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Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

As a Latina, being featured in a story on a magazine called LATINA is really a big deal. It is even more of a big deal when you are spreading a message you are extremely passionate about, when you have the opportunity to impact others with your words, and your example. It’s happened twice for me, and it’s been a really humbling and powerful experience.Latina magazine logo - The Positive Mom

The second time around, I was interviewed about the worrisome epidemic of provocative clothes for little girls these days. And it seems to be getting worse.

Disclaimer: this is going to be a LONG one!

Besides the short shorts, halter tops, dresses with cutouts or just one shoulder, “school girl” mini skirts, high heels, and tight dresses with sequins, other troublesome items are padded bikini bras and countless  graphic t-shirts self-labeling little girls as “sassy“, “flirt“, “party girl“, “brat“, “diva“, “trouble maker“, “future trophy wife“, or suggestive messages such as “I only date ninjas“, “I like to chase boys“, “let’s have fun“, or boy-bashing signs like “girls rule, boys drool.” Most garments are inappropriate for little girls, which is detrimental for our little girls’ self image, setting them up as sex symbols and establishing an identity based on their looks and a wrong attitude toward the opposite sex.

Signs like “blame my sister” promoting sibling rivalry and lack of personal responsibility, just sicken me to the core. And in addition, tees or clothing promoting kid/teen celebrities, encouraging little girls to have “crushes” prematurely or to want to follow highly questionable role models.

I like it when little girls look like little girls

If our goal is to raise our daughters with high standards, self-confidence, and self-respect, we, as parents must avoid such suggestive and derogatory apparel. The saddest part is that even when our girls aren’t wearing them, they are exposed to such offensive and racy messages because they read them in other girls’ shirts! I often find myself explaining things I wouldn’t otherwise talk about. I choose to be grateful for the opportunity, but you know what I mean!

Whenever we go shopping, it is always a major challenge for us to find appropriate, modest items, and we have had incidents in which a pair of jeans has looked harmless, however, they made me cringe at the sight, because they were well below the waist line, hanging too low, and too tight. It is difficult to find waist high jeans or regular pants. My girls have to wear a long undershirt to compensate for low jeans and low cut shirts. They don’t leave home without a tank top as their undershirt. This happens as soon as the child “graduates” from wearing T sizes. We often go through the toddler’s aisles and sigh at the sight of beautiful styles we wish were available for older girls, but they simply aren’t!

The Main Guidelines: Nothing that reveals: belly, shoulders, back, knees, too much chest area (especially as they grow up). Skirts must be below the knee or combined with leggings that do the job. They wear a one-piece bathing suit that covers most of their back, as well, and at times, they choose to wear shorts or a cover up skirt anyways. No styles that look too grown up, even if they cover those areas I mentioned above. No graphic tees, unless they express an uplifting or positive message. No writing or applique in jeans, especially across the back. No low cut tops. No low hanging pants. No skulls, no spikes.

Bottom line, I don’t always say no, we just find a way to make it work and fit the standards, which won’t change and are NOT flexible.

Thankfully, I have raised my girls appreciating modest dressing, so they feel uncomfortable with anything that is too revealing or looks like it is a grown-up design.

When they were younger (2 and 3) I started a song/game with them when shopping. Everyone knows the “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” song, and the girls loved it so I found a new meaning:

Head: put your arms over your head and see if your tummy shows (appropriate clothing doesn’t show your belly)

Shoulders: your shoulders should be completely covered (both of them!)

Knees: your knees should be covered as well. Nothing above the knee.

Toes: when you touch your toes, your skirt should still be modest on the back and your jeans/pants should not be revealing part of your buttocks!

As they grew, they knew that only clothing that fit that criteria would make the cut. If it wasn’t appropriate, I was not going to buy it, so why have a battle you won’t win? On the same note, if they chose modestly, they had the chance to get more items and mom was happier! 🙂 win-win.

We go shopping for clothing together, but it is a hard chore to find outfits that look like they are actually made for little girls. The current fashion trends are extremely inappropriate for innocent, impressionable little girls. Whenever my girls think something is cute but doesn’t fit the standards we have set, we think outside the box and find a way to mix, match, and layer it. For example, cute sundresses with spaghetti straps can be made modest with a tank top underneath and a cardigan over them. Colorful capri leggings can look really girly and successfully cover the knee and allows them to play and explore freely as a child should. My daughters have been taught to sit lady-like, but a child ought not be expected to do that everywhere and all the time! You can also try bike shorts or tights.

