Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


Sexy at Seven?

I remember that as a child my younger sister and I often dressed alike. My mom would buy us matching holiday dresses and play clothes, and though sometimes in different colors, they were always the same style or design. As adults, my sister and I shop together and often find that we like the same clothes. My sister will ask, “If we buy the same outfit will we look like geeks?” To which I typically reply, “Who cares? We’ve been dressing alike since we were kids!” For me, this is one of the things my mom began doing for us when we were kids, so why change it now?

Recently, I overheard a conversation between a mother and her daughter, who didn’t look more than four years old. The child asked about being able to wear some of her favorite clothes and her mother’s response was, “It is too cold to wear your sexy clothes.” My initial reaction to this response was a bit dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Do children really wear “sexy” clothes? How does it impact a young girl to think of her clothes as sexy?

Within a week of overhearing this conversation, I saw a feature on the Today Show in which parenting experts were responding to a bathing suit designed for girls, as young as seven, that included a padded bra. And again my initial reaction was to not believe what I was seeing and hearing.

One parent on the Today Show was quoted, saying, “I don’t know what the big deal is, if you don’t want it for your child – then don’t buy it.” I agree. Parents make decisions daily that impact their children. Making conscious choices and aligning those with what you want for your child is the responsibility of parents. However, I think there is more to this. In raising children –especially our young girls – I think we need to be very intentional about the message we give to them. Describing or portraying girls as “sexy” – especially at a young age – could have lasting effects on how they view and value themselves and their bodies.

I have often observed parents laughing as their young children dance in provocative ways. The child, loving the attention from their parent, will laugh and continue to perform. But the cost later for this attention now may be that a young girl who will continue to use her body or “cuteness” to please others.

My mom dressed my sister and I alike, and I believe her actions influenced my practices and thoughts about clothing as an adult. Choosing “sexy” clothes for young girls will contribute to the pressure many girls already have to  measure their self worth on their bodies, how “cute” or “sexy” other people believe them to be.   Instead of sexy, let’s dress our girls for success – let’s help them make clothing choices now that will influence them to show-off  their own personality with  a splash of style and grace.

– Carolyn

Photo courtesy of ohsohappytogether.

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Boys and Girls

Photo courtesy of Eric Peacock

4C’s Kim Ginn explored an issue that’s crucial for parents and teachers both at 4C’s blog for child care providers, “Growing Children,” and we’re sharing it here with you. Are toy aisles defining gender? What can parents do to cater to their children’s interests?

My husband and I were coming home from a weekend trip and stopped in a well known superstore. As we were walking through the store, I was stunned by what I saw in the toy section. There, hanging above the toys, bigger than life, was a sign that said “Girls” over one aisle of toys and a sign that said “Boys” over another aisle of toys. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I quickly went to see what this store deemed as “girls” toys and “boys” toys, and I can’t say that I was surprised by what I found.

The “girls” section was predominantly pink with dress-up clothes, pretend kitchen items and baby dolls. The “boys” section was dark colors, mainly blue, with action figures, train sets, and cars and trucks. This store was promoting to parents (and the public) that girls should play with dolls and boys should play with trucks! What century was this? Had I stepped into some type of time warp?

Knowing that my colleagues would be as shocked as I was, I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures. As I was documenting this atrocity and loudly complaining to my husband about the store having the nerve to suggest what toys girls and boys should play with, he nonchalantly stated, “They mark the clothing with boys and girls and you don’t get upset.”

This stopped me in my tracks. He was right. I hadn’t thought twice about the clothing sections being labeled “girls” and “boys,” so why was I so upset about the toys being labeled? Was it really OK to label some items, but not others? Should stores not label anything? What if a girl wanted to wear “boys” clothes, would that be OK? And if it is OK to label clothes, why not label the toys, too?

These questions made me start thinking about my own children (now teenagers) and the toys that they preferred when they were younger. Both of my daughters did prefer the traditional “girls” toys even though I purposefully bought trucks and trains for them. And I know my young nephews always preferred cars and action figures over baby dolls. So, is it so wrong for this store to encourage what seems to come naturally to children? Yes, I think it is.

Even though some research shows that genetics play a strong role in toy preferences among different sex children, I still feel that children should be exposed to all types of toys during their childhood. And since most children aren’t the ones shopping for their own toys, stores should not be labeling toys as “girls” or “boys,” because it discourages some parents from purchasing the opposite for their child. Leaving the section just labeled “Toys” suggests that all toys are appropriate for either girls or boys. The choice of which toys to buy then is based on the individual child’s interests, which should be the most important factor!

So, what about the clothing section? Well, I have always liked men’s jeans better anyway, and labels can’t stop me, either!