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Why do you buy age-inappropriate stuff for your kids?

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#1 F.E.B.E

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:29 AM

The inappropriate sexualisation of our children has been in the news a lot recently. Between the Toddlers and Tiaras - style beauty pageants heading our way to the latest fashion shoes encouraging seven year olds to 'shape up' (a brand that's enthusiastically supported by Kim Kardashian (look girls, with a pair of these shoes and some plastic surgery, you could aspire to making you own home porno one day!)  not to mention g-strings, push-up bras, perfume, makeover parties and oh, well, the list just goes on and on.

The release of these age-inappropriate products gets plenty of media attention and plenty of parental outrage.  But the kicker is they obviously sell by the pallet-load,  otherwise the companies wouldn't keep producing them. Take the weird-looking Bratz Dolls as an example - despite being lambasted as tarty, trampy, slutty and being linked to the sexualisation and the objectification of women, they are a multi-billion dollar business.

The American Psychological Association this year reported that young girls are particularly susceptible to marketing messages linking popularity and social acceptance to their products. Their early sexualisation is linked to lower self-esteem, worse physical and mental health and decreased ability to learn. So why on earth would parents buy things that are going to hold their kids back like that?

Author and social commentator Karen Brooks explains that just as kids can be susceptible to peer pressure, so too can parents! "It's crazy, isn't it, that parents, despite all the evidence and expert advice out there, continue to buy these things for their kids," she says. "But, there are reasons for this and they're multiple and all work in tandem to persuade adults, particularly parents, to abandon common sense and succumb."

"Parents are persuaded by a combination of pester power and competitive parenting that purchasing the inappropriate 'stuff' does more good than harm," says Karen. "With regards to pester power, ever since Barbie by Mattel first by-passed the gatekeepers, the parents, and advertised to kids in the 60s, the floodgates were opened. Kids were encouraged, first to ask, but over the last decade and more: to nag." Then there's the competition: the "Mummy Mafia" as Karen terms it, who pressure each other overtly and subtly into purchases by engaging in competitive parenting.

"In fact, (parents) gain in the short term from doing this", says Karen. "It makes them seem 'cool' to their kids and their kids' friends, they are popular with their kids and they may even become trendsetters among the parental group. There's often an Alpha parent (usually a mother) just as there's an Alpha kid. No one wants to say anything for fear of being targeted or ostracised so they play along... To their own and their child's detriment. They may find the outfit inappropriate, feel uneasy that their child is wearing the outfit (that they or their money bought - actually, the number or parents who excuse what their child is wearing by saying 's/he dresses her/himself' as though the child is responsible, is mind-blowing... Again, whose choice was it to buy the outfit in the first place?), will excuse it by thinking, well the others are wearing the same/worse."

And of course, some parents simply choose to ignore the research and believe that it's the right thing to do. "Lazy parenting? Maybe", says Karen. "But many parents don't see it that way and, after a stressful day they don't want more stress at home. Also, many working parents see it as an act of benevolence and that they're able to provide their kids with what they didn't have at the same age."

"Social media and technology exacerbates the entire situation because everyone knows what each other has or wants. Young people don't hold back!!! Thus a competition is born!"

So parents: here, online and anonymous, is your perfect venue for honesty. How do you truly feel about age-inappropriate clothes and toys? Do you feel pressured into buying them? Do you resist, or do you think it's all a load of rubbish?

#2 liveworkplay

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:39 AM

So parents: here, online and anonymous, is your perfect venue for honesty. How do you truly feel about age-inappropriate clothes and toys? Do you feel pressured into buying them? Do you resist, or do you think it’s all a load of rubbish?

I wish there was not a market for it, especially inappropriate clothing. As a mother of 3 girls, two in size 6-7 and 8-9 clothing, I dispair at the choice. I have resorted to making some of my own and buying more expensive brands as the most of the clothes in that size from the big department stores is highly inappropriate.

Shoes are another big thing. Having kids in the 90th plus percentiles, getting little girl shoes is a big problem. Again, I have to pay more (and actually get most from the US, to find something that is not more appropriate for an adult (and even some I wouldnt ever wear!!)

Toys? Blah, my kids have better taste laughing2.gif otherwise I tell them it isnt a good toy and we will choose something else. Worked so far.

As for competative parenting? I have 3 young kids, work 4 days, study and keep house, I havent the time or energy to be bothered!

Edited by liveworkplay, 25 May 2011 - 11:53 AM.

