“What should I do about those Bratz dolls?”
As a parenting
coach, I hear this question from time to time. Many parents find them
offensive–whether due to their clothing, makeup, or accessories like
the party bus with a hot tub and martini glasses. It’s not just parents
that worry, either: the Bratz dolls were specifically named in a report
by the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the
Sexualization of Girls, who stated that it was “worrisome when dolls
designed specifically for 4 to 8 years olds are associated with an
objectified adult sexuality.”
So, what’s a
parent to do? Refuse to buy them? Outlaw them at home? But what about
when she goes to a friend’s house? And she wants them for her birthday!
Here are some suggestions.
Keep these thoughtz in mind:
- Remind yourself
that you only get to wage a certain number of battles in your parenting
lifetime–so it’s smart to pick and choose them. Temper your response
- As offensive as
you may find them to be, playing with Bratz doesn’t automatically do
harm. Really! It’s not on the scale of, say, eating lead paint. Rather,
their effect is on your daughter’s mind, her assumptions, her beliefs
and values. And that effect, thank goodness, can be mitigated by an involved parent.
- This is a teachable moment. Consider this an engraved invitation to talk to your daughter about at least one important belief, family value, or social construct.
Actionz to take:
- Ask your
daughter questions. What does she think of their clothes/makeup? How
old does she think the dolls are? (Most kids say pre-teen or teen.)
Does she know anyone that age who looks like that? If she saw a
real-life person dressed in a short mini-skirt, fishnet stockings and a
feather boa, what would she think of them? Does she think a real girl
her age should dress like that? Why/why not?
- Share your
concerns. Calmly discuss your top 2 or 3 complaints with your daughter.
Very important note: remember to present your opinions in gentle terms.
If she identifies with the dolls, and you are overly critical of
them–she may well experience your criticism as personal. It might be
helpful to be prepared to throw in something positive about the dolls.
- Compare and
contrast how the dolls spend their time with how real pre-teens/teens
spend their time. The Bratz motto is “Passion for Fashion”… ask your
daughter about what she really feels passionate about. (also: where are the adults? Who bought that party bus?)
thought–this is an opportunity to role-model that it’s possible for
parent and child to disagree, to discuss calmly and to still love each
other afterwards. You’re planting seeds of many varieties right
now–most importantly: (a) we can still discuss when we don’t agree, and
(b) it’s good to think critically about the messages/values we
encounter in our lives. Truly, those life lessons are some of the most
important and healthy ones we can teach our children. Let me know how
In their book Unplug the Christmas Machine, authors Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli say that kids (deep-down… sometimes way deep-down) want the following 4 things for Christmas, and I definitely agree.
- A relaxed and loving time with their family.
- Realistic expectations about gifts
- An evenly paced holiday season
- Reliable family traditions
What a list, huh!?! Surely this is a “Christmas list” that any parent would love to get!
Note: The book (Unplug the Christmas Machine) is a great
one. Click on the link below to read more or to purchase it. FYI, the
quote above is reprinted with permission from Alternatives for Simple
Living – SimpleLiving.org – 800-821-6153.
…and the gift list and
the card list,
the social calendar,
the travel itinerary…
Do you feel stressed during the holidays? Well, no wonder. Our jobs,
our lives, our families still require our full participation in
November and December. And yet, we generally find a way to add in an
amount of work equivalent to a part-time job on top of everything!
The best way to get the holiday you want is to focus on your values
and priorities. Chances are, not all of your holiday activities are
aligned with your values. Identify one action that neither matches your
values nor brings you joy. Start there.
Involve the kids-both by telling them that you want to shape the
holidays to better match your family’s values, and also by having them
help decide how to do that. Remind yourself that change is an
incremental process, and then… make a commitment to change! Reduce,
alternate, get creative, or just say no. I bet you’ll be glad you did
it. Let me know how it goes!
Note: I teach a class called “Simplify the Season” during the
holiday/Christmas season. It’s a fun, interactive workshop that helps
to identify your true values and priorities for the holiday season-and
helps you figure out how to celebrate in a way that is in line with
those values. For more information, visit the website at
An askable parent is what you want to be. No matter what your family values about sex are, chances are that you want your child to share them. For your child to know your values, and to get accurate information, they need to feel comfortable talking with you about sex. That is an askable parent.
An Askable Parent does:
- Listen actively
- Stay on topic
- Respond positively
- Take the questions (and the child) seriously
- Stay patient and keep their answers brief
- Remain calm
- Take advantage of “teachable moments.”
An Askable Parent does not:
- Laugh at irrational questions (like, “Does a pregnant lady’s food fall on her baby’s head?)
- Say, “Go ask your father/mother.” (It’s important for kids to know
that they can talk about sexuality with either gender–that’s good role
modeling for any future heterosexual relationships.)
- Ask, “Why do you want to know?”
- Widen their eyes, tighten their neck muscles, and talk for 10 minutes straight without stopping!
Believe it or not, it’s not necessary to have the perfect answer to whatever Big Question your child comes up with. Questions about sex will come up again and again, at every age and stage. That’s why the most important thing that your child can learn is that you are the person to go to with their questions. Otherwise, they are likely to seek out the information from their friends–and chances are–that information will be inaccurate or even dangerous. So take a deep breath, smile, and say “oh, good question!”