Ep. 3: Stretch Out Childhood
In this episode, Dr. Deborah Burton discusses the need for parents to enjoy your kids’ childhoods. Whether it is the kids who are pushing to move faster or the parents are encouraging it, childhood should be enjoyed to its fullest potential. It is extremely short and parents must find ways to stretch out childhood. Do not rush it!
Everyone WILL grow up. Sometimes kids resist growing up and want to stay planted in one stage, other times it is the parents who hang on too tight and keep a child from advancing when ready. There is no perfect schedule for any child but there are just some things that you know are not normal for kids at a certain age.
Because there really are 8 million topics we could discuss today about “letting kids be kids” and enjoying the phase they are in, I am choosing to focus on the way kids dress and their overall appearance.
And because I have raised 2 girls, I plan to specifically focus on young girls dressing and acting like adults at a much too young age.
I have witnessed with my girls, their friends, and some of my young female patients how we allow society to push for a certain look that kids are not ready for. My previous blog discussed how peer pressure can be good, but in this situation, it can be pushing kids faster than they need to go.
I was saddened to read that many parents think childhood ends between age 10 and 12 years old! What?? That can’t be. This should be a wake-up call to all parents to find a way to stretch out childhood. It is too precious to waste.
With social media, they will eventually notice and ask for things’ therefore, it is a good idea to avoid recommending things that you think are cool before they are aware it is an option! I suggest candid conversations about progressing to each step and reasons for wanting to do it.
The most important thing is helping your kids keep a healthy self-image and avoiding their confidence becoming directly tied to their appearance. Because in reality no one ever can reach that perfect level of beauty. We need to stop kids from gunning for it early.
Kids will naturally want to do what mommy and daddy do. Just no. We are grown. Let them know that they have a job to do well in school or sports or the arts. When they are older they can worry about the rest. Every family has different rules but my point in all my conversations is that you should MAKE rules so you can enforce them.
At my house, we had constant battles with our daughters trying to be grown too young. Dad and I were not having it, and we fought hard to stretch out childhood. Despite us being very clear about our family rules, our girls continued to seek to do the more grown-up things that they saw their friends do.
Saying “no” to your child may just mean “no for now”. It does not have to mean it can never happen but now is not the right time. That’s right, keep in mind that saying “no for now” is a great way to stretch out childhood! And a great way to set up a reward system to earn things in the future.
The following list discusses some of the Burton Family battles where we struggled to keep our girls at age-appropriate stages. I hope these topics can be useful to you in terms of finding ways to slow down your kids’ childhood1
7 Opportunities to Stretch Out Childhood in Young Girls
- Why are these down to the shoulder?
- Make your decision about how big earrings can be
Crop top shirts
- If you allow them, be clear where and when you do
- At the beach may be different than in the grocery store at home
- Kids start this very, very early
- Make rules about when EACH cosmetic item is allowed.
- I recommend focussing on healthy skin instead
- Makeup can have a significant negative impact on teenage skin
- Adding permanent hair color and highlights can damage hair
- Choose a milestone or special occasion to earn this
- The best option would be to use kid-friendly, non-permanent hair color.
Words written on clothes across their butts
- I am a big fan of NOBODY at any age wearing this look
- But if you allow it, are all words okay? Is it okay to wear everywhere?
- What would be the purpose of this trend?
- Thankfully, this was never an issue for my family!
- A summer tan does give a certain glow but we emphasize sunscreen
- Tanning booths are associated with increased skin cancer
- Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding tanning salons for anyone under 18 years old?
Clothing fit and styles
- You should develop your own set of rules for how your kids should dress. How short, how tight, how low cut etc.
- Once you have your rules, you need to remind your kids about them
- Teach kids about their personal body type and explain all clothes are not made for them
- Pay attention to how clothing fits as kids grow and clothes shrink in the washing machine
- If you feel there are too many clothes that do not meet your rules, consider having a FASHION SHOW! Check out the details in the podcast but this was priceless and made a permanent impression on my girls.
I know we were considered some of the meanest parents when my kids were young. But, it is what it is. I felt it was important to stretch out childhood because they have the rest of their lives to be adults. There is no going back.
I am not suggesting anyone do this but I am trying to empower you to take control and help your kids learn what you are teaching them.
As I sit here, there are so many examples of my girls wanting to wear things or do things to their bodies that just were not age-appropriate. In all my podcasts and blog posts, I recognize that there is no one way to do anything but I want parents to make their own decisions and then share those with the kids.
It is never too late to create and share your family rules with your kids. Always better to be late than to never do it at all. The idea that something has already been done, so it’s too late…NO! That answer was never in my parenting manual. I suggest you take it out of yours as well.
