Pt. 3 - A Peek Inside Meanness

Did you pull out your popcorn and enjoy hearing Britni's middle school story unfold in the last two posts?!

(As much as you can "enjoy" reading mean girl stories that is....)

If you missed them, here they are again.

Middle School Mean Girl Pt. 1 and Mean Girl Pt. 2.

Sitting in Starbucks, hearing her story in person added all the heartfelt emotion that a blogpost can't properly convey. At the end of her story, I had to ask WHY... "Why do you think you acted the way you did?"

Because, you see, I know Britni and know she's not evil at heart. At all. Far from it. What makes a girl do mean things? A girl raised in a good family, well taken care of, not lacking in opportunity, raised in church, in a Christian school...

She shared these things with me.

1. Anger, inner turmoil and stress of personal situations made me want to be mean to others.
2. I couldn't confide in anyone really, or felt like I couldn't, so the stress came out in anger.
3. I looked to get reactions from others, because of the problems going on in my own life that I had no control over. I was reacting to my own problems with stress and anger, therefore I tried to cause reactions in other people too.
4. I was jealous of attention that other girls got, so a lot of the things I did was to get attention too.

Now, once again I paused hearing this. Number 2 bothered me. I know her family. She had many people to talk to. She was surrounded by family and friends who cared. She should have had me too. How did she feel like this? I know her family did talk to her, care for her and pay attention to her. Even with all of that, she felt this way. It's possible to feel alone even when you're not. I'm sad she felt alone during that time.

This has happened in my own parenting recently. I think I have processed something important effectively, later to find out my kids opinion is, no, not really. How could you say that? I said this, this and this. You said this. We talked about it. Somehow sometimes they don't hear it like we think it happened. People process differently. Maybe we should double check. And triple check?

And for #5, I was so curious about her treating Ellie differently at school then at home. I had to ask why, having seen this situation so many times. The friend acts great one on one or at home, then acts weird or mean at school or in front of other people. Why do girls do that?

5. I loved Ellie and knew she didn't want to be part of being mean, so I ignored her at school, but I still really liked being with her, so one on one I could be friends with her.

Being older now, Britni realized that didn't totally make sense, but in middle school it did.

How must Ellie have felt during this time? confused? wondering whether to give Britni more chances? I wonder!

Usually the "Ellie" of the situation feels hurt and wonders what's wrong with herself to make her friend mistreat her. But that wasn't the case at all. Britni loved Ellie, respected her, and liked being with her. Britni just divided her personality in half in order to deal with what she had created.

I found this interesting and a probable relief for all the Ellies out there! The problem wasn't with Ellie. Britni recognized it as a problem within herself. Not that it solves the problem or makes Ellie hurt less. Not that it's ok. We aren't giving a blanket "okay" for this, just trying to make some sense of the reasoning.

I got intrigued writing this and am attempting to find the true Ellie and hear her side. Detective suit on. Trench coat and magnifying glass out. Will let you know what I find.

I will say again Britni learned her lesson the hard way, through becoming a victim herself and enduring a very difficult year, of which she didn't share all the details for quite awhile. She allowed God to do a great work in her life, change her heart and she has take responsibility for her actions. She is more than willing to tell on herself now, in a hope to help girls not do what she did. Follow her blog now as she travels the world in an 11 month venture, 11 countries in 11 months with The World Race. http://britnibersin.theworldrace.org/.

Meanwhile, also pursuing other stories from girls who have been the victim of bullying, so we can get a personal understanding of that side too. I know it's personal and perhaps painful to relive, but can be a source of education for others, in an attempt to combat what has become a huge problem in our country.

Let me know if you have one to share.


Pt. 2 - Mean Girl

Yesterday we left you hanging! Peep on over at Part 1 if you missed it before you read this post!

Britni had spent her entire 6th grade year being the mean girl, even into a portion of her 7th grade year...before things began to take a turn for the worse....

She was in a private Christian school where many kids ran around with smiles on their faces and "acted right" at the "right times", but were completely different behind the scenes. And we all know girls are pretty sneaky. They know how to appear innocent when necessary and still do damage to those around them, all while keeping a smile on their face!