#3 SnazzyFeral

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:44 AM

of course there is pressure to buy this stuff, it is all there is a lot of the time. I am pre baby but it is really quite difficult to find clothes for babies that are not sexualised (yummy like mummy) or over the top gendered(e.g. boys rule). K-mart is the worst but all of the shops have tasteless things.

#4 Charlotte84

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:55 AM

Is this really a new thing? (with toys_ I am almost 30, and I know that this stuff was available when I was growing up.  I still have my old hair and make up toys., and telephone etc and it is the same stuff that my friend's children and mine are playing with.  (I also had dress ups which included plastic high heels which you can still get - and they haven't changed the design all these years)

The clothes thing I don't really buy into, if I don't like it I don't buy it, if I like it I buy it.  Some slogans I don't really see as being sexualised (I am talking for babies, toddlers) I see more as funny "boobs man" "i like bobbies" etc I will not deny that my children have worn some of these over the time (when they have been babies) however I do see that there are issues with young girls clotes - bras (not the crop top stuff that I remember as a kid), dresses that are low cut and mini.etc.

#5 Mrs Dinosaurus

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:55 AM

I dont have daughters and will do whatever I can to prevent the early sexualisation of my sons, I don't buy age-inappropriate stuff for my neices and guess what? They wont wear/use/keep most of the stuff I give them - they hate it. I completely agree with the basis of the article but at school, where it matters, there's a whole lot of peer pressure going on from a very early age and whoever is driving it (advertisers, alpha parents, teachers, big sisters...etc) is irrelevant to the kids - it's VERY hard work to have to keep explaining to your child why they can't have x,y,z that all their friends and peers have and ultimately are you actually limiting exposure? Yes, your child isn't dressed as a tart but she is ridiculed because of it. Assuming it starts and finished at school, that's 12 years of hell for both parent and child with a vague long-term goal of not having them have sex too early (which is when?), not have unprotected sex, not be hookers...what? The number of 'well to do' kids who grow up to be hookers is low, it's not a real consideration for these parents when their daughter is 8 - their daughter being hated at school is.

Then you need to consider the dynamics of parenting - in my own family it was the male (my step-dad) who was the instigator of shaving underarm hair and so on - he found it more embarrassing to be present and seen than otherwise, is this sexualising the kids? Maybe - but none of us are hookers so I'm not sure.

In my SIL/BIL situation (2 daughters) the father is horrible at making really inappropriate comments about how certain girls are good looking (the lead in aladdin, the bad witch in snow white, people on tv) and at the same time thinking his girls should be protected (from people like him?)

If you look at long term psych studies on kids and the impact parents have you can pretty much blame parents for everything - it's hard to say No to everything ALL THE TIME - not too many toys, no computer games, no tv, no branded toys, no toys like guns, no bras or high heels for kids under 12, no bratx, no junk food, no make up...no, no, no. Meanwhile even without tv they are exposed to very heavy age-geared advertising telling them what they want and how to get it - who's going to manage to say no that many times in their lives and maintain a warm, loving relatinship with their toyless, friendless child?

Put the onus back onto government - if they can decide what consenting adults are capapble of processing (sex, violence, cigarettes, gambling etc) why the hell can't they step in to kids programming and advertising where there is also very clear research linking negative outcomes from certain play? Self regulation in any kind of advertising works about as well as telling porno makers to "keep it nice" - as long as there's a legal market they'll find someone willing to buy it, whatever it is (and obviously illegal stuff but that's not the issue here).

Make it illegal to advertise to kids, make it illegal to have child tv stars in 'adult clothes', make it illegal to sell padded bras in size 4 (and high heels) - stop putting the whole onus on stressed parents who are sick of saying 'no' to everything and have to choose to say yes sometimes if only for their own sanity.

#6 Helena Handbasket

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:02 PM

I agree with a pp, affordable clothing for girl 6+ is trashy.

It becomes really hard when kids get to school. DD1 is 6 and she sees a lot of other girls at school wearing glittery lip gloss and bringing in Bratz dolls and stuff for news. She wants to have the same things and doesn't understand that the reason why I disagree with them.

#7 paod

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:04 PM

IMO the problem is not age inappropriate purchases or products its the lack of respect in general and kids being allowed to get away with so much more than they ever used to which is more a parenting issue.

There were high heels, bras, barbie, bikinis and make up around when i was a child and i dont feel that any of it has over sexualised me as a person.  
I danced competitively as a child and was taught that i needed to practice and do my best every time etc. (AKA discipline!) Now still in the industry i see a parenting trend where if "sally" doesnt like it or feel like it she doesnt have to do it or continue. So essentially 'Sally' has mummy and daddy wrapped around her finger and she rules the roost!

