A teen and “shop talk”, how would you handle this?

    My youngest son, who is a senior this year (17/18yo), works at what is basically a mechanic shop, the same company his oldest brother works for (but he doesn’t work in the shop.)  In a span of one week, he has come home with a couple of stories of things he has been exposed to in the sexual nature. The first thing was some kind of video/gif/photo of the backside of a man with a cucumber up his rear.  Then he had a calendar of women, thankfully not nude, but in “swimsuits” put on/in his tool box. This has been done by the same man, whom he works with the most and I am told is friendly. He even took my son to lunch for his birthday.  I know that there’s coarse joking and such there, and these things are probably common in this kind of environment, but it bothers me, especially when he was legally a minor with the first incident.   

    How would you handle this if it was your child?  Would it be no big deal?  How would you advise him?  Would you do anything as the parent of this high schooler?

     

    A side note, which may make me a little more sensitive to this is my husband’s first exposure to porn, and the beginning of an addiction, was in the shop of his dad’s work place.

    Under the stars Asked on September 21, 2020 in Children.
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      Yep, there is probably going to be some “hazing” in an auto shop or similar work environment. Lots of ways to approach this – from Laisse Fare to helicopter mode.  Bottom line, you will not always be there and he has to figure out how to handle it on his own – eventually. Guide him with that in mind. If he is planning to go into this area of work for a career, he needs to have a firm understanding of what his stance will be and why – because that stuff isn’t going away. Then give him direction in how to make that stand, whatever it is. All the way up to busting some dude in the nose if he won’t back off. Since it is just this one guy at this point, I would advise him to simply say to the guy “I appreciate you’re efforts to help me fit in, but I would prefer not to be a part of such crude humor or suggestive things. Let’s share hunting stories instead.” It can be done in such a way as not to alienate him from his coworkers. Hopefully, his general good influence will spread. He also needs to know that if negative things start to happen, he needs to contact company personnel if this is a corporate or large franchise type shop. But either way, momma needs to keep separate from the situation. Dad may choose to get involved as long as he doesn’t emasculate the boy in the process.  The world is cruel and harsh. Our job is to make our children strong and able to handle this world on their own, be resilient, able to fail without collapse and know where they stand on any subject given they have already answered the big questions in their minds.

      Blanket on a secluded beach! Answered on September 22, 2020.
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        It is great that he comes to his parents for wisdom and advice.  I agree with the above that it is best to prepare him to deal with difficult things like this so that he is capable of handling what he will surely run into in this broken world.  Like the others, I’m a bit concerned about the guy who took him to lunch.  Probably he is just inappropriately messing with him, but that doesn’t mean your son shouldn’t be prepared or have a plan if the guy goes out of bounds with him.

        There are too many people in this world looking to do evil, so my trust level when it involves protecting kids/young adults is pretty low with people I don’t know extremely well.  Your son is at an age where he should firmly tell the other guys that he isn’t entertained with this stuff.  They should perceive that he isn’t happy about it in a “don’t push me” sort of way, not a “I don’t know how to deal with this” sort of way.  This type of attitude discourages stuff like this if anything does.  His demeanor should be “I’m not going to be messed with or bend on this.”  Resolute.  If someone goes out of bounds with him, he should have a plan (fight/leave) instead of not knowing how to respond.

        On the floor Answered on September 22, 2020.
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          @Bill (and others), I can’t really say he came to us for advice or wisdom. He rides to and from work with his brother. He told his brother and his brother brought it up to us, with laughter.

          He is not the personality to be confrontive (a pleaser), but if any of my boys would stand firm on doing the right thing, it would be him. I know with the cucumber incident, as soon as he realized what he was looking at, he backed off. With the calendar, he just put it back on the guys toolbox.

          My boys don’t seem to concerned about it, they see it as “joking”…. but I also saw harassment as “normal” too. I will watch to see if this is just temporary behavior, or if it continues to escalate. If it escalates, I will be putting more pressure on the guys on my end of things (hub/son) to do something. And no matter his age, he is still in high school and a dependent of ours, therefore still under our parenting/authority umbrella. We could make him quit, if we desired. The VP and HR lady (both Christians), know my husband now and have had multiple talks with him.

