women communicate differently. Some of my friends who went to all-girl schools now really struggle forming relationships with men.

Posted by: newslinks1 | August 20, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Not really sure what Brian means by "alone." I'd certainly never hire a male babysitter (bash if you want, I really don't care). But is there really nobody else in the house with the elementary-aged kid?

While the overwhelming majority of men are not sexual predators, virtually all sexual predators are male. You'd have to be insane not to recognize that. While I'd be perfectly comfortable with a male coach, teacher, or other person in charge in a *group setting*, I wouldn't hire an unknown male to be alone with my kids.

Posted by: floof | August 20, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Hit post before I finished my thought...

Assuming someone would be in the house (not sure of the age of the child, but a tutor is not a babysitter), I would hire a man without issues.

Posted by: floof | August 20, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Lets say you were a piano teacher, Spanish tutor or any other kind of teacher that had you teaching one-on-one with a young girl. You OK with not getting female students because you are male? If you think it is fine for others to discriminate against yourself because of your gender then at least you aren't being a hypocrite. Perhaps that gives you some leeway in discriminating against others?

I personally would have a tough time with matching a male tutor with my step-daughter but that issue is entirely mine. As a victim of incest and later sexual assault as an adult, I am afraid I look at the male gender in a slightly different way than most. But I own my own bias in this situation and know that it has to do with my experiences and has little to do with the man I would be interviewing.

Posted by: Billie_R | August 20, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

My Father was an elementary school teacher and my husband is a high school teacher. Both exercise extreme caution and go out of their way to never be alone with students - male or female because of the possibility of being accused of inappropriate conduct. My husband did some tutoring on the side and insisted that the child's parents be at home when he was there. Although it may not be prevalent, (and not to minimize actual instances of abuse) children have been known to lie.
I also have a female cousin who teaches high school and she is also just as cautious and for the same reasons. I think the recent rash of female teachers having relations with male students tells us that abusive behavior is not limited to male on female scenarios.
I guess what I am getting at is that sometimes, the adult is just as worried about the child or parent as the parent is about the adult...at some point, you just have to trust your instincts (and maybe teach your kid how to throw a punch).

Posted by: VaLGaL | August 20, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

floof, check out www.blogcatalog.com/blogs/naughty-neighbors.html It's a site dedicated to documenting female sexual predators. (But, um, don't go there from work, okay? :-)

I've coached young girls in several different sports for years, and the key is to make sure you're NOT alone with somebody else's kid.

Brian, the advice I'd give you is to NOT dismiss the possibility of a male tutor, but also make sure that your daughter is not alone with a male tutor, either. They can meet in a house with you or your spouse there, or in a public setting like a library, or whatever. The tutor should want this as well, both for his own protection and because as somebody else said he's not a babysitter.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 20, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Is it fear-mongering of the worst sort to prevent this sort of one-on-one interaction, or is it a you-can-never-be-too-careful kind of thing?

Definitely fear-mongering.

Posted by: cmk22 | August 20, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

"Fear-mongering" is the wrong word -- but it is hypocritical. You want more men involved with kids, you gotta walk the talk.

Posted by: laura33 | August 20, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Brian - i'm right there with you. i'm a total hypocrite, but i would never hire a male babysitter/tutor/whatever for my girls.

agree with all statements that it's not rational, fair, etc.

i'm a flaming liberal on every social issue out there, but when it comes to my kids i don't give a crap what's right.

just being honest.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Wow.

It's completely hypocritical on every level. Any credibility you had about advocating for the equality of fathers is totally gone.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I think Brian needs to explain whether or not he will be in the house with his daughter during the tutoring.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 20, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

We've has some really great experiences with male helpers at my kids' daycare. I would hire them to babysit. My older daughter has always preferred men and LOVED having them in the classroom. You interview and check references and go with your gut. There are plenty of men AND women I wouldn't like to watch my kids. Everyone is especially freaked by sexual abuse, but I CLEARLY remember those nanny-cam videos of regular old garden variety abuse in the 1990s, especially the one where the nanny was smashing the kid in the head with the phone because he dared to fuss while she was talking to her friend. That image will be with me until the day I die. I wasn't even a parent then and it disturbed me to the core.

