I thought I’d never live to see the day: a member of the “helping professions” actually admitting that the “be a pal” approach to parenting pushed by her fellow therapists for decades just doesn’t work.
But yes, that’s exactly what Patricia Dalton, a Washington, D.C., clinical psychologist says. Writing in the Washington Post, Dalton says it’s time for parents to reassert their parental authority. Her case in point is the sexually provocative and age-inappropriate (not to mention occasion-inappropriate!) clothing that even the very youngest of teen-age girls are wearing these days–on their mothers’ and fathers’ credit cards. Among the horror stories Dalton cites is the young lady who comes downstairs to meet her date wearing a T-shirt that says, “Strippers Do It With Poles”–and the girl’s parents don’t register the slightest objection. This must stop, says Dalton, who writes:
“I will be the first to admit that mental health experts have contributed to the problem. A good example is the school of thought once prevalent among psychologists that even young kids need to have a voice in all decisions that affect them — with the corollary that, if they marshal a particularly good argument, they can often get what they want. Another approach is to give children two choices, rather than telling them what they have to do. But my personal favorite is the zany idea that parents should never say ‘No,’ because it would be too negative! It isn’t surprising that they also have a tough time telling their daughters, ‘You’re not going out of this house in that outfit. End of subject.’
“Another even bigger problem I see is indecision: Parents lack confidence in their instincts and in their judgment. Previous generations had no trouble making hard and fast rules. Parents in those days looked like and conducted themselves as adults and role models; kids and teenagers wanted to grow up and get the perks of adult life as soon as possible. Therapists see the inverse today. There are lots of parents who are uncomfortable with their grownup role and want to be young again; their kids don’t want to grow up, or wish to postpone it as long as possible.”
And amazingly for an article published in our patriarcho-phobic Big Media, Dalton urges fathers to take the lead in enforcing dress codes for their teen-age daughters:
“The girls who dress the most outrageously are often those most starved for adult male attention, first and foremost from their fathers. This happens most commonly with girls whose fathers have disappeared from their lives, perhaps following a divorce, or because their workaholic schedules leave them little time for their children. Children who are raised with attention and affection tend to identify with and admire their parents. This identification is the basis for both discipline and the transmission of values. Without it, parents can’t do their job.
“I often recommend that fathers be the parent to take the lead in setting limits on their daughters’ dress, because opposite sex offspring typically cut that parent more slack. Fathers can say, ‘Honey, you can’t wear that. I know teenage boys — I was one!’ A dad like this is looking out for his daughter and treating her as someone special.”
Exactly. And both parents can get across the very feminist message that boys should always treat girls with respect–which is tough to do if the girl’s clothes are sending the message that she’s nothing more than a sex object.