          Under the stars Answered on September 23, 2020.

          Thanks for the clarification; I understand your perspective better.  So is the issue about protecting your son, or is more about your own feelings toward these sorts of images, a male-dominated workplace culture that seems to accept them, and how it triggers your own past traumatic experiences?

          I think all men need to develop their own resilience and attitude toward sexualized and crude images – when to ignore/walk away; when to confront; etc.; just as one learns to deal with difficult people in general.  A lot depends on context and your son is old enough that he should be developing  that skill, ideally with the support of his older brothers and father. Because it’s going to come back in many forms over his life.

          But I also get from your statement above about “putting more pressure on the guys on my end” that you are worried that they aren’t taking this as seriously as you do, and it is triggering your own past experience – which was definitely harassment or even assault.  I hope that isn’t the case and that they do take you seriously; in return, you may have to trust them (all of them) that they are doing their best as men to navigate the situation in an appropriate, mature, and Christian way.

           

           

          on September 23, 2020.

          Hey Bill, I think the biggest issue is about protecting my son, and part of this is about how wrong it is that this kind of thing would even have to be faced and dealt with….I guess I expect adults to act like adults around minors.   And just so you and others know, my history is just that, my history.  I didn’t consider it traumatic back then and I don’t now either.

          In reply to your last paragraph…. no, I don’t think they are taking it serious enough.  I don’t think they have thought beyond the actual incident, to all the ripple effects that could come from it, or the potential danger it could signify.

          About 4 years ago, I had another eye opening experience.  Our 15 yo at the time, was having a gal in her early-/mid- 20’s, in our church, come on to him, and making comments about going out, kissing, and was flirting with him, Sunday after Sunday.  It made him uncomfortable. Maybe most guys find that flattering.  And as parents who are church leaders, we had to try to figure out how to deal with that.  Our first instinct was just to tell our son how to deal with it, what to say and how to remove himself from the situation.  But then I had to ask my husband…. if this was a 15yo girl who was not our kid, and a 23-25yo male was treating her the same exact way that this female was treating our son, would you and the church leadership be okay with that?  Would we just tell the girl how to “handle the situation” and do or say nothing to the man?  So, why is that okay for our son, because the sexes are reversed?   That reasoning opened my husband’s eyes to see the severity of what was taking place, and that the church leadership needed to take action.  Since then, I have had a fire in me around situations like this.

          My whole parenthood has been about preparing my kids on how to handle the world.  BUT I think I am getting a little tired of just “handling things” by being reactionary, and that we actually need to start standing up and pushing back against the wrong, in a God-honoring way, of course.

          on September 23, 2020.
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            Not sure exactly how I would handle it.  My first response would be for his father to have a “chat” with the man,  but that could backfire a number of ways.

            Honestly,  I think the best thing you could do would be to encourage your son to speak up,  and let him know that both you and his father have his back.  If he speaks up and it is resolved,  then nothing else need be done.  If he speaks up and the harassment continues, or worse, intensifies,  your son should speak to the employer.  I suspect that if the employer got involved,  the behavior would probably come to a screeching halt.  If that failed.  then there is the option of threatening legal action,  or just seeking employment elsewhere,  or a combination of the two.

            On the floor Answered on September 23, 2020.
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              I applaud your son for talking to you about this, you must have good communication lines established. I would find out if it really bothers him enough for you to get involved. It would be a good time to talk about “choosing his battles.” The sad truth is most likely he would be ostracized and ridiculed for making a stink about this and his employment with the company could become unbearable. Is it right that this stuff goes on? No. Is it worth taking it to the supervisor? I would let your son decide. We would like to protect and shelter our kids, but at some point we have to trust we have instilled good values which will protect them inwardly from all the garbage they encounter outwardly.

              Queen bed Answered on September 23, 2020.
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