In Britni's own words:
"Midway through our 7th grade cheer season, everything changed. A new girl decided to join the squad. She just transferred from a public school and she was gorgeous. Not to mention, just as cruel as we were. Being the new girl, she stirred curiousity from our peers. From myself, she stirred jealousy. I tried to protect what my friends and I had "built" for ourselves by gossiping about her and spreading around half true stories I had heard. But instead of joining in with me, my friends flocked to her. Needless to say, I was left once again, alone. Abandoned. Just like I felt from my parents divorce. I really hit a low point in my lost and festering emotions. I spent many times at school alone now, usually eating lunch in classrooms or bathrooms. Ellie stuck by me. It got so bad I decided to quit my private school and study at home for the rest of 7th grade year. I was so angry and hurt. I wanted nothing more to do with these people. I wanted nothing more to do with people in general. All they had proven to me was their capability to leave.

It was while I was at home that "the rumor" started. I began hearing comments from people regarding my sudden disappearance from school. Lies were being spread around that I was pregnant. They were whispering, gossiping, word vomitting all over me. ME! I was the gossiper, not the gossiped about! And yet, somehow, I had become the center of a vicious and degrading rumor mill for the first time in my life. Honestly, at the time I'm not even sure I completely knew how you get pregnant. My reputation took a beating. But this was the thing it took for me to take a real close look at myself for once. I had to swallow my pride and realize that they were now treating me how I had treated them. I was finally reaping the harvest from the seeds I had sown. Although I spent the remainder of my year feeling completely alone, I had started a process of growing up and allowing God to work on the mess of pain and filth hiding in my heart.

God began to bring across my path some wise individuals who spoke truth to me. One man once told me, "If you want a true friend, be a true friend." I pondered what that meant for me as I took this year at home to re-build. I also learned that it's okay to hurt, but you need to talk to someone about it. You can't deal with pent up emotions by yourself, otherwise you'll end up pouring out your wrath on others. So, as 8th grade finally came around, I gathered the courage I had gained and the lessons I had learned and headed back to school. That next year was easily one of the best school years I've ever had. And what's even greater? I gained true friends, many of which, especially Ellie, I've been close with to this day (a whole 8 years later)."

Insights: (not that these are correct actions or motives, these are observations of WHY)

1. It was because of Britni's jealousy that she lashed out at the new girl. Jealousy breeds drama.
2. In Britni's mind, the new girl threatened the friendship structure she had built with her friends, so Britni went into protective mode, trying to keep the new girl out.
3. Shallow friends abandon for the next new thing.
4. The friends she gossiped with, now gossiped about her.
5. It took something big for her to take a look at herself.

Now this story reads really quick and simple, but I know that the living out of these two years, especially the last one, was long and hard with much pain. She explained to me the reason her 8th grade year and on were so much better. She and some of the other girls had learned their lessons and made a decision to leave the drama behind, to change their ways. They stuck together. They split ways with those who continued to live in and create drama. That was key.

Britni is extremely remorseful for pain she caused. I offered to write this story anonymously, but she said no, she needed to "own" her past. Her hope is that girls may listen and recognize any behavior of their own that may need changing.

There is still more to come on this huge subject.

Helping girls understand the motives of why people act the way they do is key to 1) building empathy and 2) helping girls not internalize mean behavior toward them as if they are at fault. Generally, the mean ones are hurting inside so they bring hurt to others. The victims often wonder "what's wrong with them" and internalize the pain as if they themselves are at fault. It doesn't lessen the pain at all to understand why someone is mean to you, but it can help your mind understand the situation and know that it's not your problem, it's theirs.

We have to learn how to deal with bullying, to teach girls how to deal with it when it happens to them. I believe in confronting it, standing up for yourself and also standing up for others who can't seem to do it themselves.

Broaching that subject soon. Stayed tuned.


Pt. 1 - Middle School Mean Girl Turned Missionary

For Anti-Bullying month, I'd love to share the TRUE story of a twenty-something girl that I've known her entire life. Brini has graciously written out her middle school story to share, in hopes of helping some girls along the way. So grateful for her willingness and honesty. She is a changed person now and has much wisdom to share about middle school and mean girls.

Yesterday's blog also revealed some local teen girls thoughts on friendships in general. Make sure and check that out too for some juicy tidbits.

But first, let's go back a couple of decades! Here is sweet Britni ate age 2 at my wedding!

Isn't she presh??! And WAY too cute and sweet to ever do anything mean!! Right?! Well not according to her. (p.s. gotta love that 80's master headpiece! even though it was '91... Some of us hung on to the 80's.) Britni has grown into a wonderful young lady, and is currently on an 11 month missionary journey around the world, doing daring things that few of us would do! You can join in on that adventure via her blog at http://britnibersin.theworldrace.org/. She has raised quite a chunk of change and still has quite a chunk to go to finish out her 11 months! It's a good cause. This is her now as the fabulous missionary that she is:

If you get inspired by her journey, feel free to contribute by giving online at the above website.

