How to bimbo-proof your daughter

Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty ImagesWhen my middle daughter was 11, I had to explain to her why they kept showing photos of that girl from Freaky Friday passed out in her car. When she was 12, I had to explain that, yes, even the girl from Zooey 101 could get pregnant if she wasn't careful. Now that my daughter is 13, she has her own take on why Hannah Montana would pose seminude for a magazine. "It's probably just for the money," she said, but there's a certain amount of resignation in her voice. It's tough for girls today, especially tweens, to process the bimbofication of their favorite kid stars. And it's disappointing, after the turmoil over Miley Cyrus's Vanity Fair shoot, that she has to go through that process yet again.

Like any 13-year-old, my daughter is caught in that awkward in-between stage when the allures and dangers of adulthood are calling, but the comfort and security of childhood are still within grasp. It has always been tough, for boys and girls. But more and more, girls are being fed the message that becoming a grown-up means undergoing some sort of humiliating display of misplaced sexuality. And the storm around Miley Cyrus, Jamie Lynn Spears, and their slightly older kin simply serves to make the whole growing-up process that much more perilous. Here's how to teach self-respect and prevent your daughter from becoming a naked Mouseketeer.

Help Her Find Passions
"Kids turn to pop culture because they're bored and lonely," says Jim Taylor, PhD, author of Your Children Are Under Attack. "They don't care deeply about anything in life, and pop culture gives them guidance and identity and excitement." Girls who are involved with sports, music, or dance are less likely to be seduced by the glitter. They see pop culture as entertainment and don't believe the airheaded message that beauty equals self-worth. "You have to build a family culture that's consistent with your values, where appearance and materialism simply aren't valued, and relationships are," says Taylor. Here are six more ways to boost your child's self-esteem.

Don't Forbid-Engage
You can't shield girls from the flood of media images aimed at them. Instead, help your daughter separate the sales pitch from reality, says Lyn Mikel Brown, coauthor of Packaging Girlhood. The just-say-no approach "plays right into marketers' hands of setting her up as an independent chooser who doesn't need the advice of her parents," says Brown. "The goal is to show her how to question." Talk about it…even if it's awkward. So what do you do when your 8-year-old asks what those strange, grainy images of Britney on the TV are portraying? First, don't freak out. "We advise parents not to be afraid of talking about sex when their children see sexy images," says Brown. It's important for moms and dads to make a distinction between the positive aspects of a sexual life-such as intimacy and friendship-and the exploitation of sexuality. When sex is boiled down to getting attention from guys by looking hot, it becomes a form of advertising. Here's some more helpful advice on how to talk about the birds and the bees.

Find Positive Reinforcement

Pop culture may be a writhing sea of smut, but that doesn't mean you can't find stuff that sends a positive message to girls. Make an effort to take your daughter to a women's tennis match or soccer game or to a dance concert. "Invite girls into a bigger world," says Brown, "where they are valued for more than their looks." Brown also recommends movies such as Real Women Have Curves, Spirited Away, and Whale Rider, and books such as Mary Hoffman's Amazing Grace and Beverly Cleary's Ramona the Brave. When she finishes those, help her create a summer reading list with these must-read books.

Set an Example 24-7
Experts stress that your daughter's values will, almost inevitably, reflect yours. So embrace raising your girl as a chance to clean up your own act. That doesn't mean you have to burn every Playboy in your husband's stash. But you might do well asking him to consider how he'd feel if his daughter found a copy. Here's how one father began to set a better example for his daughter.

How do you think we can teach our daughters self-respect?

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