Raising Strong Ladies in Today’s Overly Sexualized Society

Raising kids is both one of life’s greatest joys and greatest challenges. As the world shifts and changes, each generation has its own unique set of challenges and obstacles. There are foundational elements of raising kids that will never change — while the canvas against which parents labor to help their kids navigate seems to change every day.

I recently had an opportunity to talk with my dear friend, physician and author Dr. Leonard Sax, for my Parenting Great Kids podcast. He is widely recognized as an expert in the field of raising both boys and girls and his insight on protecting your children from the culture of today is second to none. Dr. Sax and I spoke at length about the challenges facing young girls today and I must say, this is one of the most crucial conversations I’ve had in a long time.

Dr. Sax is the author of one of my favorite books, “Girls On The Edge.” In it, he describes four factors that girls struggle with the most in today’s culture. Two of the most significant are:

  • Sexual identity
  • The cyber bubble

1.) Dealing with sexuality. The sexualization of girlhood has become a much more prominent part of our culture than it ever has been before — and girls are being pushed to present themselves sexually from an alarmingly early age. Dr. Sax shared a story of a nine-year-old girl who wanted to dress up as a “sexy cheerleader” for Halloween, complete with hot pants, a crop-top and high heels. When her mother suggested she do something fun, like dressing up like a bunch of grapes, her daughter replied, “Mom, only the fat girls do that stuff.”

This heartbreaking insight is letting us know that the youngest of girls are already feeling pressured to look and dress a certain way to feel worthwhile and significant. The result of this is girls who are becoming detached and unhinged from their sexuality. Everything becomes a performance.

“We are seeing a whole generation of young women growing up who regard sex as something that girls provide to boys, that women provide to men, ” Dr. Sax says.

When we sexualize kids before their time, we rob them from the development of a healthy sexual identity — and ironically, from a healthy sex life later on in life. It is a parent’s responsibility to protect the development of their daughter’s sexual identity. Crucial to this is combating the pressure for her to view her worth as being based solely on her outward appearance. The culture is already teaching her this lie and she will believe it if you don’t correct it.

2.) The cyber bubble. Many parents are frightened of putting an electronic device in their kids’ hands — but they do it anyway. As a result, your tween girl may be opening up a door to sexting, cyber-bullying, and unhealthy competition for attention. I asked Dr. Sax to share a few ways on how parents can practically help their 10- to 12-year-old daughters navigate the world of social media.

He shared the following insights:

  • No 10- to 12-year-old should have a smartphone. Period. If children need a way to get in contact with parents, they can have the very basic phone without a camera. They can make calls, receive calls — that’s it. They truly have no need for a phone that can do more than that at this time in their lives.
  • With your older teens, there are a few more options: 1.) They don’t have to own a smartphone. They can make do with another simple mobile device; and 2.) If they do get a smartphone, make sure to install software (like Net Nanny Mobile or My Mobile Watchdog) to monitor what your girls are sending and receiving. Have the conversation with them about this — give them an excuse NOT to sext or send provocative images. Girls need a way out. Be their way out.

Though your girls probably won’t understand this now, your “withholding” of smartphones and other gadgets is communicating to them just how much you love and value them. When girls feel protected, they are stronger, feel more confident and have a better understanding of their worth and value.

Mom, Dad: Guard that sweet girl’s heart. One day she will thank you.

Strong girls who know their worth don’t need to seek attention by caving to the pressures of social media and objectifying themselves for the culture. They may be known as “the weird girl whose parents don’t let her have a smartphone,” but I can guarantee you this: Your daughter’s friends will wish their parents cared enough about them to protect them that much.

Parents, this is only just scratching the surface of the culture battle your girls are fighting every single day. It’s time to pay attention to the world they are living in. Empower your girls to be strong, to live with integrity and to value their hearts and bodies. No doubt about it, it is a daily battle for your daughter’s heart, but she is worth the fight!

I strongly encourage you to listen to my interview with Dr. Leonard Sax. It could be a game-changer for your family.

Written By: Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the best-selling book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

This piece was originally featured on LifeZette and is being used with permission.  

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