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          When Your Child Is Sexy Too Soon

          November 13, 2002

          Today’s revealing fashions have many mothers and daughters arguing over what is appropriate vs. what is “cool.” If you fear that your child might be sending the wrong message with her sexy clothing or makeup, Dr. Phil has advice.

          • Make sure you aren’t just dealing with a semantics problem and find out what your child really wants to achieve with her clothing. When your child says that she wants to look sexy, could she really mean that she wants to fit in with her friends or emulate one of her idols? Could she just be pushing your buttons?
          • When you know what your child really wants, you need to express to her what you are really concerned about. If you’re worried about your child attracting the kind of sexual attention that she is not prepared to handle, explain that.
          • Negotiate clothing choices in a way that allows each of you to get what you really want. Your child can feel fashionable and wear the latest styles without sending the inappropriate sexual signals that you are concerned about.
          • Stop blurring the boundaries of who is the parent and who is the child. You cannot make your goal to be your child’s friend. Part of being a parent is laying down the law and telling your child things she doesn’t want to hear.
          • Make sure you and your spouse are in agreement with what is and is not appropriate for your child to wear. Get on the same page, and come together and say, “This does not match our values in this family. We’re not going to accept this definition.” Stylish does not mean sexually provocative. You buy the clothes. If you don’t approve of tight jeans and thong underwear — don’t buy them!
          • If your daughter idolizes celebrities and gets her fashion ideas from TV, magazines and the Internet, put a limit on her exposure to those influences. Dr. Phil tells a couple with a 14-year-old daughter, “At 14, any kids, male, female, are really looking to identify themselves in some way. If the only role models that are impacting a child are celebrities and all of these smoke-and-mirror, objectified, sexualized images, then that’s who — She hasn’t had a lot of exposure to Mother Theresa. She hasn’t had a lot of exposure to other role models, so she looks at what society stands up and salutes.” Think about getting your child involved in activity that she’ll enjoy and will make her feel good about herself, something that she can focus on and hone her skills in. Try music, arts, theater, sports — anything that takes her focus away from what Paris Hilton is wearing this week.
          • Do not give in to your child if she gets upset. If she gets upset, she is just going to have to get over it. If she doesn’t listen, raise the price of poker. Your child has to know that every time she doesn’t listen, the negative consequences will be higher. Maybe last time she was only grounded for one week — now she’s grounded for two, etc.

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