I would never have been allowed to misbehave in public but yet i see children doing it all the time and then being bought an ice cream to shut them up so the parent can have peace.

Feminists fought to get equal rights for women and take back ownership of women's sexuality and now we dont like how far its gone because young ladies know sex is often power and they can use it how they wish to get what they want.

IMO we have double standards as a society

#8 kpingitquiet

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:15 PM

I think it's all a bit sick. I'm far from a prude, but I really don't feel the need to froof my daughter up like a favorite doll, nor to give in when she, inevitably, wants every ridiculous outfit or toy. My own mom quite happily returned my copy of Vanilla Ice's "To the Extreme" (HA! What was I thinking??) to the music store as she felt it was inappropriate for me at age 12. Sure, I was p*ssed off at the time. But I got over it wink.gif My husband is already budgeting money to buy a DVR so we can fast-forward through kiddie-targeted ads. He finds them insidious and wrong.

I think it falls into the category of short-term pain for long-term gain. She might throw fits and "I HATE YOU!" left and right when we deny her these over-the-top things, but in 20 years, or if she is ever a parent, I hope she'll see the value in our decisions. I refuse to compromise my values in some bizarre effort to be my child's "best friend".

#9 dejoey

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:34 PM

I live rurally, and the only shop here to buy kids clothes stocks those revolting baby prostitute clothes. I buy from second hand stores, online, and recently travelled to Woolongong to get my eldest winter clothes. This is because I will not have my children dressed that way.

My eldest wore a lot of boys clothes when she was an older baby, young toddler. There was not really a choice between nice girls clothes, and those with disgusting sayings etc. I may be in the minority, I know I am very picky with what my girls (and boys - I don't like skulls, dirty sayings etc on boys clothes either) wear.

I am trying to learn to sew, so when the time comes that these clothes are the only option, I can just make them something decent. I have also taught myself to knit and crochet so they can have nice woollens.

I really wish there were more options for children. I used to think that it was because there were so many really young mothers, and they were dressing their children in clothes that they (the mothers) were comfortable in. I don't think this now, there is too much evidence that it so much broader than that.

#10 BadCat

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:41 PM

We taught our kids from very early on that nothing on ads is as good as it looks - particularly toys.  They are quite savvy and rarely ask for anything that is advertised.  So there is very little pestering in this house.

The other measure that we have taken is the simple expedient of saying no to inappropriate toys or clothes.  No, you can NOT have it.  No.

DD is 12 and usually wears boys t-shirts and shorts because the girls ones are often tarty and she won't wear them.  Nor would I let her wear anything specifically designed to make her look sexy or with sexual comments emblazoned on them.

My 16yo niece referred to herself as a hot b**ch the other day.  I was appalled but unsurprised.  Her mother has always encouraged her to dress up in revealing clothes and wear makeup and frankly she's the perfect role model for a girl who would like to become nothing but a boy toy.

I will not encourage my children to become sexual objects by buying sexualised items for them or by encouraging them to dress in a way designed to be provocative to the opposite sex.

Boobless bras, Bratz and Bling - Just say NO!

#11 Guest_Nurse Mummy_*

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:47 PM

Definitely not, I dont feel the pressure and my DH and I abhor those clothes and toys, I will not dress DD in age inappropriate clothing and luckily her friends parents feel the same way.

#12 Gruffalo's Child

Posted 25 May 2011 - 12:59 PM

I have a 4 year old DD1, 3 year old DS and baby DD2.    So far, we have managed to avoid buying inappropriate toys/clothing for our children by a couple of simple measures.   We don't let them watch commercial tv - it's either ABC kids or DVDs, and I don't take them toy or clothes shopping with me.   So far my philosophy has been that I will choose what clothes they have in their closet, they can choose which of those clothes to dress in on each day.    At 4 and 3, it is very easy to follow through with this, but I know it will get more difficult as they get older, so I am hoping that we are able to come up with other methods that are also effective, especially when peer pressure really starts to influence what they want.

Where it is difficult is when others give gifts that aren't age appropriate, and I am not quite sure of the best way to deal with that!!

#13 Lifesgood

Posted 25 May 2011 - 01:20 PM

it's VERY hard work to have to keep explaining to your child why they can't have x,y,z that all their friends and peers have

Yes it is, like much of parenting you have to work hard at it to do it well
Put the onus back onto government

This is a cop-out, many generations of children will grow up before government can create the nanny state required to ban everything that is detrimental to their development. It is our job as their parents to help them learn to make good choices.

