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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