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Let Them Be Little

Inoculate your home against the Ugly Teen

by MaryP  |  5285 views  |  14 comments  |        Rate this now! 

He was the sweetest little fellow, this tot in my daycare. Big blue eyes, porcelain complexion but for the blush of pink on his cheeks, saucy grin and impish sense of humor. Just a sweetie, all round.

And then he started coming to daycare with his hair gelled.

Now, I have nothing against hair gel, per se. We are a family of curly-headed people, my kids more than me these days, but we know from hair gel.

But I do very much have something against hair gel on a 2-year-old. I'm equally leery of toddlers sporting belly tops, 5-year-olds wearing (and caring about!) designer labels, and 7-year-olds listening to pounding rock music with questionable lyrics. And don't even get me started on the whole "tween" phenomenon.

The little boy's parents think the hair-gel thing is cute. Which, if you're going just by the appearance of the thing, it is -- this angelic-looking tot with his spiked blond hair. Oooh, scary radical, baby!

It's kind of funny to see a toddler in the trappings of a teen, because we understand the disparity between the two. In time, though, there won't be a disparity, and you'll have an 8-year-old rebellious "tween" on your hands.

If you give your toddler the characteristics of adolescence, what does that leave for him when he gets to be an actual adolescent? Mayhem, that's what.

I see it as akin to the creation of superbugs: We misused antibiotics, tossing them about too soon, too much, and now we have bacteria that are immune to most things we can throw at them.

We let our children be teeny-tiny teens, and as they grow, they become superteens, with all the worst traits of that difficult age magnified tenfold.

Why the hurry? Why not enjoy our babies while they're babies? It's such a short period. Let them be little, treat them as if they're little, with age-appropriate clothes, books, music, television, activities. Savor it. Let them grow through their stages in appropriate time. If they're not hurried, if they're allowed to get to adolescence when they should, you'll probably get to enjoy more of the positives of that tumultuous phase.

Am I making a connection between hair gel at 2 and skulls on T-shirts at 5 with rebellion and monumental disrespect at 13?

Yes. Yes, I am.

About the Author

Mother of three (teens), step-mother of five (teens), home daycare operator of five (todders), and STILL SANE!! NOTHING is impossible...

Read more by MaryP

14 comments so far...

  • The hair gel thing is hilarious. As my daughter (17) told me, the parents are major "posers" and wanttabees.

    Since my daughter is a bit older than most of the kids whose moms are on this site, I'm going to relate something. When I was buying baby clothes, I absolutely couldn't believe that ANYONE would lay out $$$$ for baby reeboks or Nikes. I never, EVER bought designer jeans for myself OR for my daughter. As my mom daught me, why in God's green earth would you want to put somebody's name on your butt just to parade around in it? On that issue, MANY years ago, there was an episode of Ophra that I caught one day I was sick, and they touched on the kids wearing designer labels. One lady in the audience had an absolutely wonderful idea. She when to Kmart or whatever, bought her daughter a pair of generic bluejeans, and then embroided her daughter's name, spelled backwards, on the hip pocket, and embellished the jeans further with just a little more embrodriary. Well, ladies, said daughter's friends went nuts over her jeans and wanted to know who the designer was. Daughter wouldn't tell them it was MOM!

    A few years ago, in middle school, we went thru the garbage can know, looking like you just climbed out of the dumpster.... Drove me NUTS, but as my bff kept telling me, this WILL PASS. This WILL pass. It did.

    Daughter is very artistic and does march to a different drummer. However, she's working at Portrait Innoviations and wants to go into advertising photography and graphic arts. She still hates the preppy look, partly because I dressed her in what I considered to be normal clothing as a child AND because she went to Catholic school for about 8 years. Oh, and we've had skull caps on underware and t-shirts, but she's not Goth, tho we did go thru the green>blue>brown>black>creamcicle>and back to natural blonde phase of hair color. She's also in flag guard for the marching band.