BACK TO the Mean Girl Story!

I love her story because she gives us a rare glimpse into the mind and motivations that mean behavior often stems from. I believe if girls can hear her story and understand her perspective, they will either 1) take a look at their own behavior or 2) have a better understanding of how to deal with girls who may be acting this way towards them!

So let's get to PART ONE of her story...(it's too long for one blog post.)

Fyi, this took place at a private Christian school. 6th grade.

"Middle School. Oh dear sweet middle school. So full of innocence, right? Maybe not as much as you'd like to think. Most pre-teens won't be out drinking on the weekends or visiting the backseat of a car with their "boyfriend/girlfriend", but that doesn't mean there isn't a battle to be fought! For me, and for most, it would be the fight for popularity. What would you do for the top spot on the A-list of your social sphere? We will leave that an unanswered question for now. Not so sure we would all want to confess that one out loud. I'll admit, however, that I was willing to risk others' reputations over my own. The possibilities truly were endless. Remember that law about reaping and sowing? Well this is one of those stories. I started off in 6th grade already emotionally torn up. My parents were in the process of an ugly divorce and I didn't handle it well. Abandoned is a good word to describe how I felt. I am not sure I understood the full extent of the emotions I was dealing with, but I certainly knew they were there. I always saw them (the emotions) manifest through my actions toward others. I truly wasn't a mean spirited person, I was just hurting and immature. I did find an outlet for a period of time through cheerleading. I quickly bonded with a group of girls who were alot like me; outgoing, adventurous and in need of attention. And boy, did we LOVE attention. We often sought it at the expense of others. We did things like de-panting girls in gym class and mocking kids during chapel praise and worship. Harmless things, like throwing gum in girls hair and laughing when they didn't notice. That's harmless, right? We spread vicious rumors about the people we didn't like and found entertainment in watching it spread like wildfire. We never thought about the way that it actually made people feel. We were just looking for a response from our peers. Now, I've got to step back for a moment because I feel I am painting a bad picture for the cheerleaders out there. We weren't all like that. There were actually a few that knew who they were and didn't stoop to our level. One in particular was a really good friend of mine. I will call her Ellie. I greatly admired this girl because she stood her ground and didn't let our influence get to her. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to respect that. I often blew her off to hang around my mean friends. I wasn't intentionally rude to Ellie. I really did love her as a person. I think it was just hard for me to be around her because her standard convicted my own behavior. I was also confused at what a real friend was. I thought that since she didn't want to do all the things I did, she thought she was better than me. True friends, in my mind, were supposed to do all things together; good and bad. I was really split over my different groups of friends. In response, I split my time and maybe even my personality to some degree. I would hang out with the "cheer girls" at school and all related activities, and I'd hang out with Ellie when no one else was around. I really couldn't find a way to fit these two parts of my life together. I am not sure I will ever know the extent of the damage I caused Ellie, but I'm thankful she stuck around anyway. Midway through our 7th grade cheer season, everything changed...A new girl decided to join the squad..."

And now...you will have to wait for tomorrow to find out what big change happened!! SIGH!!! Not fair, I know...Stay tuned. it's a good one, full of drama.

Insights so far...
1. she hurt others because of her own pain
2. she didn't consider herself a mean person, just did things without thinking with similar girls.
3. she looked up to Ellie who was different, but she didn't understand how to deal with it.
4. Ellie probably felt confused and blown off by Britni's behavior, but it didn't mean that Britni didn't love her. Britni wanted to keep Ellie in her life, but didn't know how to be both kinds of people at once.
5. Britni misunderstood true friendship.

Lots more coming up on girl issues. (The new facebook layout has made viewing so much more difficult! Agreed?) So "Like" our page 5 Things on Facebook to get all the updates, or subscribe by email at http://www.5things.us/ to get every post!


Wanna Know Girls Thoughts on Friendships?

October is anti-bullying month. We've got some great things coming up on that subject, a real life story to share, but I want to start out with some real thoughts on friendships, from recent meetings held with local teen girls.

After years of meeting with teen girls talking about life issues, loneliness is one common theme that has never changed, no matter the age or the different group of girls I'm talking to. Girls can tend to be lonely. As busy as we are, it's an interesting thought! A middle schooler this weekend said "That's why girls want to have a boyfriend". Another said that girls you'd never expect sometimes post things on Facebook or Twitter declaring loneliness. Loneliness may be partly due to the fact we are made with such a great capacity for relationship. Learning what to do with that need for relationship is helpful.