A lady in my church adds length to her little girls’ dresses by sewing ruffles as extensions. I bought my daughters a sewing machine so they can do this themselves. Now they are making their own skirts, too.

It becomes a challenge to when most girls out there are wearing different styles and other moms think I am “uptight” or “paranoid” but I have taught the girls to stand for what they believe in and keep true to themselves. The issue of dress is not an isolated one. We must teach our little girls to be confident, strong, and kindly demand respect for themselves and their bodies.

They now know that I find despicable what others find adorable and they are okay with that… and agree! When I was growing up in the Dominican Republic, little girls were covered pretty much from head to toe and clothing was very plain. We don’t have to go to extremes… you can be fashionable and feminine without shouting out that you are sexually available or carrying yourself like anything other than a classy lady.

I like it when little girls look like little girls. I like it when their clothing expresses their personality and their taste without sending the wrong message. My daughters and I talked about how people form impressions about who you are and what you’re like based on how you are dressed (accurate or not), and even though one of our house values is to not judge people for their looks, choices or lifestyles,” we know we are indeed judged. These conversations must start early. We shouldn’t expect our 13 year old girl to magically get that she shouldn’t try to get attention from boys with her looks or exposed body parts, when we called it “cute” and “funny” before. Little girls are just that… little girls… at any age.

Somehow, the way we dress expresses in part our aspirations for the future and for the way we expect to be treated… so our dress must definitely communicate our values and, unfortunately, when those values are wholesome and traditional, they tend to go against the crowd.

Like my 10 year old daughter says “don’t try to fit in, strive to stand out.” At times you have to set your own trend! Set the boundaries.

I am definitely traditional in my parenting approach; however, I believe that what sets me apart from my generation or that of my mom’s, is the fact that I am willing to listen to ideas on how to make things work and I am open to let the girls express their personalities and personal taste, while still maintaining modesty and decor as a rule. There is nothing wrong with being concerned about your child’s character; however, we must also find balance in allowing them to think for themselves and make their own choices. A parent is an educator and guide, not a tyrant and dictator.  We can teach good values with love, patience, and kindness, and practicing positive reinforcement. When they are taught to understand and they feel appreciated and listened to, they will want to make you proud and, eventually, they will not only practice it, but spread the word, too. My biggest pride and joy is to see that my girls are about to publish a book about self-esteem teaching what I have taught them, because they firmly believe in it. In a world where children look to cartoons, comics, sitcoms, and celebrity gossip for role models, it gives me great joy to know that I am my girls’ role model. Parenting is a partnership!

Little girls are very suggestible and impressionable. The media definitely influences them to want to be what they expect them to be. I have definitely discussed this openly with my girls. Sense of belonging is an inherent human need, so I just have taught my girls to choose wisely where they want to fit in or belong to. The media definitely presents a twisted image of what a little girl should wear and act like and we do not follow it.

I believe there is a time and place for everything under the sun. Shorts are certainly great for a hot Summer day at the beach or outdoors, but when you see a little girl/tween wearing Daisy Dukes at the mall, she is going to get the same attention all-grown sex-symbol Daisy Duke got! If they are not aware of what sex is, then they should not be allowed to dress like/act like/speak like sex symbols.

You can be feminine and beautiful without dressing provocatively. Your beauty is not in the clothes you wear, but in the way you carry yourself and express your confidence. I think we must highlight what truly makes our little girls beautiful, rather than complimenting their physical attributes or the way something fits on them. For example, instead of saying “you look cute in that dress”, it should be expressed “that dress looks cute on you” and instead of saying “you have beautiful lips”, we should compliment their “radiant smile.” It is a myth that the more skin you show, the sexier you are. A woman enchants a man with her femininity and it can show and shine through head-to-toe loose clothing and winter jackets. Don’t let the media fool you… your personality, confidence, and wisdom makes you sexy, not your clothing (or lack of it!).