Posted by: atb2 | August 20, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I think Brian needs to explain whether or not he will be in the house with his daughter during the tutoring.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 20, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Why wouldn't he be? If the tutoring takes place in an open area with a parent home, the risk of anything happening even if the tutor is a child molestor is pretty much zero. And the chances of the tutor being a child molestor are pretty close to zero to begin with.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

atb- I think sexual abuse is the emphasis here because of the age of the child. (A school-aged child who gets hit in the head with the phone is probably going to tell his parents, but one who is being propositioned may be too embarrassed).

Posted by: floof | August 20, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

is this the same group of posters who, a few months ago, were writing that they wouldn't let their kids use the bathroom alone at Target for fear of molestation????

i guess my comment was based on the scenario that the girls were left alone with the male babysitter. no prob at all hiring a guy if there were other people in the house.

fwiw, i'd rather have the kids beaten with a telephone 100x over than fondled.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Wow--how paranoid and hypocritical. All college aged men are untrustworthy pedophiles? I had tons of male tutors growing up and as the eldest of four girls, so did my sisters. Does that mean that you'd pull your daughters from a class taught by a man?

I agree with RedBird27, introduce all the qualified candidates to your daughter and talk with her about which one she would prefer to work with. Finally, having a good male model around (other than her father) will do your girls a world of good.

Posted by: ajbouche | August 20, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I would let family friends or family watch my children. I would not hire a college student out of a newspaper or even by word of mouth. I don't know someone until I know them, period.

However, I think to assume that a female babysitter is safer is silly. You can leave and she can call over her boyfriend, brother etc.

As far as the tutor goes, I don't see what the big deal is? Are you not going to be home? Are you afraid that you won't here her if she needs you? Why can't she do it in the kitchen while you sit in the living room. I guess I don't even see why this post is neccessary????

Posted by: supersonic2 | August 20, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"i'm a flaming liberal on every social issue out there, but when it comes to my kids i don't give a crap what's right."

that's liberals across the board. rant and rave about the injustice of the system -- but carve out an exception for yourself. classic "good for thee, but not for me" attitude. So if it's okay to discriminate when you make a hiring decision, why isn't it okay for anyone else to do so?

Posted by: NoVAHockey | August 20, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

My parents hired one of my Dad's male graduate students to babysit my brother and I many years ago and we loved him -- he's one of the few babysitters I remember. He taught me to read a slide rule. I don't doubt he's a wonderful Dad to some great kids now.
I think RedBird has the right idea in terms of letting your daughter have a say in the tutor selection.
If you trust your daughter to tell you if she becomes uncomfortable and if she has an easy way to reach out for help to another adult, I'd say give him a chance. Meeting in a library or other public place sounds like a great idea.

Posted by: annenh | August 20, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

ajbouche - i don't think anyone is advocating secluding our kids from all males.

are you comfortable leaving your daughter alone with a male babysitter?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Brian, are you similarly limiting your search by race, based on overall crime statistics? The risk of the tutor robbing your house is low, but why accept the risk at all?

(For the irony-challenged: this is satire).

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 20, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I don't think this is an issue of Brian's willingness to hire a male for a tutor. The real issue here is if Brian can trust a college male with unsupervised access to his daughter on an ongoing basis.

I think Brian has a good reason for his fear and it is far from irrational. This is the exact environment that compells a guy that is young, dumb, and full of come to eventually act "inappropriately". In reading about some of these cases, as in the case of MJ, there is a common theme that crossing the line is something that "just happens". Not that the men who do such things are predatory per sae, but the environment merely presents itself, then instincts take over control (by design) and the situation ends up resulting in incidents of inappropriate behavior.

And if you think you can register a guy's potential for sexual misconduct by a simple interview or base it on family history, statistics say the exact opposite. Unfortunately, children are abused overwhelmingly by the people who are loved and trusted the most. Why? Because the people who are trusted the most spend the most time around children and have the greatest opportunity to instigate the abuse.

Also, I don't think Brian is fear mongering, nor is he hypocritical or sexists. Males and females are different, most noteably in their sexuality and what drives their instincts, and making prudent decisions for one's child based on these facts is nothing but wise parenting.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 20, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Remember too that Melissa Huckaby was a Sunday School teacher before she kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered an eight-year-old girl.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 20, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

So whacky are you saying that a college age guy just won't be able to help him self around a little girl? Every guy out there is just walking around waiting for the first chance to jump on someone because of his sex?

Posted by: supersonic2 | August 20, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

According to Whacky, he and his sons shouldn't be left with his daughters, either.

The kid who was smashed by the phone was an infant, by the way. Which is why I freaked out about it.

I just don't get villainizing all men because a tiny itty bitty minority is evil.