I hope I have stimulated some thoughts about how we make choices for our kids and ways that you can stretch out childhood. They are just kids and this time will be gone. Let them enjoy and don’t encourage them to grow up faster than they already are.
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These are great tips! Kids already grow up way too fast. No need to hurry them along.
I absolutely agree. Sometimes we just lose sight of how fast kids want to grow so we should work to slow it down.
Time flies. Strech it out all you can!
Yes, these are the years that parents will relive in their minds forever. Make them count!
I’d love to go back in time and stretch out my childhood!
Indeed many people would. Often we don’t know that rushing through life does not serve any purpose. Time is going to pass regardless so take time to enjoy where you are.
Yes! Yes! and Yes! This is a much-needed post. Kids need to be kids as long as they can! There is no reason to make them grow up too fast and experience things they don’t need to be experiencing.
It often happens without parents realizing it. Kids are supposed to ask to be a grown-up. We need to slow it down and know that in time, the things they want now will come.
These are all beautiful tips, Dr.B. Kids are capable of a lot, atimes we need to let them be, well, kids. I enjoyed my childhood without all the technologies. Kids these days are growing way too fast because of all the distractions.
Your post is perfection! Electronics are an important part of our lives but they should not overwhelm it. Parents must continue with the basic concepts of playing with their kids and spending time chatting and helping them use their imaginations. Adults rarely have time to daydream and pretend anymore!
This is a very important post for those with kids. I like that you explained and offered alternatives, or ways to go about a number of these. Thanks for sharing
I am glad this post may be useful to others. I am hopeful that it may allow some parents to look at what is happening and change the direction that they are going. The direction may have changed without planning.
These are great tips. Childhood should be cherished!
Childhood is such a short part of life. Parents need to help kids to embrace it and enjoy it. Not rush through it.
I totally agree with you, kids already grow way too fast these days with the help of gadgets. There is no need to hustle them more. Great points you put up here.
Kids have always wanted to grow up fast, but with our faster paced, internet lifestyles, they are growing up and being exposed to things that used not happen so early. But parents can still slow it down. Just because something is seen doesn’t mean you should do it.
First of all, I would mention after arriving on your blog I feel great because of your smile. Feels appreciated. The tips are so helpful cause in our daily life we don’t think much about this little rules. Truly a great post. Keep smiling and sharing these helpful and informative post.
I am glad you fount the tips helpful.
I get so angry when I go to the store to shop for my daughter. I’m the type of mother who says out loud, “Why does my six year old daughter need a bikini with triangle cutouts for breasts that she does not have? Why does ANYONE need triangle cutouts for their swimwear. Would they dress that way in front of their FATHER?” My husband gets embarrassed so he asks me to quiet down, but seriously though, why do our daughters need to dress like adults?
Oh I remember this conversation. At first, I had no idea what a “triangle” bathing suit was. My girls had the simple top that went straight across the chest. I thought we were cutting edge having a bikini at all. I was shocked that my kids were the last ones to get “triangles”. Just because everyone else has it, does not mean you need it now! I just set goals and let them know when something might be appropriate!
Hello Ma’m. Nice advises. I am father to a 3 yr old and really can see the usefulness of your advices. Nowadays it is important to keep them engaged or else there are lot of things to distract. My son is over energetic and restless. Any suggestions?
Young kids are supposed to energetic and restless! It is a great reason to get them outside, run and play and get involved in sports to use that energy. This is also a great reason to not invest additional time in highly stimulating video games.
Yup everything listed when i have kids they cant do it until they go to college. Many of these are too grown!
Haha, I wish it was as easy as saying everything can wait. But… as each topic comes it, there should be a discussion about what can happen at what age. It does not have to be all or none. My kids were happy when I would find a way to let one thing happen at the start of the next school year. Just recommend pacing yourself so you still have things to give in high school.
I don’t think children should end at age 12 either. It goes by so fast, I really love that you’re encouraging everyone to stretch it out. As an empty nester, I can tell you that kids grow like weeds. Before you blink, they’ll be grown.
Yes, the wisdom of the empty nesters! Childhood is absolutely beyond age 12. Slow transitions from tweens to teens should happen. A young teenager and old teenager are very different and should have different expectations.
Its unfortunate how many parents try to use their kids to compensate for some Insecurities, thus exposing them to things that they shouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.
Iys important that we all know where to draw the line when it comes to children.
This is indeed true more often than I care to see. Parents should not live their lives through their kids. We need to learn what our kids need and go in that direction. But it should be at a slower pace!
GREAT tips! I am huge on helping my kids be kids for as long as possible! It is such a precious time that goes by way too quickly!
Indeed it is so precious. I love reflecting back on all of our great times just enjoying life. Keeping things simple and spontaneous is also key. Keep it up!