Girls often say with sadness how they rarely have time to get together with so many friends they really enjoy. We talked of the need for relationship and friendship, how crucial it is. Our lifestyles sometimes make us so busy, they definitely feel stress at young ages, but does the primary need for good relationships get squeezed out? Good friendships are part of what eleviates stress in our lives. Are we making time for people? It's something to consider. It seems a constant battle for all of us, adults too. I know I can relate!

It is helpful to let girls know that occasional loneliness is relatively normal and they aren't the only ones that feel that way. So often we do feel like "the only ones" who feel a certain way. Oh, I'm normal?! What a relief! Sometimes just knowing that helps. It may be a surprise to learn some girls feel this way at all. Not all do, but it may be helpful to bring it up sometime and see if the girls you know can relate.

When we do have that great fun time with friends, it's so important who we hang out with. Friends influence us one way or another. At our last two meetings, girls have had to think through what character traits are important to them in friendships.

A group of 8th graders individually write down the 5 most important character traits they wanted a close friend to have. Then as a group they had to unanimously agree on just 3 of those traits as the most important. This was a difficult task which led to very interesting discussion!

After a lively debate, we finally realized narrowing down to 3 would be impossible before moms arrived to pick up girls to go home. These girls had lots of thoughts and compelling arguments! So the final 5 they could agree on as tops were: honesty, trust, Christian, fun, and a friend who listens. Each had their own personal top 3, that weren't necessarily the same as others, which is totally fine. It wasn't a right or wrong answer, just an exercise to think through what traits a good friend should have.

Lastly, looking in the mirror is necessary (but definitely not quite as fun), as we ask ourselves, am I displaying those qualities that I seek from others? This question solicited a couple of groans and sheepish looks....but teaching girls to consider their own behavior will give them life long skills they'll need for good relationships.

Random thoughts girls have shared this month-

1. I want a friend who listens to me. Some girls want to talk about their problems all the time, but get annoyed when I want to talk about mine.
2. I want a friend who isn't a downer all the time. If someone is negative a lot, I feel it pulling me down with them.
3. I want a friend who really wants to be with me. I don't want to be their back up plan.
4. I have alot of people tell me their problems. I have to make sure I don't get burdened down trying to take care of everyone's problems.
5. "Oh no..." when asked to think about how they themselves are acting toward others...indicating the need to examine self is definitely needed! :) haha... who can't relate to that?!

Discussion starter: When girls you know, daughter or otherwise, are talking about friends, ask what it is they enjoy about that person. Just listen. This can help her think through what traits are important to her in relationships.

Sometimes the opposite approach works too. If she is having friendship problems, recognizing what that friend is doing that hurts her, helps her to see the positive quality that friend may be lacking.


Access Hollywood- A Good Example

If you've followed the last few blogs, you know we are highlighting positive examples in our culture, after looking at the problem of girls pushing for perfectionism and growing up too fast. If you missed any, check out October posts!

Shaun Robinson is a bright light in the midst of Hollywood. In a city that seems to be so filled with "image", Shaun has seen through the smoke and mirrors and heard the needs of girls. Plus she is fighting to make a difference.

Some might say that the Hollywood culture, always vying for fame and beauty, is what is wrong with our society. It is the very source of false hopes our girls cling to. Therefore they may not want to support someone in the midst of the culture. I disagree. People of standards need to be in all parts of society, bringing their difference, message and hope to every corner of the world.

I heard about Shaun, not through her weekend co-anchor position at Access Hollywood, but through the book she wrote called Exactly As I Am. Her job as an entertainment reporter allows her to meet the most famous celebrities of our day. Over the years, she has received countless letters and emails from girls around the country. She has recognized the danger of girls equating their own self worth with the perceived perfection of the celebrities they follow.

"Of course, the cultural obsession with celebrity is not new, but how it is impacting the way girls and women feel about themselves has become a passionate concern of mine- so much so that over the past few years I began organizing informal task-force groups of girls and young women from around the country to talk directly about their issues of self esteem." (excerpt from Exactly As I Am)

Her book is a compilation of stories from famous women of all types of accomplishments, from actresses to athletes to governors and scientists. Their stories center around their advice to young women about gaining confidence in their "tangible skills", instead of just looks. I encourage you to pick up a copy and read about the struggles that even celebrities go through with their self image. No one is immune from self doubt. It is nice to hear from women who have accomplished great things in their careers, even through adversity.