As for the OP's questions, yes I do feel the pressure occasionally, but not often as our DD 5y/o is being raised to be aware of what is appropriate and what is not, so she often makes good choices for herself. When she doesn't, she is gently steered in a more appropriate direction with reasoning and open discussion. Since starting school there has been a lot more '...but mummy why is [insert friends name] allowed to have [insert inappropriate toy/garment/outing/behaviour] and I'm not....' which was entirely expected. I just give her the same answer my parents always gave me 'I don't care what anyone else has/does, it isn't appropriate for you because.....'.

We don't let them watch commercial tv - it's either ABC kids or DVDs, and I don't take them toy or clothes shopping with me.

We also do this, for the most part, though DD is gradually being allowed to shop with me and make her own (supervised) choices.

Where it is difficult is when others give gifts that aren't age appropriate, and I am not quite sure of the best way to deal with that!!

I usually take these to St Vinnies.

#14 FormallyMe

Posted 25 May 2011 - 02:01 PM

DS watched Wrestling for quite a while from about 5 years of age. He's well and truly grown out of it now (he's 7). I think he watched it more for the characters/fantasy than anything. I allowed him to watch some of the old style Wrestling that his uncle watched (Hulk) etc. as a lot of the newer stuff is filled with smut and rated R which I wouldn't allow anyway.

Obviously when he had friends over it was not allowed.

I refused to buy him any WWE products of any sort. His aunty bought him a couple of t-shirts/pyjamas but he was never allowed outside the house in them.

I've never had an issue finding nice clothes for him. I purchase the bulk of it from Myer or David Jones. I've never made a purchase of a slogan t-shirt or the like for him.

I think there are plenty of nice clothes and products/toys out there that there is no need to buy inappropriate things. The majority of people who do purchase such products probably won't come forward and admit they do anyway.

#15 BadCat

Posted 25 May 2011 - 02:10 PM

Maybe if parents flatly refused to buy tacky clothing for their girls OR their boys and stuck to simple, plain coloured shorts and T's for a few seasons the manufacturers would get the hint.

That's always been my take on it.  I will not give manufacturers the impression that certain clothes are acceptable by buying them even if it means dressing my kids in boring clothes.  Better boring than trampy or "street".

#16 FormallyMe

Posted 25 May 2011 - 02:15 PM

QUOTE (BadCat @ 25/05/2011, 02:10 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maybe if parents flatly refused to buy tacky clothing for their girls OR their boys and stuck to simple, plain coloured shorts and T's for a few seasons the manufacturers would get the hint.

That's always been my take on it.  I will not give manufacturers the impression that certain clothes are acceptable by buying them even if it means dressing my kids in boring clothes.  Better boring than trampy or "street".

I don't think parents need to stick to plain coloured shorts and T's.
There are many of lovely clothes around. Myer has great clothes. They often have sales too and their clothes become just as cheap as Target etc.

The one area that does need addressing is clothes for teen girls.

Edited by OneProudMum, 25 May 2011 - 02:18 PM.

#17 darlingdasher

Posted 25 May 2011 - 07:44 PM

This is a pet hate of mine! I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want their child to grow up before their time! I am only pregnant at present but my husband and I both agree we do not want any of that junk in our home. I am amazed by the rubbish our friends buy their children, especially clothes. I can't help but notice that I am the only one that buys their kids educational or unbranded toys. I tried to explain to one of my husband's friends the thinking behind organisations like Pink Stinks and he looked at me with utter bewilderment! The father of two girls!  rolleyes.gif  I am worried about what other people will buy my child but at least I know my parents (and hopefully the inlaws) understand and will support us. I grew up without branded clothing and the only 'popular' toy I ever received was the one barbie doll- she was business woman barbie, complete with pink briefcase!  wink.gif

#18 ducks-on-the-dam

Posted 25 May 2011 - 07:48 PM

When pornography is available and out of control as it is now, why is anyone going to blink about inappropriate clothing.

You need to write letters to your senators and MOPs to do something about the cause, not put a bandaid on the real issues here.

#19 mothermichelle

Posted 25 May 2011 - 11:03 PM

I think that's the advantage of sending both my DDs to a Montessori school (one of the many advantages IMO). They don't wear a uniform to school but they're not allowed any branded stuff at all (clothing, lunchboxes, drink bottles, bags, etc, etc). They're also not allowed to wear costume jewellery, make-up, lip gloss, nailpolish, etc. I think if nobody has it - the appeal isn't there.

