Miley Cyrus shocked many with her skintight twerking outfit at the Video Music Awards. In reality however, given some of the clothes she wore on her ‘family’ show Hannah Montana, why should anyone expect less, or rather more-as in clothing? Have you checked out what today’s tweens are wearing? Unfortunately there is literally not much to see! Low cut short, shorts and skin tight skinny jeans and jeggings that hit the pubic bone; midriff tops that are cropped so high they are practically up to the chin. Baggy pants with drop down waists for boys that sag so low, a clear view of where the sun doesn’t shine is visible. Muscle shirts so tight it’s a wonder that a boy can breathe.
Who is designing these clothes? The more important question perhaps, is why are people buying them?
If channels such as Disney and Nickelodeon are dedicated to producing G-rated family entertainment, shouldn’t someone let the costumers’ and stylists know? Catalogs touting ‘Back to School’ looked more like ads for the beach than the classroom this year. I get that these are tough financial times, but could we make the clothes with a little more fabric please?
As a society we complain that our kids are growing up faster than they used to. We say that it is a complicated world in which social networking rules. We bitch and moan about how our kids want to act like adults too soon, and yet we do nothing to push back. News flash folks, we live in a capitalistic society, supply and demand is the rule. If we weren’t buying the goods, they wouldn’t continue to supply them.
So how do we change the choices that appear on the racks of both mass merchandisers and high-end boutiques? How do we get our tweens to cover up? This is not an easy feat when the messages engrained in our culture through the media suggest that sex is what sells. Guess, what, the marketers are right, because we seem to be buying it!
We can change the situation, one child at a time. Each parent has a responsibility to his or her own child. Allowing a 10 year old to dress like she’s 20 is not cute, it’s downright scary! Take some responsibility people, just say no to short shorts and crop tops. Pull up the low slung pants and belt those baggy jeans!
The next time your tween goes for the midriff shirt, hand her a turtleneck. It may not happen over night, but it is time to take back tween fashion!
In 2010 the story of a group of upper-middle class teen burglars hit the news. Assigned the name the Bling Ring by the media, the group of predominately 18 and 19 year olds were accused of stealing millions from Hollywood’s young elite including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Lindsey Lohan. As detailed in the Sofia Coppola movie The Bling Ring, and in the book by the Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales whose original 2010 article “The Suspects Wear Louboutins” was the impetus for the project, it is perhaps the brash, bold nonchalant attitude of the perpetrators regarding these crimes that is most disturbing. The common bonds among the crewmembers included drug use, an emulation for the Hollywood lifestyle, clubbing and a lack of real life direction.
It is however the similarities that reflect the lives of typical teens that is perhaps the most disturbing. These teens were concerned about their appearance, focused on their peer group, and enamored with the Hollywood stars and a successful lifestyle. Are we raising tweens who could easily become the Bling Ring? Was the attitude of entitlement these kids seemed to possess an anomaly or a part of common culture?
We live in a ‘give me’ society. We are surrounded by goods and services that marketers try to convince us we must have. We live in an era where financial times have gotten tough but the rich just keep getting richer. Fame and fortune can be attained with the right look, and often an outrageous attitude-enter Snookie, Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan. The rest of the world lives from paycheck to pay check. Cash and carry is virtually a thing of the past. The power of a credit card ensures that almost anyone can have access to what they covet.
In an attempt to tap new fruitful markets, the producers of goods and services have turned to our tweens. Television shows, clothing lines, and even whole stores (e.g. Justice) targeting tweens have cropped up over a short decade. Tween targeted bands and performers such as One Direction and Justin Bieber have become powerful, profitable merchandising brands. Walk into any Target or Walmart and you are sure to see the gleaming smiles of these young performers staring at you on blankets, t-shirts, backpacks, etc.
America’s favorite babysitter-Television is capturing the attention of our tweens in shows that depict tweens and young teens living large, living the life. Disney and Nickelodeon have paved the way for this type of programming. It is no coincidence that reality shows dominate the nighttime market. Family shows such as the X-Factor, America’s Got Talent and of course American Idol, suggests that anyone can attain fame, fortune and notoriety.
This is the world in which we are raising today’s tweens.
It is easy to dissect the actions of the teens that became the Bling Ring. The majority of them had difficulty learning in school. Research reflects that learning problems are correlated with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Permissive parenting (aka the cool parents) is the parenting style most associated with juvenile delinquency. The combination of the two could indeed be concerning. The result could be a kid suffering from low self-esteem who may feel hopeless and helpless, a kid looking for a way to fit in and feel happy and hopeful. Add the excitement of attaining the life; partying in clubs, self-medicating with drugs; a touch of adolescent egocentrism and the illusion that bad things happen to other people; and well you may just have the recipe for disaster; or at least a sense of entitlement that you deserve what others seem to have so much of. The fact that you might get caught dissolves after you pull it off a few times. The rationalization that what you are doing is not wrong comes easier and easier especially when you fail to get caught. It is easy to justify these acts when the people from whom you are stealing have so much. There is a disconnect from the fact that you are invading someone’s privacy, intruding on the one space in which a person may feel safe, sheltered from the reality of the outside world that comes with the price of fame.