    So, I guess what I'm trying to say IS you can dress'em anyway YOU want when they're little, BUT that's no guarentee they'll be that way.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by JKLD on 2nd February 2008

  • Kat - Parents who dress their child in a skull t-shirt won't make him more rebellious, but they will make him fit in more readily with a group of kids who are more likely to be rebellious. Parents who hate the skull t-shirt, but cave because they can't withstand their child's demands are more likely to get rebellious kids - because they haven't established themselves as the authorities in the family.

    MamaLisa - The dad in this family has no hair at all, as it happens, so that's not the source of it.

    It may be more likely that children do things because it's done in the family when they're this young, but by the time they're into grade school, their peers very much influence how they dress and act. What teen dresses to please their parents rather than their peers? Now go back from that, year by year. When does the switch happen, that they're dressing for peers rather than family? A whole lot sooner than it should, if the *family* is doing it for them!

    One skull on one t-shirt is not going to do it, no. A whole wardrobe full of age-inappropriate clothing? Much more likely, largely because of the social group it will connect that child with. Children who dress like defiant teens at the age of 8, particularly if their parents profess to hate it? Almost certainly.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by MaryP on 1st February 2008

  • I think people worry about other kids too much. If the kid wants his hair gelled, it's quite possible it's because he wants to "look like Daddy" or something.

    That being a more likely option, I can't see it sparking a rebellion down the road.

    I wholeheartedly agree that kids should be kids and shouldn't be rushed into maturity. But please--you think a skull on a t-shirt is going to do it??

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by TheMamaLisa on 31st January 2008

  • I generally agree with what you are saying. One of the reasons I like a certain clothing line over another has to do with their kids' clothes look like kids' clothes -- replete with occasional funny raccoons or a weiner dog.

    But I don't think making kids look like little hipster babies will make them rebel more when they are teens (which might be a function of my day job which is middle school teacher). I think dressing Johnny in skull pants won't make him more rebellious. Or if it does, it will be like Alex P. Keaton where he goes all preppy conservative as rebellion.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kat on 25th January 2008

  • Amen, sister! I am always amazed at the choices out there when I shop for my 5 month old. Mini skirts, tiny tees. People, these are in 6-12 month sizes. I cringe when I see a toddler with an ipod.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Pam on 25th January 2008

  • Couldn't agree more.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by BrendaM on 23rd January 2008

  • Great insight to an issue I have spent the last several years trying to explain to a good friend of mine. So many parents have a habit of exposing her kids to things way before their time (which trickles over to my kids). First it was candy when they were toddlers, now its high-end clothing and concerts at 8 or 9 years old. Thanks for putting it into words!!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Writingfoursanity on 23rd January 2008

  • This is something that has been really bothering me, and I couldn't explain exactly why. I think you just did. Thank you for writing this!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by mamajama on 23rd January 2008

  • We definitely need to let kids be kids and act their age. There's really no rush for them to grow up. My youngest daughter is in 5th grade and there are several girls that are already wearing full makeup and dressing and acting like teenagers. Quite a few of them have cell phones too (although I can't figure out why they need them). It troubles me that they are being rushed to adulthood in many ways when they aren't mentally and emotionally able to handle it.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by April Mims, Career Coach on 23rd January 2008

  • Ah yes, a pet peeve of mine, as well! There is a little boy in my three-year-old son's Sunday school class who is always looking very gelled and "preppy". I find it offensive, but again, could not explain exactly why. Thanks again, Mary, for helping me put words behind my instinctive reactions!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Redhead Mommy on 23rd January 2008

  • Great article, MaryP. I've been thinking about this topic as our daughter is quickly growing up, and I think you hit on some relevant points!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 22nd January 2008

  • There is more than enough lifetime to worry about that crap. Why would anyone want to start their kids so early? I agree- my toddler doesn't need to be a teenager any sooner than it's already going to happen!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by heels on 22nd January 2008