I think we are all in different levels. There are the paranoid parents who are inflexible, then we have those who are not outraged nor alarmed and find those to be ridiculously worried. I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, where I am cautious and concerned, yet allow my girls to think for themselves and take part in the decision process. Overall, I believe all parents do what they can with the information, experience, and upbringing they have, and all want what’s best for their child.

Structure is needed to form a good character in our children. As a single mom for 8 years, I learned to have balance between being “the fun one” and “the disciplinarian” at the same time. Our children want us to be proud, they want to make us happy. When we establish a partnership with them, allowing them to play an active part in our lives and our family, educating them in love and kindness, we reap the results. They won’t rebel, but rather cooperate, because they ultimately crave  connection with us, when most parents believe they are seeking attention.

I worry about the messages our girls are receiving from media, entertainment, and even toys.They even have toy dolls on stripping poles! I do not actively worry about it at my home because we discard items that do not support our standards and values, but my heart breaks for innocent little girls that are not being taught their true value and worth at home and learn to define themselves as sex symbols and through other people’s opinion of them. Low self-worth in girls create issues that cause a domino effect that can lead to eating disorders, promiscuous behavior, destructive substance abuse, depression, and even suicide!

I have purposefully made sure my girls knew that while they are beautiful on the outside, it is who they are that makes them beautiful: their confidence, their honesty, their love for others, their smile, their compassion…and other virtues. I encourage them to develop their talents and to pursuit happiness and follow their dreams. Self-acceptance and self-expression are two huge principles I live by and I love that my daughters are being raised to know they are loved the way they are… “as is” and that they can have the potential to be, have, and do better if they chose to.

You too can let your little girl know that her image is important. It is important for her to take care of her body as a temple by cleaning it, grooming it, feeding it healthy foods, and keeping it covered! You can talk to your little girl about getting negative attention versus dressing in accordance to what her standards are and in alignment with her core values.

our dress affects our self-image

Like a book is often judged by its cover, we are often judged by our image. Our image often reflects our self-image. People will treat us differently when we carry ourselves differently, and little girls will definitely adjust their attitudes and behaviors to match those that create more connection with their peers. I am raising my daughters to be leaders, not followers or crowd-pleasers. I believe they will be influencers and will make an impact by staying true to who they are and standing up for what they believe in. When a beautiful little girl is dressed too provocative or suggestively, she will get attention from boys too early and even from older members of the opposite sex, which is very concerning.

Age appropriate clothing means that little girls will wear little girl clothing and adults will wear adult apparel. I am 4’9″ so I do shop at the children’s departments at clothing stores at times, I believe that mom does not need to dress exactly as she expects her tweens/teens to dress. Mom does need to set an example as far as self-respect and model a high sense of confidence.

I believe this issue affects all little girls of all ages and cultural backgrounds. All moms must start highlighting the positive aspects of modesty, and cultivating a healthy self-images early in childhood.

What are YOUR thoughts on this matter?


Should You Help Your Kids Find Their Passions Or Not? ★ Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM ♥

Tuesday 7th of March 2017

[…] I had to go shopping, which I simply do not enjoy. It also meant having to explain myself about why she would only wear modest clothing, about how she wouldn’t wear make up, and other uncomfortable conversations for me. Then […]


Tuesday 9th of December 2014

Amen to that! As my daughter turned 5 this year I started to ask friends with older girls where do they shop and how they do, because when I see the aisle for 5+ girls I'm in horror. Girls discover and create their self image as they grow and like you mentioned, if we dress them like sex symbols we cannot expect positive images and results as they grow. I don't feel I'm paranoid, but some people might see it that way. However, no one should be thinking "sexy" as my little girl walks by.

Beth M

Thursday 17th of July 2014

Excellent article. I am experiencing some of these issues as well...

Pamela R

Thursday 3rd of July 2014

I love the song!! I do the head and toes test with my daughter too-- knees are our toughest battle--I have done the bike shorts under a shorter skirt for her and that works.

Kero Pinkihan

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014

Finally a worth sharing article on dressing modestly. And like you I just cringe when i see young people wearing emblazoned lettering of words better left unsaid.

It is Ramadan in my side of the universe and modest dressing - covered shoulders and below the knees bottoms - is strictly followed.