How do we ensure that our tweens won’t become lawless egocentric teens? It sounds preposterous to even have to think this way. Is the line so firm however, that difficult for your average teen to cross?
The answer to that question is hazy at best, the solution to the quandary perhaps seemingly more clear. We set firm boundaries and limits. We teach by example. We monitor and discipline; a somewhat simple solution. In a world however, in which we are all striving to keep up, it is not so easy to attain. Our children are our most precious resource. They are in fact our future. We live in a universe that has become so much smaller and accessible. As a parent it is difficult to monitor all the outlets all the time.
One thing is thankfully clear. Research indicates that talking with our children about concerns, communicating regularly with them in combination with monitoring their actions, does work. Recent statistics on Internet safety for example speak of success. According to netsmartz.org an Internet safety watchdog organization, the numbers of kids making inappropriate contacts with strangers via the Internet has decreased dramatically over the last decade.
The Bling Ring story should be perceived as a cautionary tale perhaps. A warning that we should be talking to our tweens, monitoring what they do, what they watch, what they wear, who they emulate. Stories such as this one provide great learning material. Communication and discussion are the best way to keep on top of our tweens. It is not all about what we say; it is also about how we say it. Lessons taught only through lecturing are less likely to be internalized. Interactive discussions that involve not only listening to the thoughts and opinions of our tweens, but also hearing what they have to say can make a difference. As parents we are often quick to shut our kids down when they start to voice an opinion, a point of view with which we disagree. When our children feel heard, they also feel empowered.
The tale of the Bling Ring teens may seem far-fetched and unbelievable, especially when we catch a quick glimpse of our own innocent, carefree tweens. While we want to raise our kids to believe that anything is possible, that hard work equals success and happiness, we need to make sure we do not reinforce the idea that everything in life is there for the taking. Life is a series of checks and balances. The Bling Ring teens represent a clear example of what happens when the scale tips too far on one side.
I am a nag. I am not proud of this fact. This is not a role I ever aspired to achieve, in fact, quite the contrary. I remember back to my own tween and teen years. I made a promise to myself that when I became a mom, I would never nag my children. I can still hear my own mother’s words ringing in my ears “Put your clothes away, do your homework, clear the table….”
What I did not know then, but have come to realize as a parent myself is that nagging can be an addictive habit. In a perfect world, you could tell your children to do something once and voila, like magic they would run to do what you asked.
The reality is however, that just because you cannot tolerate their clothes on the floor or their homework waiting to be done, doesn’t mean they see it the same way.
A common quandary I have is whether they would do what I ask them to do if I did not nag. Would the clothes get picked up and the homework be completed on time? And, if it did not, would the consequences of their actions or lack there of, encourage them to complete these tasks in the future? The problem is that as their parent, I am not sure I am willing or able to tolerate the consequences they would receive if they do not. Of course the irony here is that as their parent, I am also the purveyor of the consequences. While I am not good at holding my tongue, I am consistently consistent with implementing consequences. Which I can honestly say is often quite effective.
With that said then, one would imagine I would have no need to nag. I have realized however, that it is a habit that has become compulsive. I nag not because it motivates them to complete the task, but because it relieves the distress and anxiety I am experiencing in the moment at the thought that they won’t follow through.
I do not recommend nagging. When I hear myself nag, I actually become annoyed. Nagging is not necessary, but the truth be told, sometimes, it feels like the only way to get things done.
Image courtesy of David Castillo/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In the wake of a tragedy it is natural to feel as if the world is full of doom and gloom. When we step back for a moment however, we can clearly see the acts of kindness, support and caring that characterize the human spirit in even the worst of circumstances. From the ashes of 911, through the broken shards at Sandy Hook, and the smoke filled skies of Boston, some amazing examples of stepping up, stepping in and even paying it forward are reflected.
As parents it is important to emphasize the good and glory that can come from the shadows of our darkest days. We can teach our children the importance of kindness and caring.
We watch with heartfelt tears as heroes emerge from tragedy in the form of first responders and concerned citizens. Kindness and caring know no bounds. The impact of Random acts of kindness regardless of how small can have a great impact. In turn such kindness can grow exponentially.
When we model compassion and kindness our children learn an important lesson. We teach our children that it is not only important but also essential to reach out to our neighbors, friends acquaintances and even strangers. Apathy breed’s sadness and isolation while kindness grows compassion and camaraderie.
Altruism is defined as an act committed for which there is no personal gain; it is a demonstration of kindness and caring for which we gain nothing personally except the satisfaction of knowing we helped another in need.
From altruism the concept of ‘paying it forward’ is borne. And while the idea of paying back the receipt of a random act of kindness with a promise of offering kindness to another may seem like a fantasy, the concept is not only conceivable but possible.
Kindness can indeed be catchy. It all starts with a promise, a commitment of sorts. So here is the proposal: commit yourself and children to carrying out one act of kindness a week. Request that the person who receives your kindness pay it back by paying it forward. In time we can prove that kindness is not only catchy but it can go viral. Kindness should be a constant in our lives and in our world.
Our children are entrusted with securing the future. As their parents we impact the course they choose in great part by modeling the values and concerns, which help, define how they see the world. When we practice kindness, caring and compassion we send the message that even in the darkest hours hope shines bright in the form of the human spirit.