How to get daughters to dress appropriately


If you have a young daughter who wants to go to school dressed like her favorite rock star, every morning can be a battle. Good Morning America Parenting Contributor and author Ann Pleshette Murphy has some suggestions for getting daughters to dress appropriately.

How to get daughters to dress appropriately

Our daughters are bombarded with images of famous young women with huge fan bases, who dress provocatively. Ann Pleshette Murphy has excellent advice for anyone who battles over wardrobe with their daughters.

  • For the most part, don’t worry or overreact. For instance, if a little girl says she wants to look "sexy", try not to freak out. She may not understand the meaning of the word. Instead, say, "Well, what do you mean by that? What do you think sexy looks like?" Sometimes, this is what little girls say when they actually want to look pretty - what they think looks pretty.
  • Older girls sometimes are so insecure about their bodies that this is a form of costume to try to be someone else. Be empathetic to the reasons they’re doing it. If it’s just a matter of taste, though, like they want to wear all black and you prefer bright colors, it's best to hold your tongue.
  • And if their rooms are plastered with posters of women you consider bad role models, don’t worry. They won’t turn into those women.
  • When your daughter dresses in a sexually provocative way in an effort to emulate her favorite pop star, you can take the opportunity to talk about how girls and women are portrayed in the media and discuss what it is that your daughter admires about these famous women.
  • Sometimes when you are rushing out the door for school or the office, you don't have time to debate your daughter's innapropriate wardrobe choices. If you are upset or don't have enough time to discuss it with them fully, have them change their clothes and tell them that you will sit down to discuss it later - and follow through. Explain why the way she dresses upsets you and remind her what the rules are.




DENISE: Hi there, I’m Denise Richardson and this is I don’t know if this drives you wild, but children, young women dressing provocatively – your child. Are you having a problem with that? Can’t wait to get to this with Ann Pleshette Murphy, who’s the contributing parent authority over at Good Morning America, plus the author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood. It drives me crazy, to see these kids with these skirts up to their tushes, these low-cut blouses, and their role models seem to be all of these Hollywood youngsters.

ANN: Well, it’s true. I mean they are, the images they’re getting, and they’re getting hundreds of thousands of them, you know, every year tend to be pretty provocative. And sometimes when you’re dealing with a little girl, one of the things I do tell parents is, if they have an eight, nine year old who says that she wants to look sexy, it’s very important before you freak out to say to her, well what do you mean by that? You know, what do you think sexy looks like? ‘Cause sometimes that’s what little girls say when they actually want to look pretty, what they think looks pretty. When you’re talking about a pre-teen, who is at that stage where she hates everything about her body, it’s understandable that they will sometimes push the envelope to just see if they can, you know, be a different person when they go out the door. And it’s, it’s critical for parents to be, you know, empathetic.

DENISE: Someone’s going to, is watching right now and they’re saying, my kid’s going to hate me if I tell them to take it off. After all, we went through our phases with our kinds of clothes.

ANN: Right.

DENISE: Shouldn’t they be able to go through theirs?

ANN: Well I think they should, you know, to a certain extent. You don’t have to like everything they were, I mean, that’s something else. You know, if your child decides that she’s someone who’s only wearing black, and you love bright colors, just zip it. As long as it’s not something that’s, you know, inappropriate behavior is something else, or provocative dress is something else. Because I think that, you can talk about a reputation; you can talk a little bit about how people perceive her, and is that how she really wants to be projecting? I think you can also use this as a teachable moment to talk about how woman are portrayed in the media.

DENISE: You have so many types in Hollywood, and you know the names: The Britneys, the Lindsays, the others who dress provocatively – expose themselves – and they have a fan base.

ANN: I think that even if your daughter is having posters of Lindsay Lohan all over her room, and she’s dressing like Lindsay and cutting her hair like Lindsay, she doesn’t necessarily – she’s not going to become Lindsay or do what she’s doing. I think that, again, there are really opportunities here to talk about what she admires in somebody or why she thinks that’s something she wants to do. It shouldn’t just be, ‘no, you’ve got to take that off and wear what I want you to wear’ because that may not be the way you want to negotiate this particular dance and, you know, we all go through, all of these things are challenges to your authority as a parent.

DENISE: A lot of these issues, and ninety nine point three quarters percent of these issues are about communication. And the parent says, ‘I’m a single parent, what do you want me to do? I’m trying to put food on the table, I’m running out of the house to take care of business, and you expect me to have these conversations?’ What do you have to say to that?

ANN: Well I, I think it is hard to find the time to do it, and I think the time not to do it is when you’re really upset about what she’s wearing. I think, you know, you can say to her, ‘look, right now I want you to change your clothes. We’re not discussing it now, later we’re going to sit down and talk about this.’ And that’s, later you have to follow through. I think you need to come in and talk about why it’s upset you, and give yourself some time to think it through. And tell her what the rules are; that you don’t mind if she wears makeup but you don’t want her wearing her skirt up to her tukkus, and you don’t want to wear something that is really low-cut. That, that says something about her that you don’t think she needs to say.

DENISE: Thank you so much for the information, it’s, it’s great information, Ann Pleshette Murphy.

ANN: Thanks.

meet theexpert
  • Ann Pleshette

    Ann Pleshette Parenting Contributor, Good Morning America, ABC Ann Pleshette Murphy has been the Parenting Contributor for Good Morning America since November 1998, and her “American Family” segments are a recurring feature on GMA. Murphy is the author of The 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind (Anchor Books) and travels the country speaking to mothers’ groups about such themes as striking a balance between work and family, wrestling with guilt and setting loving limits. She was Editor-in-Chief of Parents magazine from 19 more about this expert »

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