And for the record, the worst (defined by recidivism) male offenders rape boys, not girls. Is it OK to let your boys have male tutors?

Posted by: atb2 | August 20, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

A couple of points of clarification: yes, the two of them would be alone for extended periods. That's what makes it different from a piano/karate/swim teacher.

Also: this would be, essentially, a stranger (at least at first). We've had plenty of male babysitters, but there has always been a pre-existing relationship.

Still, I appreciate the feedback: the overwhelming majority of you seem to think that it's beyond the pale to even think twice about leaving an 8-, 9-, 10-year old with a man twice her age.

-- Brian

Posted by: rebeldad | August 20, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Brian - I completely understand your hesitation. A year ago, my husband and I needed a babysitter for our 3 girls (ages ranging from newborn to 5). We asked EVERY female worker at their daycare center, neighbors, and friends. No one was available. We finally broke down and asked the one male (aged 21 or so) worker at the day care center. I was the hold out -- all the kids loved him -- but I thought there was something weird about a young guy working full time in a day care facility. Turns out, he's just great with kids (oldest in a big family).

He has since become our go-to babysitter, even coming with us on vacation a couple of weeks ago. So, don't ignore your gut (we could be certain, for example, that our guy had passed some kind of background screening because our center is licensed by the state), but do be willing to take a chance, because you may be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by: kalamo | August 20, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Whacky's weighed in, so we're only waiting for pwaa and jezebel to complete the third circle of Hell.

I don't see the connection to the discussion of unaccompanied kids at the restroom at Target. In this instance, one person is interviewed, references are checked, and a decision is made that he is the appropriate person for the job -- all facts and other parents' experiences considered. At Target, the problem is that I do not know who is in the restroom, have no opportunity to vet their background or check references. I'd be glad to let my child visit the restroom at Target unaccompanied if the other occupants had to go through the rigorous reference-checking and interview process we use to select babysitters and tutors.

I also don't understand why supposedly educated adults have this gut trust of women they don't know being left alone with their kids. Trust no one. Verify always.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 20, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

i guess i just don't believe that you can detect if someone is a child molester from an interview.

i get it that it's an irrational, sexist, hypocritical stance. but for me, avoiding the .00001% of guys who are sick is worth it.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"yes, the two of them would be alone for extended periods."

Brian, if you decide to hire the male, your not only asking for trouble, you are begging for it.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 20, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Brian, a lot of music lessons are kids being dropped off at the instructors home and left there. So they would be compeletly alone with their teacher.

But my question is why do these Spanish lessons need to be with out your supervision? Why wouldn't they take place in your home while you or your wife is in and out going about your normal business?

Posted by: foamgnome | August 20, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

avoiding the .00001% of women who are sick isn't on your to-do list?

You should be questioning your process for vetting and selecting those with whom you leave your child if it pretty much comes down to excluding men. That's not much of a safety filter.

If any cousin, niece or nephew, or any person that someone you know knows or has used before is qualified -- and you don't do personal reference calls and follow-ups, or check any public databases, or make sure they have recently worked for an employer who does drug and criminal background checks, and you don't ask questions or follow-up on inconsistent statements, or you don't even have a list of questions you use when conducting interviews, then you ought to ask, "why"? Why is my child's safety not worth taking the time to discover all relevant facts about the people with whom I leave her? Why am I not using a more sophisticated screening mechanism than, I never left her with a boy or man?

Posted by: anonfornow | August 20, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Obviously this is an irrational fear. The number of men who are predators of children and the number of women who are predators of children are both so vanishingly small as to be insignificant. Brian puts his daughter far more at risk every time he straps her in the car.

Statistically speaking, the person who by far would be the most likely to rape Brian's daughter is Brian himself. If he and his wife really wanted to be rational about keeping the daughter safe, he shouldn't be left alone with her either. And of course any female stranger might be Melissa Huckaby, so the rational approach to tutoring would be for Brian's wife to learn Spanish and then tutor the daughter herself.

Brian, your prejudices are what they are. But the next time you hear someone saying "I don't want Hispanics cleaning my house, because they'll steal," or "I won't send my child to public school with all those black people," or "a woman's place is in the home," or "hard-working Americans are getting robbed by the Jews who run this country," I hope you'll recognize that your fears come from the same place.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 20, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

And let's not forget that the next time you complain about SAH dads not getting the respect they deserve, remember that you are part of the problem.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"the overwhelming majority of you seem to think that it's beyond the pale to even think twice about leaving an 8-, 9-, 10-year old with a man twice her age."

Didn't say it was beyond the pale -- didn't even say you should hire the guy. Your kid's safety comes first; if you don't think a male tutor is safe, then don't do it.

But if that's really what you think, then perhaps you should rethink this whole dad blog thing. When your gut instinct to a man -- ANY man -- caring for your child is "no way," then that tells me that you believe that a man in general poses a threat to your kids that a woman doesn't, just because of the difference in gender. And if that's what you really think, then why in the world are you out there advocating for men to be given more respect and responsibility with kids? Sounds a whole lot like you're saying that other parents should willingly subject their kids to a risk that you're not willing to accept yourself.

Posted by: laura33 | August 20, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Very well said Laura.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Why is that everyone is just worried about little girls and men caregivers/tutors? Little boys are in just as much danger from men they are entrusted to.

It's a judgement call as far as I am concerned. Everyone tries to put the media stories in their place but they seem to permeat our senses sometimes, much like the kidnapping discussions.

I can't say whether we would or would not use a man for a tutor or caregiver, there are too many ifs and buts in these theoretical discussions. We know a handful of HS and college aged boys thru my niece and nephew and I can't think of one that gives me concern, but I haven't had to rely on them for care or otherwise.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 20, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

"that tells me that you believe that a man in general poses a threat to your kids that a woman doesn't..."

The ratio of men, as compared to women, commit violent and sexually motivated crimes at a ratio of about 20 to 1.

Even in professional circles, such as the health care industry, when it comes down to a male doctor examining a female patient, a female nurse is also required to be present during the time of the examination. Genderwise, it doesn't go the other way around.

Making a decision about the gender of one' child's caretaker in terms of safety on a basis of a 20 to 1 track record, or following the same guidelines that doctors do is anything *BUT* irrational. Sure, fathers can and should participate in the hands on stuff with their own kids, but other than that, when it comes to developing a one on one relationship with children and an authority figure in an unsupervised environment with direct access to a young child, it's best, (or certainly the safest) to let those tasks up to a woman. My opinion is based on sound logic, not some arbitrary personal idiology.

Sure, males can still safely participate in childcare and role modeling just as much as females do, but a few specific activities, due to the nature of our gender, should be simply off limits.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 20, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

how many people advising Brian to resign have ever hired a man to babysit or nanny?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

This is such a weird conversation today.

Older son - the one with autism - has had mostly male aides in his main-streaming full-inclusion program at school. Their job has included accompanying him to the locker room when he dresses out for P.E. (protecting him from harassment by other students). These guys have consistently been *great*. We're really hoping that one of the aides from the last two years will stick around for our boy's senior year - although he's made it pretty clear that he's feeling ready to move on with his career.

To be completely fair, each of the first two years in the program, older son had a female aide. Each of those years, the young woman was taking a break between finishing her bachelor's and starting her master's program, and getting some real-world experience in their field, psychology. Both of them were incredibly good aides, too.

We've had a male sitter for the boys - someone we'd known since he was 14-15, although he was in his mid-20's when he was sitting with the boys.

Older son's piano teacher is male, and although I usually hang out reading a book during lessons, there's never been any problem with dropping off the kid at the teacher's house, and coming back later to pick him up.

Younger son's guitar teacher is also male, and the supervision of his lessons was similar. But those lessons were at a music school near a shopping district, and it was more convenient to walk to the book store, video rental, or the high-end groncery store, so younger son got unsupervised lessons more frequently.

Yes, there are possible risks when we leave our kids with other people - but the risks are vanishingly small. So, the choice seems to me to be between over-protecting our children and severely limiting their experiences of the world, or trusting our judgement ("trust your gut"), checking references and backgrounds, and giving kids more opportunities.

Some parents are *way* more risk-averse than DH and I are, and they'll make a different choice than we have. (note - DH was sexually abused by a 16-y-o patient while he was incarcerated in a mental hospital at age 10 - we fully understand the risks!) We've chosen opportunities, where others would choose absolute safety (or as close as they can get).

Brian's weighing the same choice, and I suspect he's going to end up on the opportunity side of the equation, but if he doesn't... (shrugs shoulders)

Posted by: SueMc | August 20, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Brian said off the bat that his feelings ran contrary to his general view on male involvement with kids and that is WHY he was writing about this. He asked for others' views on this issue and instead got rants and name calling. Way to go, readers.