Neither of my DDs are interested in brand-name / slogan clothing. I buy all their clothes & have often resorted to second-hand shops or eBay to find appropriate clothes. When I have the time, I also sew their clothes. Sure, my girls might look a little more hippie / alternative but they aren't being overtly sexualised or being used as walking advertisements for clothing companies.

To be honest, I think it was trickier at the start of the year to find 2 school bags that weren't covered in logos / branded with commercial designs.

As far as TV goes - our DDs have quite limited time to watch TV & it's kept to SBS or ABC which minimises the impact of advertising targeted at them. We've also taught our DDs that ads are designed to trick us into buying things & talked about "pester power" (they know it doesn't work on us LOL!).

It's difficult. I feel like so often we are out of step with everyone else, but in the long run I feel we are doing what's right for out daughters.

#20 snowhite

Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:45 AM

We don't have a TV - makes things a LOT easier. No exposure to 'hero' characters, advertising...

Other than Lego / Duplo and little metal cars we try to get wooden toys. They tend to encourage creativity.

Clothes - made easier by the fact that I have boys. Most of it comes from Target or Cotton On. I buy 'neutral' stuff - a picture of a dinosaur, a ship, or a stripy top. Winter pants are plain cords.

Competitive parenting - blah, was never into peer-induced mindlessness.

#21 =R2=

Posted 26 May 2011 - 09:53 AM

I don't buy age-inappropriate things for my girls. No is my favourite word in this household  biggrin.gif .

Our neighbour does this all the time. Her 2 daughters ears were pierced as soon as they turned 6, worn plastic shoes with heels, super short skirts, midriff tops, makeup, nail polish etc. Older daughter is very tall for her age (7) and fits into adult clothes and shoes so mum's very excited everytime she goes to KMart to get her daughter the latest tacky "adult" outfit rolleyes.gif. This 7-year old was wearing a skimpy top and mini skirt riding up her bum and a pair of high heeled boots while riding her scooter on the road with my 2 kids just this last weekend. She's 7 FFS!!! rant.gif

Edited by =R2=, 26 May 2011 - 09:56 AM.

#22 seepi

Posted 26 May 2011 - 02:36 PM

I think some people are massively missing the point.

I don't imagine that sleazy little girl skirts will make my DD become a prostitute. I just want her to enjoy being a child.

I want her to judge her self worth via her creativity, resilience and happiness, rathr than by her hot bum and smooth armpits.

And honestly - even if you avoid barbie, there are still zillions of toys - lego, normal looking dolls, books, beading etc etc.

#23 daviesjv

Posted 27 May 2011 - 11:44 AM

QUOTE (seepi @ 26/05/2011, 02:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't imagine that sleazy little girl skirts will make my DD become a prostitute. I just want her to enjoy being a child.

I want her to judge her self worth via her creativity, resilience and happiness, rathr than by her hot bum and smooth armpits.

Great comments Seepi, I fully agree!

#24 ShoshieRu

Posted 27 May 2011 - 11:51 AM

This is an issue very close to my heart. I recently attended the Right to Childhood conference in Sydney and it was breathtakingly amazing. I've always struggled to articulate why I detest Barbie and the Disney princess thing and found it so useful to listen to a speaker who specialises in marketing tell about how companies have taken research into recognition/visual cues and use licensed products to capture a market from babyhood.

I buy age appropriate stuff for my kids because I want them to have a childhood, plain and simple. It's a struggle though, because what is marketed as 'age appropriate' (mini denim skirts, biker boots etc) aren't really age appropriate in my book. My kids have plenty of time to become adults, and I don't intend on that line to be blurred.

#25 Colenso

Posted 12 June 2011 - 01:41 AM

The reported comments by author and social commentator Karen Brooks fail to identify the elephant in the room - the social class of the parents, particularly of the mother who is usually the parent most likely to buy clothing and footwear for their young children.

Australians are unaware of the relevance of social class in such matters, or feel uncomfortable talking about it, so tend to skirt around such issues for fear of being thought a snob.  This outlook is reflected in the language used by the authors of Australian studies. Likewise, US studies also do not usually refer explicitly to social class, preferring instead to identify more tangible factors such as income levels, highest year of education etc.  UK studies, however, where social class has been often explicitly recognised as the outcome of a complex mix of many more tangible factors such as income levels, highest year of education etc, tend to tiptoe less around the identifier of social class.

In a nutshell, mothers with the lowest level of formal schooling, income and access to economic and social choices, are in general the most likely to buy age-inappropriate stuff for their children, those mothers with the highest level of the former are the least likely.

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