She is also on the Board of Directors of Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit youth organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Shout out to Shaun!


Celebrating Good Examples

Another voice that has stood out from the crowd is from actress Emma Watson of the Harry Potter series. In 2009 she spoke out on modesty:

"I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me - dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt. It’s nothing to do with protecting the Hermione image. I wouldn’t do that. Personally, I don’t actually think it’s even that sexy. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder. - Emma Watson

That is a breath of fresh air coming from a teen living among fame and Hollywood culture! So many other young famous teen girls have spiraled downwards in that environment, leaving girls around the country disappointed. It's nice to see an actress take a stand for something different than the norm.

Now that she's a little older, we'll see what happens, but I hope she continues to be a good example. Girls need good role models to look up to!

Do you know other good examples in our culture that stand out from among the rest?


Andy Grammer- Music that Respects Women

Last week's blog was a five part series on the problems of and solutions for the early sexualization of girls in our culture. (A bit of a downer to focus on, but completely necessary to understand if we are going to combat the messages!) I could go on and on and on about the poor messages. They are endless...

BUT what's exciting is when a ray of light shines out from among the others with a POSITIVE message! Especially a positive message in the MUSIC industry about women and how to treat them! There have been a few shining lights lately and I'm happy to highlight them this week.

Andy Grammer is a fabulous upcoming artist with music that we can be proud of, and a very fun happy style that is too rare and so refreshing.

Brighten your day by clicking on this link to catch his song with a great message called "LADIES".

Now that you love him, here is one more! And add him to your Ipod today.

Check out his performance of "The Pocket".

We love Andy Grammer!


Pt. 4 - Making a Difference!

After 3 days of the issues, today is the hope!

This 5 part series on the early sexualization of girls was kicked off with the recent Toddlers and Tiaras episodes that have made national news; then we moved on to how marketing ploys push girls to grow up too fast on purpose; day three was a 7 year old's disappointed observations about her favorite comic strip heroine, "re-done" into a new sexier character (who did more posing than adventurous feats).

Today I want to tell you about some great people that are working to change all of these things.

On a day to day basis, we don't really hear too much about girl issues or organizations committed to them. But thanks to internet and twitter, it's been a pleasant surprise to find out about efforts being made all over the country to combat these cultural issues.

So today I'd like to introduce you to my fabulous new finds. These are great people fighting to help girls grow up well in this culture. Please take a moment to check out their websites and see the great works they are doing!

BEAUTY REDEFINED- http://www.beautyredefined.net/

Among the many other great things they do, a billboard campaign has started in Utah where they are based. Check out their website or facebook page to see the other billboards too! Website fabulousness- revealing advertising photoshopping that leads to false "perfect beauty" ideals, combatting pornography becoming mainstream in media and advertising and how that negatively affects all of us, men and women alike.

Great website for moms of little girls. They speak to the issue of how our culture's early sexualization of girls affects girls at younger ages. YES, I have heard of girls as young as 5 being told they looked fat, and it is very commonplace now in grade school for girls to be weight conscious. CHECK OUT this website for info on helping your daughter deal with those struggles.

DOVE BEAUTY (yes, the soap company) - Click on the links below to watch videos Dove has made to promote real beauty, not the photoshopped kind. (I still believe in makeup FULLY lol). There are plenty more if you google or youtube (just be aware there are lots of "parodies" on youtube also. Make sure it's a real Dove video).

Some favorites are:

MEG MEEKER, M.D. - http://www.megmeekermd.com/ "The Wisdom of a Pediatrician, the Heart of a Mother". I have used Meg Meeker's books to teach girls from. She has a great website full of parenting advice, videos with encouragement and advice, and great advice for older teens and college age girls.

TURN IT AROUND - Facebook Group (if you do a search for it, the group logo is a Cosmopolitan magazine with a red line through it).

This is a group my girls and I started a year and a half ago. After years of covering eye level magazines from my girls view at check out stands, wishing they wouldn't display magazines like that, but not having time or energy to take on the whole publishing business, we had a great idea. The Turn It Around Campaign. If you see a magazine that you find offensive for women, or that young kids don't need to see, just turn it around in the rack.

A facebook page was created, lots of fabulous people joined and we started getting messages of people turning magazines around! Men too! Facebook is in the process of archiving groups, but as far as I can tell you can still join it! It's time to revive those efforts !

