More Taylor Swift
Or Miley Cyrus?

Take an honest look at your preteen or teen’s style and clothing choices. Do you believe she dresses appropriately? And what what exactly can you do if she's looking a little more Miley than Taylor?

Sexy teen girl

I'll admit it. I occasionally see a 15 year old girl, dressed in clothes that would be more functional if she were working the corner than walking to school, and I think "Really? Where are her parents?!" Before you dismiss me as an old, out-of-touch grandma, I'll tell you I'm 30 years old and I'm not ultra conservative. But I'm also going to fight tooth and nail to do everything I can to prevent my daughter, who is currently only two, from thinking that it's okay to dress in a way that devalues her.

Where did we go wrong?

Deborah Roffman, author of Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex, maintains that beginning in the early '90's, clothing and product marketers began targeting the younger set and the backslide just continued from there. The changes come slowly so that they're not so shocking…until you find yourself looking at a group of 14 year old girls thinking, "What?!"

Roffman says that the whole "tween movement" is a huge part of the problem. And that makes sense. Think about it: there's big difference between an eight year old and a 12 year old, but those two ages -- and everything in between -- are lumped together as "tweens."

Does it really matter?

I think it does. I'd argue that a pre-teen or teen who dresses in a certain way is looking in the wrong place for attention or reinforcement about who she is. And there are long-term consequences for such choices. Roffman notes that the way young girls dress "affects their self image and what makes them valuable. It makes them vulnerable. There is only one reason to dress that one, and it's to please somebody."

And I'm not talking about a teen who wants to be different or express her individuality. I'm referring to teen girls who are dressing in ways that go beyond simply suggestive - girls whose style of dress is so overtly sexual that you're unable to see past it.

What's a mom to do?

If your daughter is still young, Roffman suggests you both remind her and show her what is appropriate. Don't let her forget that she is a child. You want to set a good example and maintain your position as the parent.

With an upper elementary school girl, Roffman says to tell her, "I know you like to dress that way, but I am and have been the 'limit setter' in your life, and I will continue to be that. It's my job." While you ultimately draw the line – this isn't a negotiation – you can still empathize with her. You can tell her why you're setting boundaries.

The bottom line

I always say that she who controls the money has the power. Now, while that's meant to be slightly sarcastic, it's also true for young girls. Sure a 13 or 14 year old may have some babysitting money, but who is purchasing the majority of her clothes? And beyond money – maybe your 16 year old does have a job and she does buy her clothes – you are still the parent. Roffman notes, "The key is for children to understand they are not free agents. Parents are still in charge of some of the decisions in their life…" -- at least until they graduate from high school. It's not always easy to say no, but what part of parenting is completely effortless?

Still want to read about teen and preteen style?

Tags: teen style

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Comments on "Stylish or sleazy: an honest look at your teen daughter’s style"

Carol July 08, 2012 | 11:22 AM

It shocks me the way that many of our Teen girls here in Canada are dressing at such a young age. We attended the Calgary Stampede yesterday for their 100th Anniversary, it was great. Although some of the girls ages: 15years to about 19 years looked literally like they were looking for the way that they were dressed. I was a teen in the 1980s and I believe that was the Start of girls becoming more provocative in their dressing but nothing compared with what I saw. I would Never tolerate my teen daughter looking or acting in that way, Period. We saw shorts so short that it made "Daisy duke" shorts look Classy. Girls in tank tops so low-cut that they are obviously Advertising their Assets so to speak. Many of these girls just hanging off of some teen boy with a cell phone in his hand. It doesn't take a Genious to see what these girls are looking for. Is this what we want for our young daughters or do we want these girls to "RESPECT" themselves, their bodies and do well in school? When we allow our daughters to act in this manner with boys and Raging hormones you are just asking for Trouble.

Karen Smith October 21, 2010 | 11:06 AM

As a former elementary school teacher, I find the current push to ualize our daughters at ever younger ages very disturbing. What about the implicit compromises made when a young girl dresses as though appearance and femininity is the single most valuable asset she has to offer? This flawed thinking represents a loss of human potential for all of us. Couple that with the fact that we live in a society where many girls are also dealing with precocious puberty and, it's easy to imagine the turmoil a child could have to reckon with. Instead of enjoying the necessary, simplicity of play, a significant number of primary grade girls are facing the early onset of puberty alongside the pressure of "Miley" dressing, all without the life experience for handling these forces. Recently while shopping at a children's boutique, I came across a pair of high heeled shoes sized for a 3-6 month old baby! Not at all cute. Through guidance and wisdom, mothers have a responsibility to allow their daughters to grow and self-actualize. That requires her to model dignity and strength of conviction that is unshakable by Bratz dolls, Miley Cyrus, infant stilettos, bovine growth hormone or any entity that artificially magnifies uality in our little girls.

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