How should you deal with skimpy clothing on your teenage girl?

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – I have watched two girls pass through adolescence. One is still in high school and the other in her second year of college. 

It has been in some ways an agonizing experience, for instance, when it comes to how they dress.  Maybe every recent generation has the same kind of thoughts.  (My parents hated my hip hugger jeans.) Nevertheless, it has taken a lot of practice to keep cool as my teen heads to the dance or party or football game dressed in shorts up to here and a skimpy tank. Or just go to any mall, sit, watch, and try not to wince.

Really, how did we get here?  How did this happen to our precious little girls?  The answers to those and other questions are complicated and multi-layered. Besides, those ruminations inevitably lead to counter-productive gnashing of teeth. 

It seems the tug and pull of male-female courtship behavior has always produced immature behavior during adolescence. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, certainly we have entered a frenzied cultural environment that is unparalleled in human history where sex rules. Everywhere you look.  For a real eye-opener, check out MTV’s reality show, “Jersey Shore.” After about 10 minutes blood starts shooting out of my eyes. 

So what’s a parent to do? There are as many responses to that as there are parents. Some will choose hand-to-hand combat over every choice, every clothing purchase. Some will unabashedly issue that hackneyed edict, “You’re not going out of the house looking like that.”

My approach may not appeal to many parents, but it’s based on a set of principles that evolved over time. First, the imprinting of your values happens very early, from birth to say, 6 years old. 

That investment requires mostly love, respect, and lots of time (not so much punishment and criticism). Second, your child looks to you as her most important model, so it is your duty to be your best self. Also, I’m a big believer in picking your battles. I don’t want our home to be a war zone but one of warmth and acceptance. I’m not so sure “tough love” works.       

Check out this thought-provoking article on the Wall Street Journal: