It’s reported that 3 out of 4 sexually abused children get victimized by someone they know.
Most of the time abuse doesn’t just happen, predators use grooming behavior to gain trust and lure children in gradually.
That’s why knowing the signs of grooming behavior is so important for parents to know.
Recognizing these clues during the early stages can stop grooming behavior and prevent your child from going through a traumatic experience.
To keep your children safe, let’s look at 10 signs of grooming behavior.
10 Signs of Grooming Behavior to Recognize to Keep Your Kids Safe
Seeks Out and Gives Special Attention to Your Child
Giving a child attention isn’t something to worry about.
It’s when an adult goes out of their way to be with your child and shower them with special attention that red flags should go up.
Predators often target vulnerable children.
The child might live in a single-parent home or one where the parents work long hours.
This gives the predator an opportunity to come in and fill a void.
Has Them Believe They Are BFFs
Establishing a close bond with your child is important to a predator.
They actively seek out what your child’s interests and hobbies are in order to form things they have in common.
When they know what your child likes, a predator will say something like, “That’s my favorite candy too!” or “I love that band, we should go to a concert together!”.
Once they establish that connection, they will have your child believing they are best friends.
Becomes Useful to the Family
Not only does a predator want to gain the trust of your child, but an important part of grooming behavior will also ensure they gain the trust of their parents.
One way of doing this is to become useful to the family.
You’ll notice they do anything possible to make your lives easier.
Whether it be offering to give your children rides to school or practice, fixing things around the house, and providing emotional or financial support when needed.
They will go out of their way to become your friend, making you think they can do no wrong.
Buys Your Child Gifts
Giving gifts to a child on a birthday or during the holidays isn’t a red flag.
What is worrisome is if an adult is giving gifts on a regular basis, for no reason at all.
Predators like to give gifts to build trust and develop an emotional connection with a child.
These gifts can start off simple, such as candy, but develop into more elaborate and expensive items.
Finds Ways to Be Alone with Your Child
A key part of grooming is for a predator to find ways of being alone with your child.
They’ll do this in a way that seems natural or that it’s helping you out.
A predator will offer to babysit a lot.
They may want to take your child out to a movie or ask if your child can come over to their house to play video games.
Anything that gives them one-on-one access.
When an adult expresses unusual interest in being alone with a child that’s not theirs, that’s a red flag.
Convinces Your Child They Have a Special Bond
When a predator targets a vulnerable child, they will do whatever it takes to form a special bond between the two of them.
They might tell them that they understand them more than their parents do.
It’s also common to bond over similar experiences, with a predator saying, “I understand, I felt the same way when I was your age”.
Predators offer understanding and sympathy to gain access to your child and keep them coming back for more.
Has Contact with Your Child When You’re Not Around
Another big red flag is when an adult has regular contact with your child when you’re not around.
That could include phone calls and text messages, but also watch out for contact online.
Sending emails or messaging through social media outlets is a backdoor approach to connecting with your child without you knowing.
Online video games are another way for a predator to gain access to your children.
Touches or Hugs Child in Front of Parents
Testing boundaries is another part of grooming behavior.
In order for a predator to convince a child that touching is ok, they will begin to “innocently” touch a child in front of their parents.
It also tests the parent’s reaction and gradually gets the parents use to the behavior.
It might begin as a hug, rubbing the back, or holding hands.
Then progress to tickle games or giving massages.
Touching allows the predator to push boundaries and see how far they can go until the child or the parents are uncomfortable.
Tells Your Child Dirty Jokes
As the grooming behavior progresses, a predator will want a child to feel less inhibited.
They’ll begin to talk about sex as a way to desensitize them and play on their natural curiosity.
It could involve telling dirty jokes or showing them pornography.
Sexual games might come into play.
Take notice if your child starts to uncharacteristically talk about sex or display unusual sexual behavior.
If you sense something isn’t right, study what the sex abuse law in your area is so you know your options and rights.
Keeps Secrets with Your Child
A common way a predator likes to gain trust is to have secrets with your child.
It could be something innocent or personal, but they use it to form a bond that only involves the two of them.
Innocent secrets can progress to ones meant to cover up abusive acts.
They’ll say things like, “No one understands except us” to make a child feel isolated.
Talk to your children to keep an open channel of communication.
Make sure they know they can tell you anything without getting into trouble.
Keep Sexual Predators Away by Understanding Grooming Behavior
Talk to your children to make sure they know what behavior is appropriate and what is not.
Knowing the signs of grooming behavior will help keep your family safe and secure.
Looking for more ways to keep your children safe at home?
Check out the articles on our Home Remodel and Home Repair blog!