REALITY CHECK: Sure, the world these days is more X-rated, but parents have always been an excellent counterbalance to sleaze and raunchiness. Stay involved so you can help your daughter read her world with more critical eyes. Remember you really do influence your daughter’s attitudes, values, and self-esteem. Be mindful of your influence so she grows to be strong from the inside out.
These days it’s almost impossible to not hear about what Brittney, Lindsay, and Paris are up to with their pictures blasted on just about every news channel and magazine cover. But have you wondered if those sexy young celebrities are influencing our kids’ values? And what about the steady onslaught of images portraying girls as sex objects in just about every medium these days? Could those images actually effect how our kids turn out?
The American Psychological Association’s study confirms what many parents feared: All those raunchy, sexy girl messages do indeed have an negative impact on our daughters and are correlated eating disorders, lower self-esteem, and depression. The Today Show asked me to address what parents can do to counter those negative messages. Here are a few solutions from my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, I offered to help us raise strong, healthy, emotionally secure young girls who can buck those raunchy images.
- Start early. Our children begin to learn values and self-esteem when they are still in diapers. Your goal is to help your daughter from the youngest age know she is a person of worth just for who she is, and not for how she looks. Be mindful of that goal, and don’t deviate from it. After all, raising children to be strong and healthy is a 24/7 proposition and in today’s sexually-explicit culture that aim becomes even more challenging.
- Get savvy about our new culture. Remove those blinders and take a realistic look at the new X-Rated world. Sexy, raunchy images of girls are everywhere. TV shows push the limits, magazines flaunt photos young party-going girl celebrities, the Internet has no rules, and CD lyrics are darn-right scandalous. But watch out: these days marketers are targeting even our youngest girls. The new “Hooker Look” (I can’t think of a better term) is the hot new fashion. Last year seven-to twelve year- old girls spent $1.3 million on thong undies. Toy makers are designing new long-legged, doey-eyed looking female dolls in slinky outfits ready for the hot-tub for our preschoolers. You do control the purse strings and that remote! Use your power.
- Find healthier outlooks. Discover your daughter’s natural passion and talent whether it be surfing, basketball, art, yoga, soccer, and then support her involvement. Those positive activities will help you focus more on her talents and interests, and show her that you value her for her strengths, not appearance. It will also help her develop a stronger identify based on her passions instead of ones borrowed from young, rich celebrities on magazine covers.
- Tune into your daughter’s world. From television shows, video games, movies, music and Internet sites, stay involved in your daughter’s lifestyle choices. Monitor what she watches and listens to, and who she seems to admire. Doing so will help you understand her values at that moment, as well as help guide your next discussions about your family values,
- Explain why. If you don’t like a TV show, movie, CD, video or an outfit explain “Why” instead of just saying, “No.” Your daughter needs to learn how to make wise choices and needs someone (that’s you!) to be her sounding board.
- Befriend the moms of your daughter’s friends. Find other like-minded moms with similar values as yours, and band together! Figure out what your standards are (curfew, makeup, movie ratings), and then support each other. Besides, as kids get older they generally choose friends with similar interests and values.
- Downplay popularity and appearance. Girls need to hear messages that convey: “Who you are is far more important than how you look.” So zip your tongue and halt those comments likes: “She’s lost so-o-o-o much weight!”, “I love her hair!”, “I wonder what cream she uses?” “Did you get invited to the birthday party?” Also, watch your gossip and how you talk about other women–especially in front of your daughter. Your kids are scrutinizing your behavior, and they do copy what they see and hear. So always be the example you want your daughter to copy.
- Stay involved. Expect your daughter to challenge you or even tune you out. That’s normal and part of growing up. Those tween years in particular are the times our daughters need us to help them make sense of a sometimes perplexing world. In fact, a study by the Girl Scouts of America found that preteens emphasized how important it was to know someone was them for them to listen and help. So stay involved.
- Find common connectors. Is there anything (and I do mean anything) you and your daughter can enjoy doing together? Here are a few possibilities: yoga, reading, knitting, running, charity work, biking, taking a cooking class or cooking, joining an exercise club, watching a weekly television sitcom. It makes do difference what the activity is, but doing something together on an ongoing basis helps gel your relationship, and keep you talking.
- Don’t forget your sons. Boys, as well, are bombarded by those sexy images and cause unhealthy images of women to develop. What’s more, our boys may think girls even like to be treated as sex objects. Don’t leave your son out of the mix. Talk to him. Counter those messages by giving him the right view of how women do like to be treated.
This article is excerpted from Michele Borba’s book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Jossey-Bass) available for order now:
Follow Michele on twitter @micheleborba or on her daily blog at https://www.micheleborba.com