Scrolling through the camera roll on my phone gives a rapid insight into the fact that my daughter is larger than life. Even at 5 years young, her sassiness and spark are well established. Spirited and determined, she already has a great sense of humour and an equally strong sense of justice. I know these traits will stand her in good stead throughout her life, even if they may drive me to an early grave in the process.
But looking through all those photos, there is something that unsettles me. The way she eyeballs the camera is far older than her 5 years. And, more often than not, she is striking a pose that is much more mature than the awkward, grinning snaps taken in my childhood.
When she first started doing these things, as with most adult gestures kids do, we found it funny – cute even. I’d share them on Instagram with #divalife and a joke about how feisty she is. However, as this trend has persisted, it is making me more and more uncomfortable.
At what point did my little girl start to feel like she needed to pose like an actress on the red carpet? How does she even know that duck-face is a thing?
Of course, I know the answer and, while I am definitely not role modeling these behaviours, I accept responsibility for her exposure to them. YouTube, Netflix, movies, advertising, music clips all show my daughter how to be “sexy”, even though she doesn’t know what that really means.
Media and marketing is targeting sexualised imagery to girls at increasingly young ages. One only needs to shop in the girls’ clothes section of any major department store to see plain as day. Tops are cropped and emblazoned with provocative slogans, while some styles of shorts take the word to a whole new level. There are cases of mothers resorting to buying clothes from the boys’ section to ensure their girls have clothes that are practical, comfortable and age appropriate.
As society bombards our girls with messages about how they should look, we need to make sure that the messages we as parents are sending are coming through loud and clear over the top. We need to think about what values and behaviours to reinforce to ensure our girls grow up to lead healthy, happy and positive lives.
Things like being comfortable in your own skin. Not following the crowd. Respecting yourself and others.
Above all, we need to let our girls know that it’s ok to be a little girl – not a miniature adult.
In one of her “Maggie Moments” on ParentTV, parenting expert Maggie Dent talks about how important it is for us to protect our girls and let them be little for as long as possible.
Celebrate with them being little girls, and if possible playing with dolls, climbing trees, riding bikes – do everything that is normal in a childhood other than pretending to be sexy and grown up well before your time.” – Maggie Dent.
On her website, Maggie also shares some startling statistics and helpful suggestions on raising kids in a sexualised world.
I for one, will be taking these tips on board and ensuring my daughter gets to enjoy her childhood, as all little girls should.