He didn't dismiss all men for all purposes with all children. He expressed concern over hiring one man he didn't know who would be alone with his child. Again, he asked for your thoughts on this because he was struggling with his feelings vs. his intellectual knowledge. More rants. Nice.

We should be having an honest discussion about a very tough, very charged subject that WE ALL THINK ABOUT. That's what furthers sex equity, not dismissing the thoughts and struggles of people who are working toward it.


Posted by: sigh3 | August 20, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Good choice Brian, despite what all these anonymous, unaccountable posters say you have just eliminated any risk that a male pervert might take advantage of your young daughter. The woman as equal potential pedophile is laughable. Telling your little girl that you wanted to be open minded is a pi$$ poor excuse for having her life ruined.

Posted by: pwaa | August 20, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

lol -

sigh3,
well said.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 20, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Hoo boy. Let me take a step back here.

To Laurea33: Nowhere have I said that I would never have a male alone with my kids (heck, we may very well hire the guy I'm writing about). My eldest, in particular, had has plenty of male caregivers. It's not about *any* man. It's that, when choosing among what are essentially strangers, is to think harder about hiring a man than a woman. I know this is irrational and unfair (that's why I'm blogging about it). What's fascinating (and heartening) to me
is that so many readers don't have that moment of pause.

To cheekymonkey: I'm speaking to my personal situation: I have two girls. I have no idea if I'd feel differently if I had boys.

To foamgnome: The reality is that I will usually, though not always, be around. But that seems secondary: either I have reason to worry or I don't. Whether I feel comfortable shouldn't depend on whether I'm there or not.

Posted by: rebeldad | August 20, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Remember too that Melissa Huckaby was a Sunday School teacher before she kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered an eight-year-old girl.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 20, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse


this is the biggest bunch of drivel. the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are men. to say well a woman did it too ignores the statistical reality of the situation. alarming how these ninnies need to be enlightened and seen as open minded people outweighs the reponsibilty of ensuring their children's welfare. disgusting really.

Posted by: pwaa | August 20, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Brian, appreciate your last response. I guess I was thrown by the "why accept the risk at all?" bit; it just seems to me that even assuming there's an inherent risk based on gender alone undercuts a lot of what you've otherwise stood for. I appreciate that you're thinking about it, evaluating it, and challenging your gut reaction, though.

Whacky -- sorry, my comment wasn't directed at you; you've always been 100% consistent in your beliefs and actions on this issue. I may make a different choice, but I'd never call you a hypocrite.

This whole debate seems to be one of perspective -- do you focus on the ratio of men/women who are arrested and prosecuted for sexual abuse, or do you look at the overall likelihood? To make a silly comparison, I bought $4 in MegaMillions tickets this morning; my odds of winning are now 4X as high as if I'd just bought one, but as to my actual likelihood of winning, well, let's just say I'm not quitting my day job. :-)

Oh, and FWIW, yeah, I have used a male sitter.

My own hangup isn't with the male/female thing, it is with any one person being alone with my kid for days on end -- like atb, those nanny-cam things made an impression on me. That's one of the reasons both of our kids went the daycare route; it's not a guarantee, but it does provide some added insurance.

Posted by: laura33 | August 20, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"Even in professional circles, such as the health care industry, when it comes down to a male doctor examining a female patient, a female nurse is also required to be present during the time of the examination. Genderwise, it doesn't go the other way around."

Male doctors make this choice at the advice of the malpractice insurers. Malpractice insurers spend a lot of money defending baseless lawsuits. Using a defensive measure by physicians to discourage baseless claims and control costs -- having a witness in the examining to counter fraudulent "he said, she said" claims of improper activity -- as a basis for implying that there is a "requirement" that female nurses be in the room in order to keep those randy doctors in line is not only ludicrous, it is illogical.

welcome back, pATRICK. Oops. "pwaa". Same topic, different year.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 20, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

This discussion to a certain extent mirrors one I've been having with a good friend of mine. We both have children ages 4 and 6. I have two boys and she has a boy and a girl.

I have been shocked by her unwillingness to allow her daughter to play at a house with a stay-at-home dad. She also will not invite the dad in when he picks up his children if she is in the house alone with the kids. Perhaps this has been addressed in the past, but as a stay at home dad, do you find families reluctant to leave their girls in your care?

