Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Letter From Jane: 11-13 year old girls

The Question:

Will you write us about the 11-13 year old years when girls are becoming more socially aware, having problems with friends, developing their confidence..... I could get into our specific situation but thought it might be more helpful as a letter like you did with the babies. (Mine is an 11 year old, tom boy that is so little still and isn't accepted by the boys, can't stand the girls and their chatty, gossipy boy craziness, but wants a facebook and phone, and I want to keep her away from cyber bullies and the scary sexual world. So much for not getting into it........) 

The Answer:

Since most of our readers have very young children, I’d like to address this question from the ground up.  I believe there are many things we can do with and for our daughters while they are young, to prepare them for the pressure they’ll face when they reach their early teens.  Here are a few of my ideas. 

Live and teach modesty.  Buy them modest clothing when they are young.  Avoid sleeveless, bare tummies, super trendy or tight clothes.   Buy modest bathing suits and then have them wear a cover-up to and from the pool.  When they are young, you can actually shape their taste in clothes.    I used to love to look at magazines with my girls and point out how lovely the modest dresses were in contrast with the tacky, revealing ones.  By the time they were five or six, they really preferred the right kinds of clothes.
Keep them young.  I think that mothers sometimes encourage their daughters to grow up too fast.  We’re excited about make-up and school dances and boys that find our daughters attractive.  But all of those things will come in time (around 14-16) so hang on to childhood tenaciously.  If you’re lucky enough to have a little tom boy who still loves dogs more than boys and would rather ride bikes than go to the mall, enjoy it.  If your daughter has loved clothes and boys since she was two, do all you can to hold her back.  Set firm policies such as--no boy/girl parties or school dances until 14.
I'll admit right up front that I have pretty strong views about cell phones, facebook and i-pods.  I might be a little old-fashioned, but my children are the last ones on the block to have them.  Facebook can be fun when limited and monitored.  But it can encourage superficial relationships and expose children to too much too soon.  We don’t allow it until 14 and even then, for a limited time each day.  I-pods keep a constant stream of noise in our children’s lives—right during the years when they most need the still, small voice.  My children can have one when they’re 16 (if they still want it).  I’ve found that by then, they have the maturity to use it in moderation and to choose better music.  That applies to cell phones as well and no texting til they leave home.  I know—it’s extreme but I like my children to be with the people they’re with—not somewhere else.  And I like them to have real conversations.  Maybe these limits keep them out of the loop but that’s ok.  I’m not sure I like the loop! 

The world and all of its influences are going to pour in on our children.  We can’t prevent that.  But time and maturity are our best friends.  A sixteen year old is old and wise enough to handle so much more than a girl of eleven.  As parents, we really can regulate the social pace of our daughters’ lives by what we encourage and allow.

And let me add, that this is the point at which “parenting with love” begins to really pay off.  We’ve spent years building a strong, loving relationship and even though these years bring natural separation and independence, in many ways, they bring a new level of closeness.  Never argue.  Give lots of hugs.  Listen.  Be loving and accepting but hold the line.  Hopefully your daughter will love the commandments and standards as much as you do.

I had four daughters in a row.  They’re all grown up and are pure joy to me.  They’re my friends and companions.  And I have an eleven year old now who loves dogs.  She’ll notice boys pretty soon but I’m not in a hurry. 

May the Lord bless you in your efforts as you raise your daughters.  There isn’t a more rewarding work. 

With Love,


  1. One thing as far as the make-up, when I was growing up my mom had make-up rules. At 12 you could wear brown mascara and clear lip gloss. At 13 you got blush and natural colored eye shadows. 14 was black mascara and colored lip gloss. 16 was the rest of it. I really liked this because by the time we had the freedom to wear whatever make-up we wanted, most of us didn't care about it that much. We knew we looked fine with mascara and some chap stick. Oh, and we didn't get our ears pierced until we were 18.

    She was also really big on the modest clothing, and I get really uncomfortable when I see teenage girls, especially church members, wearing tank tops and short shorts. I feel like that's the first step toward immodest behavior.

    We should teach our girls that boys are going to look at them in a sexual way. That's not necessarily a bad thing (Or else no one would ever get married because they'd never get asked on a date) but they need to make sure their clothing and actions aren't encouraging the boys to see them only as sex objects.

    PS I was also a Tom Boy until about 9th grade when I finally started developing.

  2. How do you feel about Barbies, play make-up, Disney Princess movies and dress-ups? Just curious. My baby girl is two and she's really taking an interest with her friend's "pincess" toys and I'm not sure how I feel about it. She's so young, but when do I introduce them into my home? Or should I? I had Disney Princess stuff and Barbies and turned out fine (I think:).

    Anyway, random and maybe not important in the grand scale, but I have been thinking about it.

    I also wanted to ask you about TV watching. How much TV do you let your kids watch?

    Thanks! I love this blog!

  3. I totally agree with everything! Make-up, Boys,and Technology should be reserved for teenagers- not pre-teens even. Gradual is best (not full on makeup at 14), and I KNOW the value of dressing your daughters modestly- if you still think that crocheted bikini will be cute on your two year old- restrain yourself and think about WHY you shouldn't do it. It really bothers me when young girls are dressed immodestly at church- there are plenty of ways to still buy those dresses and cover up the skin!

  4. I really am not trying to play Devil's advocate here, but some of your points really brought back some memories of my growing-up years.

    I remember my dad, the first time he noticed I was wearing make-up, he got after me. I was in 8th grade, and it seemed to me I was the last girl to start wearing it. I was embarrassed and mad at him, even though he only said it in front of my mom and me. Perhaps it was his reaction, or perhaps it was because I was 14, and not 11, but I felt like it put a wedge in our relationship.