Watch the video some local girls made of turning magazines around. (They were trying to get on the Tyra show!)

FINALLY, to be fair, this whole sexualization in media affects boys too. Below is another link to a Dove video that shows the photoshopping of male models. It's only fair to point out to girls that their "ideal guy" may not exist, just like his "ideal girl" may not exist, looks-wise. Starts out kind of slow, but by the end you'll get the point.

There is much hope and goodness in our culture and that is the part we need to focus on. There are many young people, boys and girls alike, who are living apart from this "ideal" that media tries to create. It's possible to be different! Having a strong identity and teaching kids to think through what they see allows them to discern media messages for themselves. That is what we need to be able to do.


Pt. 3 - Thoughts from a 7 Year Old

Photo credit: www.io9.com

I knew nothing about the world of Teen Titans or comic books until today. The small amount I just googled hardly makes me able to speak to any of it intelligently so I won't try.

Who DOES speak intelligently is the 7 year old in this article.

Apparently her favorite cartoon Titan, who used to be an intelligent capable woman, has been "re-made" and is now a "sexy, do nothing but look good" character. She's disappointed. Find out why!

Please take a moment to read "A Seven Year Old's Response to DC Comics Sexed Up Reboot of Starfire".



Pt. 2 - Early Sexualization of Girls

Tweens. We all know that word, right? How long has it been around? I remember life before the word existed. It wasn't too long ago.

According to Packaging Girlhood by Sharon Lamb, Ed. D. and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed. D.:

"Tween- a combination of teen and between- is a marketing concept developed in the eighties to get kids, primarily girls, to continue buying toys. When the top age of toy users dropped from 12 to 8, toy stores started offering diva dolls, makeup, jewelry craft kits, and room decor to encourage girls to identify with issues and products older than they are. The common concern we hear from parents and school counselors- that girls are buying into a culture that has them growing up too fast- is the marketers dream come true; a crossover market! Marketing publications are filled with gleeful stories about the spending power of this age group; strategies for capturing the tween doll, shoe, music, accessory, and clothing market; how to get girls' attention in new and more spectacular ways; how to own them and channel their desires while not alienating the parents. We can see the results of all this effort in the ways products are marketed to preteens, ingenious strategies that combine innocence and edge....What's troubling about all of this is giving us all the false notion that the tween years...are something more than pure marketing. Juliet Schor, author of Born to Buy, interviewed top executives at companies that sell products to children, only to find them shrugging their shoulders and saying that although they know what they sell isn't good for kids, it's up to parents to say no. Plain and simple, marketers study children to understand what will grab their attention and make it difficult for parents to point their children in healthier directions...While products aimed at tween girls promise perfect faces and bodies, friends, and boyfriends, the marketers and manufacturers don't have to confront the negative impact on girls: the confusion about sexuality and romantic relationships, the anxiety about weight and appearance, the struggle with popularity and fitting in. No, they leave that to you."

(By the way, the ages marketed to has dropped to at least age 7). It starts here, just subtly:

In The Lolita Effect by M. Gigi Durham, Ph.D., she states:

"The media, which are driven by profit and ratings, aren't in the business of respecting or advocating for girls. As far as the media industries go, cultivating consumers as early as possible is a central goal. That's why we're seeing increasingly adult content being aimed at very young children; that's why the dolls sold to preschoolers look exactly like the half-dressed women in music videos and soft-core men's magazines, and why toddlers' fashions are almost indistinguishable from those of teenagers. Marketers call this "KGOY," or "Kids Getting Older Younger": that's where the developmental differences among children are blurred by the media through strategies geared toward creating consumer bases as early as possible".

Doesn't that just kind of make you mad like it does me? Companies want to make money off of my kid growing up too fast?

Now we'll switch to my own thoughts and I'm sure you'll be able to tell the shift of style (ha). (Already). We as parents have to be able to say no. We've raised 3 girls, well we're not done, but we've gotten through the hardest years in this regard.

We have survived without buying sassy t-shirts, clothes that promote bad attitudes, bikinis, thongs and push up bras, and underwear that say suggestive things. Ok, so we somehow had one pair years ago that slipped through when we shopped in a hurry and it's still a joke among our home. It is hard work to find a one piece swimsuit that is still doable or even a decent tankini. Thank goodness that trend is changing. It's REALLY hard work to find a bra for a young teen. Really, Abercrombie? Push ups that are marketed to ages 7-14? The smallest size would fit most 9 year olds.

