Grooming is the main way predators manipulate their targets to gain their trust and then take advantage of them. Predators are pros at quickly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen targets and deciding which tactics will be the most effective for each child.

According to Steve Kovacs, author of Protect Your Kids! The Simple Keys to Children’s Safety and Survival, the child may crave attention, acceptance, love, or friendship. He may have material needs, like the need for money, food, or clothes. Or the child may covet luxury items, such as digital or electronic games and movies.

Kovacs notes that pedophiles work hard to learn the names of the popular rock or rap stars, the latest fashions, and who stars in kids’ favorite television shows or movies so they can be seen as “cool” and relatable. When a predator showers a child with attention and gifts, the child feels grateful and may feel guilty if he doesn’t reciprocate by providing affection to or keeping a secret for the predator. The perp will try to meet as many of the child’s needs as he can, all the while patiently plotting to assault him in the future.

What Grooming May Look Like

According to, “Early grooming efforts by sexual predators seek to determine if the child has a stable home life, or if the family is facing challenges like poverty, divorce, illness, drugs, homelessness, etc.  Children lacking stability at home are at higher risk for sexual abuse, as there is usually more access to the child and opportunities to abuse the child.”

Some pedophiles prefer to target kids on the brink of puberty because it’s easy for them to prey on their sexual ignorance and curiosity. quotes one sex offender, who said: “Give me a kid who knows nothing about sex, and you’ve given me my next victim.” The website adds that “Child molesters have admitted they are less likely to abuse children who have a basic understanding of sex education, including knowledge of the proper names for private parts.”

Here are some predatory grooming behaviors to watch for:

  • Seeking out children who lack self-confidence and have low self-esteem.
  • Targeting kids who aren’t adequately supervised by their parents or other caregivers.
  • Spending time alone with the child, just hanging out or attending outings with him.
  • Giving gifts, favors, or special privileges.
  • Asking the child to keep secrets.
  • Touching, tickling, patting, stroking, or wrestling with the child to desensitize him to the predator’s touch.
  • Hugging, kissing, and sharing other physical affection as a prelude to sexual contact.
  • Telling sexual jokes, showing pornography, or asking sexual questions.
  • Making the child feel responsible for any sexual misconduct that occurs.

Keep a watchful eye out for these types of behaviors from people who interact with your child and teach him to recognize these behaviors himself so he can tell you if someone is making him uncomfortable.

Be the parent your child deserves!


the Badass Grandma

About CJ Scarlet

CJ Scarlet, aka the “Badass Grandma,” is a danger expert, victim advocate, and crime survivor herself. Most importantly, Scarlet is the doting grandma of three precocious toddlers. CJ has given speeches and workshops at national and international events; and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including MSNBC and NPR.

The former U.S. Marine photojournalist and forest firefighter holds an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Humanities with an emphasis on human violence from Old Dominion University. Named one of the “Happy 100” people on the planet, CJ’s story of triumph over adversity is featured in two bestselling books, including Happy for No Reason and Be Invincible.

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