Straight Talk Advice

Feb 08, 2006

Set standards, but cut slack, on teen fashion

Dear Straight Talk: I am disappointed that you didn’t suggest to “Eighth grader” to honor her mother’s guidance regarding the clothes that were too “revealing”. We should not allow our daughters to dress provocatively. Eighth graders should not be flaunting their bodies in “revealing” clothes. What message are we sending these girls? Do we want them to advertise their sexuality at the ripe old age of 13?!

Too many middle school girls wear clothing that should embarrass them, as it embarrasses me to see them in it. Cleavage, exposed thong underwear, mid-sections, skin-tight everything provides “TMI”. It isn’t flattering and it isn’t appropriate for school, games, or any other teen functions. Furthermore, school dress codes may prohibit the clothing.

I applaud the mother who draws a line on “revealing” clothes. If we all required our daughters to dress tastefully they would “fit in” with dignity. Please support the parent in this regard.—Mother of four beautiful daughters

Dear Mother: Ah, if the world was ideal….  Unfortunately, it’s not and teens get caught in the cross-fire. There’s heat at home to dress one way and worse heat at school to dress another. The girl who wrote had cried herself sick over this. There is nothing more important at this age than fitting in.

I work at a deep level with teens and the overwhelming majority of them are innocent victims of the fashion/entertainment industry. They look like they’re advertising their sexuality, but they’re just kids; their thoughts are not that advanced. That’s why the adults get embarrassed and the kids don’t.

I would like nothing more than for all parents to have your fortitude. But most don’t and since things aren’t going to change tomorrow I ask parents to have compassion around fashion issues. For the average girl, her looks—how she thinks she looks—is what drives her esteem barometer. The higher her esteem, the better choices she is going to make. But get ready, because what she thinks looks good is going to be tied to the social fashion index.

So, set standards, but cut slack, too. You want your teen to feel good about herself so she can stand up to the more insidious forms of peer pressure that are out there.

Perhaps you could lobby for change at the level of the school dress code. That would take everybody off the hook.

From Farren, 18: When dealing with conflict over clothing, the solution must make both parent and child happy. It’s important for parents to lay down guidelines but I do believe the child should have some say. After all, she is the one doing the wearing.

I hate to use the excuse that everyone is wearing clothes like that these days, but to be honest, it is the case. Yes, there are exceptions and you can choose to make your daughter that exception. But if you think making someone dress the way you want is the right way to go you obviously haven’t experienced high school or middle school these days. The peer pressure is excruciating.

I do agree girls should tone it down a bit. But I also think young girls should be proud of their bodies and that it is their right to express themselves as long as they follow the school dress code. While you may be embarrassed by them, they obviously do not find themselves embarrassing.

Drawing the line doesn’t leave room for negotiating, and that’s the most important thing in parenting a teen. Yes, you are the parent, you should set boundaries, but teenagers are young, they make mistakes, they are learning. It is important that parents bite their tongue a little and let teenagers learn to express themselves.


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