Maggie Hamilton is a teacher who gives regular lectures and puts on workshops throughout Australia and New Zealand and who has just spent two years speaking to thousands of parents about their children, and teachers about the children they see everyday. Her findings are terrifying, to the point that I’d be slapping half of these parents and taking their children into care if I’d done the research. The recent research she’s been doing is for her latest book – What’s Happening To Our Girls? Too Much, Too Soon, How Our Kids Are Overstimulated, Oversold And Oversexed. Catchy title (the sequel, What’s Happening To Our Boys? is due out in 2010) eh? The book looks at how society has changed what it means to be a young girl, something I think my mainly female readership may find interesting. Although the book uses Australian girls as it’s research basis, enough similarities exist to make this relevant reading for all parents.
The book describes a new set of milestones that young girls are experiencing now, things they expect to be able to do when they reach a certain age and trends to things that they are doing. It’s not for the faint hearted.
- 3-5 year old girls want to go to kindergarten and preschool with painted nails and wearing lip gloss. They expect to be able to wear bras tailored specifically for their age group.
- 6-7 year old girl are accessorising with handbags and jewellery. They see importance in wearing branded and designer clothes.
- 8-9 year olds are spending money styling their hair and the majority have started dieting.
- 10-11 year old girls are hosting birthday parties at beauty salons and getting their first Brazilian wax.
- 13 year old girls have started sending sexual photos of themselves to boys (a different research paper I read recently pointed out that the majority in these circumstances are sending them to people they’ve “met” online and have no idea who they’re really talking to) and some are engaging in oral sex with their boyfriends.
- 14 year olds girls have had up to twenty different sexual partners already.
Told you it was terrifying didn’t I? The fact is that steadily increasing pressure from advertising is pushing children into trying to grow up way to fast. And yet, they’re not the only ones to blame. Here’s something I’ve been aware of for years, something I’ve seen acting out as a vicious cycle. It’s the parents fault too. Well yes, that’s obvious in some cases – everything on that list of milestones and trends contributes towards the sexualisation of our children, after all. Beyond that I’m being a little harsh though aren’t I? After all, with advertising and other media forms constantly brainwashing our kids what chance do parents have these days. Quite a large chance actually and all you have to do is follow Furie’s Parenting Formula.
I constantly hear people complain about the hardships they’ve faced growing up and how they’re going to give more freedom to their children. Others boast about how they’re not just a mother, they’re their daughter’s friend. Yeah, because a mid twenties girl wants to be friends with a six year old. At that age a child makes friends with anyone they see. They don’t need more friends, they need a parent. Kids are constantly gaining more freedom and education in things as technology progresses, yet these parents decide to give them even more freedom. Using this basic knowledge you can say that Freedom To Grow multiplied by Freedom Of Technology equals Boundaries. Now for some further information – children, being children, will always push until they find the boundaries they need to shape their characters. If the boundaries are wider then they will push further, acting out more as they attempt to find the line they aren’t allowed to cross. Combine that with the problematic influence of the media and you can get this part of the formula – Boundaries multiplied by Advertising equals Chance Of Problems. The final part of the formula is to realise that each time the Chance Of Problems increases you’re taking away from the well rounded individual that your child could be.
Another thing is that a parents job is to prepare their child for life, not make life easy for them so they’re totally unprepared for the world when they eventually leave home. Anything else is just child abuse, plain and simple.
Didn’t follow all that maths? Not to worry, there’s a plain English version too. Set boundaries for your children and don’t let them cross those lines. Don’t go extending the lines you were given just because you didn’t get everything you wanted as a child. No child that gets everything they want ever turns out well so it was a good thing that you didn’t. Don’t try to be a friend to your child when it gets in the way of being a parent because they need a parent a damn sight more than another friend. Don’t use the television, PC or games console as a babysitter if you don’t know exactly what they’re doing on it at every second and don’t encourage their belief in the advertising just because other children your family knows have done so. And never ever allow your children to think they should be treated as sexual objects in order to be worth something to the world. In short, get off your arse and do some bloody parenting.