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Dear Rene,

I have two teenage daughters aged 13 (Callie) and 15 (Skye) who are totally obsessed by the way they look. It stuns and saddens me.

I remember liking make up and clothes when I was younger but never to this extent. Callie and Skye spend hours poring over fashion magazines, shopping at the mall and talking about who’s hot and who isn’t in Hollywood.`

Part of it is harmless fun but the girls seem to have NO interest in the wider world – they have ZERO idea what’s going on in the news or world affairs.

There’s also an element of meanness in their actions. The girls make fun of overweight or less attractive classmates and call the smart girls in class nerds.

I’ve tried to talk to my daughters about their behavior but they’re not interested and blow me off. My husband is also little help – he gives the girls money to spend on clothes and says they’re just being teenagers.

What do I do Rene – I don’t want to raise Paris Hilton!

Yours

Samantha, Colorado

Hey Samantha:

ATTENTION MOM, YOU GOT SOME WORK TO DO! We all do; in fact, this is a chapter in my book, Good Enough Mother, The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting (click here to buy a signed copy link). I call it “Affluenza Season” based on my experience with my kids and seeing what was happening in my own community. But it really is up to us to “inoculate” them against that. Here are some ideas as to how to get that done.

TALK TO THEM: I know so much of my advice starts or ends with talking. And yes, I know, believe me I do, how difficult it is to talk to teenagers who, outside of Hollywood, are probably the single most, self-absorbed creatures on the planet.  But I think so much of their self-centered behavior is rooted in insecurity, which is part of the perfect storm of adolescence.  So they emulate what’s in fashion magazines and “what’s hot” as a way of fitting in because they’re not yet self-directed. That’s where parents come in. We need to help build up that self-esteem so they learn to make decisions for themselves without watching what the crowd does. I’m sure your girls are like my kids; deep down they’re good but every so often, need to have the bit yanked back to keep them on track. It’s not pretty but I do find that in those quiet moments, when I look them in the eye and tell them they’re being selfish, that I expect more and this is not a good thing, they course correct. I’ll bet yours will too.

GIVE CONCRETE EXAMPLES: I’m a big believer in showing kids concrete examples. It’s one thing to tell them to be thankful, but when they see for themselves that not everyone has a refrigerator full of food or a big room or in some cases, even a place to live, it really hits home. Why not find a volunteer opportunity that you can all do together? Maybe it’s spending a couple of hours at a domestic violence shelter or collecting toys for kids or some other service related activity. Taking the focus off of them will help Callie and Skye learn and grow in ways that I think will surprise even you.

TEACH VALUE OF A DOLLAR: It’s easy for kids to look at the rag mags and see the crazy amounts of money that singers, actors and reality stars spend. But you and I know they live in a world that is completely different from ours. It’s on us to make sure our kids know that too. So teaching the value of a dollar is critical!  I’ll give you an example. Casey and I went with some friends to a water park this weekend. On our way out, we passed through the gift shop where Casey spied a sweatshirt she had to have. She didn’t even blink when I told her it was 30 bucks, until I told her she would have to pay for it with her own money. Her eyes got big and she really stopped to think about whether it was worth it. Do you make your girls pay for their extra stuff? That’s might be a good start.

Now the one place I would REALLY put my foot down is making fun of others. Being cruel is just not cool, especially when they’re making fun of things that people might not be able to change. How would they like it if someone did that to them? Threaten to ground them or other forms of punishment and then follow through. But they need to know that will NOT be tolerated.

And one more thing. Teach Callie and Skye you can never go wrong with an emphasis on substance over style. Be it the economy or the sobering last couple of years in this country, people have less tolerance for conspicuous consumption by airheads. That’s bad news for one Paris Hilton but a great thing for you to show your girls. Hang in there. With your guidance, they’ll be fine!

Good Luck, Mommy!

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