From tots to High School Musical
"She went straight from Disney princess to High School Musical," complains one mom in an article titled "Parents fret as as tots love 'High School Musical."
As Disney shows such as Hannah Montana and High School Musical (HSM) predictably make their way down the marketing food chain, there is growing concern among parents that adolescent themes like boyfriends and break-ups are now being digested by two and three-year olds. Today, it's not unusual for a four year-old to have a High School Musical birthday party or to proclaim Sharpay, HSM's superficial, Jimmy Choo wearing mean girl to be her "favorite character." So long Cinderella.
I have sounded off on this disturbing trend often in my blogs and I stand by my position that the sexualization of childhood via entertainment, toys, and clothes is one of the most insidious forces facing young kids -- especially young girls.
It's not easy to safeguard childhood given the corporate marketing onslaught and the fact that so many kids are steeped in what now passes for "kid culture."
So what's a mom to do? My strategy is to stick to my guns. If I can postpone a premature adolescence by even a couple of years, it will be worth it. I set age-appropriate boundaries and explain them in a way that my children can understand and explain to their peers if questioned about it.
Of course, they want to know why their friends can watch these shows when they can't. I simply tell them that all families have different rules. This won't be the first time where ours differs from those of other families. In our home, I explain, kids watch and play with kid stuff because being a kid is FUN and there is no need to rush it. I assure them that there will be plenty of time for tween and teen things in the future. So far, this explanation has been satisfactory. I used a similar tact with the Bratz Dolls: "I want you to play with a doll that looks like you. This doll looks kind of mean and wears so much make-up. She doesn't look very fun."
This year our 8 year-old daughter attended a party where High School Musical was shown. She informed the girls that she isn't allowed to watch "teenager movies" and an animated G-rated film was played instead. She also left the room when the conversation turned to things she recognized that we would not like her to be part of. I didn't expect that to happen, but it did and I was proud of her. It happened to be the day before Mother's Day and I told her it was the best present she could have ever given me.
This weekend, she attended Girl Scout camp by herself for the first time. Initially, I had flashbacks of all those "camp" movies where the bad girls talk the other girls into compromising dares and rites of initiation involving boys. Luckily, camp came on the heels of her very commendable (and courageous) conduct at the birthday party. I let her go.
As the bus drove off, I thought to myself, "First Girl Scouts, then college." It goes so fast. That's precisely why she should be a little girl as long as she can.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.