Countering A Too Sexy, Too Soon Culture for Our Daughters

by | Jan 29, 2011 | Empowering Girls, Self-Confidence, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

Parenting advice to raise strong, secure girls from the inside out and counter those racy, raunchy “what you have to look like” type images that rob self-esteem

These days it’s almost impossible to not read the diet of some pencil-slim celeb. Photos of them all to often leaving some nightclub (drink in hand) wearing some highly revealing outfit and unmistaken “sexy look” are blasted on every news channel and magazine cover.

But have you wondered if those images influence our daughters values and attitudes? Could those images actually effect how our kids turn out?

The media’s negative imact

The American Psychological Association’s study confirms what many parents feared: All those raunchy, sexy, thin type “What you should look like” messages do indeed have an negative impact on our girls.

A five-year study of 2516 teens by the American Psychological Association found that girls who frequently read those dieting and weight loss articles are far more likely to fast, vomit, or use laxatives to lose weight. In fact, the data proved that the more frequently a girl reads those fashion magazines, the more likely she is to resort to extreme weight control behaviors. Those images are also correlated to the rise of young girls 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 I offered to help us raise strong, healthy, emotionally secure young girls who can buck those raunchy images and come out on top.

Raising strong, healthy girls from the inside out

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.

And 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.

Did you know that seven-to twelve year-old girls spent $1.6 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!

Watch and listen to magazines, books, videos, song lyrics (a.k.a. your daughter’s world!)

Subscribe to magazines that nurture a hobby or provide a healthy influence to your daughter’s self-esteem. And tune into what you’re reading as well. Watch the television shows that you’re airing in your home. Listen and watch a bit closer. Monitor those images. Talk to her. Give her perspective. Be her filter. Those images are affecting her self image.

Do a quick “healthy media test”: Walk around your home and pick up the magazine your daughter is most likely to read. Flip it to a few pages. Would those images nurture or hinder her self-esteem? If “hinder” is your answer, then it’s time to alter that subscription.

Find healthier outlooks for your daughter

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.

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 as well as perspective maker.

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 like: “She’s lost so-o-o-o much weight!,”  “I love her hair!,” “I wonder what moisturizer 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. Always be the example you want your daughter to copy. She needs a strong, healthy example.

Walk the talk!

Your daughter may not be telling you that you’re influential in her life, so I’ll clue you in. You are! I swear kids come with recorders planted inside their heads. Don’t preach self-esteem–show your daughter what confidence looks like in your self!

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. (So says the mom of three boys!)

Sure, the world these days is more X-rated, but parents have always been an excellent counterbalance to sleaze and raunchiness. Remember you really do influence your daughter’s attitudes, values, and self-esteem.

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. That goal means you’re really raising your daughter from the inside out.

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.

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news and research about child development.

Follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba

For specific tips on raising girls from the inside out and countering the too sexy-too soon look and a  step-by-step framework to turn this troubling trend around, refer to  the following chapters: Growing Up Too Fast, Dress and  Appearance, Perfectionism, Eating Disorders, Depression, Cliques,  Sex, Drinking in The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers  to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.