    I don't know why, but I never felt like I could talk to my mom about boys. I think I really started liking boys in Jr. High (mostly 8th grade, too). I felt like my mom would think I was still a baby and shouldn't like boys, so I never said anything. And she never asked. I monitored myself well, and made a goal to not have pre-mission boyfriends (i.e. no bf's until college). But the communication was NOT there. I'd go on dates, and she'd ask how it went, but she never really asked.

    Finally, you mentioned not wearing super trendy clothes. Okay, I shop at yard sales, and kid to kid, but I do try to dress my kids semi-cute. I know it doesn't matter to them right now while they are young. It's all for me, and I realize that. But my mom, and I love her dearly, has no sense of style. I felt like I was dressed so nerdy up until high school, and then some even until college. I think it's good to help your kids out in that area a little, isn't it? I'd love an expansion on this topic, actually. I think being nerdy is really a hit on self esteem, and I so wish my Jr. High years could have gone differently. Is it a difference between being dressed cute (and modest) or super trendy?

  5. I love the picture of your daughters! My oldest is 11 and I am loving this stage of her life.

  6. Erin, I'm the first to admit that I was the BIGGEST dork in middle school. I think everyone wishes Jr. High could have gone differently, kids can be really brutal at that age, and it can be lonely. The confidence and acceptance I got at home really helped me get through those years fairly unscathed by people's unkind words. By high school I had a great group of friends, and college was so fun. It took a while, but I did eventually catch on to what actually looked good. I was more "with it" by then. I look at the kids who were popular in middle school and they are NOT who I would want my kids to be. Not that I'll dress them dorky on purpose or anything. You're kids will probably have an easier time because you have a better sense of style than your mom did. But I think the message from home shouldn't be "it's important to me that you fit in." It was important to my mom that we looked clean and nice, but fitting in wasn't a priority. I think it really helped that my mom and I were close. I felt accepted by her and this allowed me to grow at my own pace without much heart-ache. Like Jane said, building that relationship with them now will really pay off in those years.

  7. I love this blog! Honestly I can say from experience modesty and cuteness is possible. You don't have to be a dork to be modest. I always say Capri's are the Lord's way of rewarding the Mormon girls for being modest. Dresses can be modified with a cute jacket or a little shirt underneath. Its kind of funny because I like them even better than sleeveless ones. Remember that no matter how old or young your daughter is she learns how to be modest from you! It breaks my heart when I see kids coming to church in outfits that are so "stylish and fashionable" That I don't even realize they are members of the church. Jane I truly appreciate you putting into words why it is so important for kids to dress modestly! I know that is the way it should be.

  8. I'm a little on the other side about these issues. I agree that we need to teach modesty, and not let them "grow up" too fast. But I also think that we should pick our battles, kinda like Erin pointed out, and realize that being overly strict and not understanding enough can really damage our relationships at such a crucial time, and incite further rebellion.

    And I just don't see the importance of dressing my toddler "modestly," I agree that she should dress her age (I too get irritated at the girls at church that look like they are beauty pageant contestants instead of sweet little girls), but shorts and tank tops are quite different on a chubby toddler in the backyard, than on an adolescent at the mall. Personally, I think that "modesty" should begin at 8, after they are baptized, and then more strictly at age 12. And that modesty is more of a mindset about their body and what is appropriate, instead of obsessing about sleeves and hem-lines.

  9. I love how you worded so many of these points. I think no matter what rules and limits we set on our daughters (and sons!) that we always need to be mindful of our relationship with them and find a way to enforce what we think is important (and maybe be flexible on more trivial areas) and not ruin our relationship in the process. I think my mother sacrificed our relationship some in order to enforce her rules. That was just her parenting style in general to be very firm, but I think we could have been a lot closer, even today, if she would have gone about it in a more loving way. I certainly learned to be modest and I didn't date till I was 16 and so forth, but I know we are not as close as we could be (even though we talk weekly and seem fine on the outside).

    Actually, it was from reading this blog that had me realize that I need to do things differently in raising my own family and if not that I run the risk of pushing my own children away and damaging our relationship. I love how you said it Jane: 'Never argue. Give lots of hugs. Listen. Be loving and accepting but hold the line'. Such great advice. Thank you so much for what you do here on this blog. You are changing lives with every post and making us all better mothers. I KNOW I am more loving and patient on the days I read your blog. I am currently reading 'Raising Your Child Not by Force But by Love' and am loving it. Thank you for the reccomedation and for your time!

  10. My mother had us dress modestly from toddler on up. No tanks, no short shorts, and even our Barbies had to be modest! She sewed them clothes and made them temple ready wedding dresses. I never begrudged it and today am sooooo thankful for it. I believe that habits and tastes can be developed by age eight and hard to turn around by age twelve. My three year old LOVES clothes and never hesitates to ask for sleeveless and bikinis. I steer her away from them even though they are cute. I know that clothes will always be a love of hers and teaching her young is crucial to future modesty practice. I am hoping no fights or arguments either as she grows older because she will just know.

  11. I have heard that a major reason for dressing babies and toddlers modestly is because then later on they aren't even comfortable being immodest. They FEEL immodest, baring skin. I think that's true. My mom dressed me modestly always, and even as a teenager, I felt so awkward in anything immodest.

    I hope I didn't come across as disagreeable in my last comment. I actually really liked this post. The more I think of it, I think the problem was because I was older, and I felt like I was treated as achild. Obviously, if you have a 17 year old, they are probably liking boys, whether or not you try to keep them a child :)


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