Posts Tagged ‘Hardy Girls Healthy Women’
Last week I came across an excellent article about parenting with media literacy on a site I use a lot, www.commonsensemedia.org. The site is a great parenting resource for age-appropriate media for your kiddos. The article, “Too Sexy, Too Soon”, was about the crush of sexualization in girlhood, happening as early as the preschool years. I feel it with my five year old daughter,especially as we move into bigger girl toys and clothes.
Don’t buy in. Help your kids stay kids by not buying outfits, makeup, and other “grown up” accessories. Stay away from clothing that reinforces the message that looking “sexy” is a way to get noticed.
Seek out positive role models. Lots of little girls love to dress up as princesses. Help expand their horizons by finding role models in books, on TV, in movies, and in real life that show kids how they can be recognized for their talents and brains rather than their looks or behavior.
Watch out for stereotypes. Our kids look to their favorite actors and musicians for cues on how to act. Point out when the media rewards girls for being sexy and boys for being strong.
Resist consumerist messages. On mother-daughter days, do something outside the mall, like crafts, hiking, or biking. Not all mothers and daughters have to bond by shopping.
Challenge the status quo. Reinforce behaviors that don’t involve kids’ looks. Kids develop self-esteem by doing things they feel proud of. If your kids are getting their self-worth from attention-getting behavior, they’ll have sold themselves short.
The article is really great….but leaves parents with little kids wondering, “I still don’t know what to do.”
Lyn’s response: I stress this “protection” point often because too many parents think they can fully control what their little kids see, hear, and play with and then forget to talk with them in age-appropriate ways and give them what they need to protect themselves. Protection alone does not work…as soon as kids are engaged with media and can talk, we should be modeling questions and skepticism, helping them create their own media, and encouraging them to talk back and insert their own ideas in the media they see.
…being sexualized/commodified and understanding what that means are different, so the onus is on parents to help girls understand the stereotypes and eventually, the sexualization, in their media. When they are little and forming gender identities, it’s really about categorizing things–this is girl, this is boy–so that’s why the pink blue stuff has such power. Parenting well means interrupting this, limiting those messages when possible, offering a wider range of choices and experiences and questioning these stereotypes out loud. It’s all about interrupting the marketers’ narrow version of gender (and also race, sexual identity, etc.) and giving kids a range of experiences so that we are helping to fire all those synapses.I don’t think it helps to be really anxious about sexualization when girls are too young–because if parents aren’t careful, they give unintended messages about good and bad girls (those who wear pink, own Bratz dolls), good and bad bodies, etc. (little kids are very concrete). We want kids to get comfortable questioning fake/idealized stuff and embracing the wonderful complexity in their worlds. So yes, dolls contribute to a larger pattern of sexualization and contribute to a world where little girls are more at risk, but that’s different than what I do as a parent. The issue for parents is parenting where kids are and that means getting what they are actually taking from this stuff–so not assuming or overeacting, but listening and talking with them.
Provide your child with a diverse range of toys that encourages all kinds of exploration, gross and fine motor skills, creativity, and open-ended play.
Fill your child’s world with a rich variety of colors. Color, color, color, and do not let yourself be limited to those assigned to gender by our culture.
It is okay to feel uncomfortable with characters or toys for children that look like stereotyped, sexualized women and steroid-ridden men. My kids love making up their own characters, so apart from the body image issues, we try to avoid those things and give their creativity room to run.
Expose your child to media that depicts boys and girls working together, and not participating in gender stereotyped activities.
Characters that pass the test at our house: Dora and Diego, Sesame Street, Wonder Pets, Land Before Time, Dr. Seuss, Team Umizumi, Bubble Guppies, Little Bear, and Olivia.
When at the toy store, question why one side is blue and one side is pink. That’s all a bunch of marketing garbage. Then cross the aisle and buy a car for your girl and a doll for your son. There isn’t a boy or girl side to early childhood.
Know that you have the right to ask family members to respect your wishes about media literacy in your home. Example: When asked about birthday gift ideas, it is within your right to request that certain type of toy not be given, and then provide examples of what your child would enjoy. My friends and family have been wonderful about honoring my requests and respecting my daugther’s love of dinosaurs and sea creatures.
Stock your playroom with art supplies, dressup clothes, bean bags, scarves, musical instruments, puzzles, books, blocks, puppets, play food and dishes and/or a tea set, toy animals and dinosaurs, trains and cars, doll houses, stuffed animals…any toy that doesn’t come with instructions or batteries!
- Kids love to mimic adults, so by 18months most kids enjoy cooking sets, caring for a doll or lovey, tool sets, and dress up clothes. My 5yo and almost 3yo love playing hospital, grocery store, zoo, school, restaurant, museum gift shop, and animal rescuers. As of late they have been building aquariums, but their ticket prices are really steep.
- Positive body image starts as early as ”Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. NO Fat Talk is allowed. Exercise and be active with your kids, show them all the amazing things healthy bodies can do!
- Repeat after me: NO Fat Talk is allowed in your home. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
Explore. Go look for birds nests and worm hunt and count cars and pick clovers and chase butterflies. Nature doesn’t run commercials. Last summer my kids were intent on bear hunting. There aren’t too many bears in southcentral Wisconsin, but boy if they didn’t tire themselves out while looking for footprints in the woods.
Take those couch cushions off and build a fort, or throw a bedsheet over the table to create a tent. Then let them create their own world.
On the days you are out of ideas, throw them in the bath with swim goggles and a bubble wand or a popsicle.
Write down a story your child tells you, then help him/her illustrate. Create a music band or parade. Have them act out little skits and catch it on video. Write scripts for puppet shows.
Know that it will be impossible to escape this stuff. Work on being smart about it – and teaching those smarts to your kids. It is a family effort, and you’ll all be better off for it.
Most of all – allow yourself grace, not one of us is a perfect parent, but staying engaged and in touch with our kids will make all the difference in the often times crazy world.
I hope this information helps and gives you a good starting point. If you have more questions or specific problems, leave them in the comments, or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll get you the best information I can.
For MORE resources, Hardy Girls Healthy Women has a Resources page with excellent Tips sheets. Soak all of them in, they are all great!
You bet there is a lot of crap out there, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. As parents we choose what our family buys, and what comes into our home. We are not powerless, and we need to find our voices again and say “NO!” to the products and media and marketers we feel are harming our kids.