Posted by: kiehn | August 20, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I was molested as a young girl by the man who lived across the street. I am therefore extra cautious when it comes to the safety of my 2 young girls. I realize I cannot protect them at all times. A friend's daughter was attempted to be lured away at our branch library by what appeared to be a 13-14 year old boy (I guess sex predators have to start somewhere....). I exercise caution at all times.

That said, I think the best defense is for me to teach my daughters about inappropriate touches and to keep an open dialogue about these types of issues. Sex predators often groom their victims for some time before any actual abuse takes place--almost like courting. I was once told that any adult who PREFERS the company of children over that of adults should be suspect. The coach who wants to spend his weekends socializing with his team, inviting members over to hang out and watch TV. The counselor who assures his victims that he truly understands them--and that their parents do not. Children without attentive parents are especially at risk to this type of grooming.

I think I would be just as vigilant if I had sons, as they are also at risk to this type of abuse.

I would hire a male tutor for my kids, but would try to be in the house during the sessions, and would be sure to have my feelers out for anything that just didn't feel right.

Posted by: Jaybird5 | August 20, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are men. to say well a woman did it too ignores the statistical reality of the situation.

Posted by: pwaa | August 20, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

If we are talking about "statistical reality", as has been pointed out, the most likely person to molest Brian's daughter is Brian himself.

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

And yes, we have hired male baby sitters to watch our kids (one of which is a girl).

Posted by: dennis5 | August 20, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I've always had what could possibly be a misguided belief that male pedophiles could do more physical damage than female pedophiles...
I think we'd use a highly recommended male baby sitter, but not when my 13 yr old DSD is around.
Flip side, given her history of inappropriate touch with her baby sister, I would never recommend my DSD for a job as a baby sitter.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | August 20, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"how many people advising Brian to resign have ever hired a man to babysit or nanny? "

me.

Next question?

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 20, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Why are you thinking so much about the gender of the person you are hiring? If you have a negative feeling about an individual, do not hire that person. Get references and actually talk to the people doing the recommending (a lot of people ask for references, get a list of people, but neglect to contact any), and until you get to know the person, do not leave them alone with your child. Walk in unexpectedly occasionally. Talk to your child about the sessions.
It's really not so complicated and discriminating against half of the population based on gender is wrong, no matter which way it goes.

Posted by: rh36 | August 21, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I have to jump in and say I would not hire a male babysitter to be alone with my girls. I am just too paranoid about that. I know too many women who were molested as children. Those scars may fade, but never go away. I know I can't completely eliminate those risks, but why set up an opportunity?

I would hire a male tutor, music teahcer or whatever if I were going to be in the house. I would use the same criteria to pick him as I would a female applying for the same position.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | August 21, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

As a SAHD, it is so painful to read this. If you of all people are still so trapped by these stereotypes, then what hope do we (I!) have that attitudes will ever change?

I guess when it comes to being trusted with other people's children, we have to accept that some things are just not going to change in our lifetime. As SAHD's or male caregivers, we will forever be applauded in abstract, tolerated at a distance, and quietly unwanted in person.

Lastly, to these posters who say "go with your gut" or "trust your instincts", you are just making discrimination seem more palatable. But we all know that instinct is the place where discrimination gets its power. And you may not feel like your personal contribution to this discrimination is important. But as in any other area, discrimination is not perpetuated by the extremist but by the daily reticence of the average person, whose rational mind wants to leap toward great progress but whose gut won't budge that one little inch.

Posted by: markb3 | August 23, 2009 12:05 AM | Report abuse

The fear works both ways, I'm afraid. When i was growing up, my father used to take me or my sister with him when he had to do work on our rental properties and enter the separate homes so he'd never 'be alone' with a tenant just in case an accusation was made... People are funny, and not always in a good way.

Posted by: raynecloud | August 24, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

The "overwhelming majority" of child sex abusers are not male as many ignorant observers here seem to believe.

Female perpetrators are responsible for at least a quarter of instances and are likely to number about a third of all perpetrators.

Readers taking to heart Brian Reid's message do so at their childrens' peril. Why? Male perpetrators do indeed commit three offences to every one committed by females. However among female perpetrators eight to ten percent are in teaching roles compared to fewer than one percent for male perpetrators. I can't speak specifically of tutors but in school settings adult female perpetrators are likely to outnumber the male variety by about three to one.

I would also point out that outside the immediate domestic environment the most likely victim of child sexual abuse is a boy rather than a girl.

The ignorance and prejudices of our communities continue to do a disservice to all victims.

Posted by: gwallan | August 24, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

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