Years ago at Kohls, a worker heard me say out loud that I would never buy any of these bras for a 12 year old, so she sent me over to the kids department. Over there I found a miniscule selection of pieces of cotton with straps on them, declaring the love of summer in bold colors. Were there no choices between play/trainer bras and Victoria's Secret style push up padded leopard print? (which I don't have a problem with unless they are for young girls).

In the clothing arena, our kids knew there were shops we just didn't go to, so don't even ask. It really wasn't an issue, no one whined over it because they knew we don't shop there. We are definitely a house full of girls into clothes and fashion so I'm not throwing out the whole industry by any means! And as conservative as I feel, I know there are circles where I seem to be the wild one, so I realize there is a wide spectrum of viewpoints on clothing. I guess I'm in the middle. I shop at most of the normal stores, but believe there's ways to be stylish without turning into an advertising billboard of things we don't believe in. There's a way to dress without falling for all of this early sexualization money making stuff.

Things have declined faster and younger just over the last few years. What really gets me now is the onesies for babies I see in stores. Ok, some are comical like "ipood. Download complete" (instead of ipad...computer terms...for those wondering).

But I have issue with all of the t-shirts sold that display sassy attitudes and sexual inuendo. Believe it or not, those are both available on baby onesies. I've seen them in the store. Such as a boy's onesie that says "Your crib or mine?" or "Mmmmm....boobies" or "Drink all night".

I know people aren't trying to create little partiers.

I guess some think it's funny and cute, like their kid is a funny little billboard for display. I look at those onesies and think if you start feeding that attitude toward life right now, what is the future? It's so subtle.

When you look at the big picture, in my opinion all of these things take away from, instead of developing, the little eternal valuable people that we get to raise.

photo credit: www.blogs.babiesonline.com

A long time ago, shopping in a favorite store, I found myself picking up and laughing over a pair of "the new thing", baby heels. Within seconds, I went through a series of thoughts- "I love shoes, I LOVE baby shoes, these are so bizarre! They are kinda cute! But kinda creepy". (They were soft squishy heels).

My final thought was why would I want my baby in heels?? I had fallen for it for a brief second because of my love of baby shoes and fashion. I guess those were "the thing" among celebrities for awhile. A perhaps for a second cute concept until you see this:

Photo credit: www.heelsandhers.com

I may be losing friends, but the perspective I'm coming from is hearing what girls have said for 8 years about the pressures they feel to grow up, to look good, to be sexy before they are aready.

Looking at the big picture, girls grow up too fast, the culture pushes for it just to make a profit, the girls pay the price, parents have a harder job saying no to more and more things. Girls definitely feel the pressure to look good at very early ages. They feel the pressure that they are supposed to want a boyfriend at very early ages, whether they want one or not.

Girls still want to be girls, but they have a lot to fight against to not be sucked into the marketing mold set for them.

We as parents have endless battles and our own form of adult peer pressure over what to allow and what to say no too. It's difficult! I have wanted to quit and give in numerous times, just out of sheer exhaustion and desire for ease. But we can't give in.

Good news is our girls can survive and be normal people without falling for all of this marketing! It's possible to keep things age appropriate and to help kids have a healthy childhood, then gradually grow into teen years. Everything "teen" doesn't have to be handed over at age 12 or 13.

For the readers out there, check out the list of recommended books on my website regarding this subject. I don't agree with everything they say in these books, but they are full of very good useful information. Take the good, toss what you may disagree with.

Packaging Girlhood by Sharon lamb, Ed.D., and Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed. D. is a great book to open your eyes to the overall marketing scheme going on to young girls. As is true so often, it seems it all comes down to money once again.

"We've been told our world empowers girls by offering them anything they want...in reality, it's a world designed by media and marketing exectutives that targets children as consumers". The authors say after reading this book, their hope is that "just as you now read the nutrition content on the side of the cereal box before buying it for your child, you will be able to read the messages in the shows she watches, the stores she walks into, and the activities she engages in, in order to provide healthy choices for her in the real world."

photo credit: www.youngwomenshealth.org

I love the way that is worded. We are so diet conscious, wanting labels on food, to see how what we take into our body is going to affect our health. It would be great if we did the same and considered how other things we take in in other forms will affect our mental and emotional health. I think it's no coincidence that with the rise of attitude, sexuality and growing up too fast, has come an increase in depression. Girls are not supposed to be grown up at 13. or 15. But they are told to act like they are. It's very confusing.

Read a man's point of view in this article from the Huffington Post by L Z Granderson. He speaks to this subject very directly. Click on this link.

