Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.


P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.



Podcast: So Sexy So Soon

January 17, 2010

"So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids" by Diane E Levin, Ph.D.

“So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids” by Diane E Levin, Ph.D.

Little girls have dreamed of being princesses as long as there have been fairy tales. Thanks to Hans Christian Anderson, I myself had a slightly off-kilter fantasy of growing up to be a mermaid. But if I wanted to dress up as a mermaid for Halloween or to paddle around in my friend’s plastic pool I needed to create my own tail, so to speak. Like all former kids who are now today’s parents, my fantasies came directly from my own imagination… evolving naturally from my interests and taking me into realms I chose to explore through play.

But for 21st century kids, kids who live and breathe packaged princesses, Bratz dolls and Transformers, things are very different when it comes to what they play with, how they play and what they wear.

If you’ve got a daughter who can walk and talk you’ve likely had at least a few conversations and some strong disagreements about her choice of clothes. There’s nothing new about any of this. It’s the job of every generation to attempt to scandalize their parents. We did it to our parents and we didn’t turn out so bad.

But pop culture is way more extreme now and something very destructive is being foisted on our kids via TV shows, movies, print and media ads and on the racks in children’s clothing stores. For one thing, styles for girls of all ages are moving in a very dangerous direction. So much of what’s sold is too short, too tight, too low cut, too peek a boo, too… sexy for little girls. Yet there it all is. And they want these styles. Man, do they want them! Because their friends wear them and because too many little girls, tweens and teens truly believe that their value as people is a direct function of how they look.

It gets harder and harder for parents to carry out our prime objectives: keeping our kids safe and raising them to be compassionate, thoughtful, self-assured young adults. But the issue goes way beyond short shorts, crop tops and G-strings marketed for tweens. Beyond TV shows and toys that program girls and boys to think and act and play and dream in the narrowest, most gender-specific ways.

What’s going on here in 21st Century America is a war of values. On one side, parents doing their best to raise healthy young adults. And what are we up against? The marketing might of multi-billion dollar corporations. You probably don’t need anyone to tell you who’s winning.

In this week’s podcast I talk with Diane E. Levin, co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood And What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

Dr. Levin is Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston. She has written seven other books including: The War Play Dilemma, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times and Remote Control Childhood? Diane Levin speaks around the world on the impact of violence, media and other societal issues on children, families and schools.

Listen to my interview with Diane Levin right here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guests include:

Amalia Starr, author of Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for your Adult “kid” with Autism & Special Needs

Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater

David McQueen, international speaker empowering adults and youth alike on subjects such as leadership, careers and communication skills.

Hannah Friedman, author of Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool

Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If…

*What’s a podcast? “A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, that is made available for download via web syndication.” –Wikipedia… So, in this case, there’s an audio file for you to listen to (in addition to reading the above).

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