Another news story about padded push up swimsuit bikinis marketed to as young as 7 year old by guess who....Abercrombie and Fitch. Click on this link to read that.

Another interesting debate : click here.

If you completely disagree with me and like the onesie featured in the blog pic, it can be found at www.snugfits.com. (Actually I just have to give photo credit).


Pt. 1 - A 4 Year Old Prostitute?

I have been reading with one eye a lot of things in the news lately about young girls, not because I don't care about the subject, because I do. But some things are so outrageous I don't like to give them attention. Like the show Toddlers and Tiaras. Lately though, the show has made national news for some outrageous things and it's time to stop ignoring the yuckiness.

I've never wanted to be a basher. I'd rather put good in front of people and let it speak for itself. But in the last month, two stories about Toddlers and Tiaras have put me over the edge. And you have probably seen the current cover of People magazine at the checkout stand speaking to the issue also. Now I have to speak up.
Credit: TLC/Splash News

For those fortunate enough to have missed the stories, first, a four year old girl wore fake breasts and a padded butt to emulate Dolly Parton. In the same week, this three year old you see in the picture wore a prostitute costume emulating Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman. Both moms defended the costumes, though there has been much public outrage. Click on the links and see for yourself. As many are actually defending this, many more are speaking out against such behavior. Thank goodness.

The ridiculously early sexualization of girls in our culture is no secret. But we are declining faster and faster. Things are out of control. One thing I know, girls already feel enough pressure to grow up too fast. They already see females sexualized everywhere they turn. They already have too many daily messages coming at them that their entire worth is in how they look and in what they offer sexually.

But for the ones who are supposed to be their protectors and role models to encourage such shortsighted antics is just too much. And for me it doesn't stop there. Watching it for entertainment is too much also.

I am not a fan of Toddlers and Tiaras. I'll be honest and say I've never watched an entire episode because I can't stomach the whole concept. I think it's cheap entertainment and some things border on child abuse. I can't watch that for entertainment. I won't disown you as a friend if you do watch it, but I'd like to challenge the thinking for a moment. I may lose some people here but I will go as far as to say this: in my mind it's not a far stretch to say it is in the same vein as the days of history past. In Colosseum days the public watched violence and death for entertainment. We may balk at that. How could they have been so desensitized to sit and eat popcorn (or whatever they ate back then) while people were torn apart and killed in front of them? But today people watch young girls be subjected to what most would agree is a questionable world at best, and I believe damaging to them, for the sake of entertainment. And we give time and attention to moms who have obvious issues of their own, living selfishly through their girls. If you do not agree with the show, why support it by watching?

I remember hearing my girls talking about an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras once. (It's not part of the regular viewing of our family, but yes they have seen it). What's interesting is what I heard them saying about it afterwards. On their own, they were smart enough to see through it all. I asked my middle daughter Lauryn, who is 15, to share those thoughts again for this blog. She said she believes the little girls involved will one day be thinking "My mom doesn't think I'm good enough without all the hair, makeup and outfits, so I'll always need them to be good enough". She also felt like the girls in the shows will grow up being super insecure, or perhaps super snotty because they "get everything they want". They will also have to combat the pressure to always be perfect.

There is so much to say on this topic. I feel a series coming on. There are some great things being done to combat this culture that's trying to take over. I can't wait to share some of them with you! Let's start by saying this, let's keep our girls young while they are young!

Here is what my own girls looked like at 4 years old:

Role models were Elmo, Mr. Rogers, and Cinderella. Activities of interest were playing with toys, dressing up, spinning, raising turtles in the backyard, drawing and pretending to be sisters (yes, even though they were sisters, for some reason it was more fun to pretend they were sisters). When they were 4 they acted 4. I wanted them to be 4.

Today they are strong, full of character and have very healthy identities. That was 10 years ago...and things are declining faster now. Is it still possible to keep girls young and innocent today? Of course it is!

Here is one of my current favorite four year old girls, Lexi, daughter of fabulous Rabu and Kyna.

Lexi says her favorite thing to do is play. When asked to explain she said playing with her sisters, coloring, soccer, playing with blocks, dressing up, watching movies and sleeping!

She is adorable and smart.

The girls I have talked to over the years actually want to stay young as long as possible. They don't like the sexualization of girls either. They want to be valued for who they are as people.

Can we keep girls young? At least while they are young? Can we bring back childhood innocence?

Let's reconsider what is appropriate for young girls- in clothing, activities and entertainment.

Who's with me?