Clothing, Sexual Identity, and Your Influence: Ron Deal with Dr. Meg Meeker
Join Dave and Ann Wilson as they discuss the impact of parents on teenage girls' fashion choices in a conversation with Ron Deal and clips from an episode featuring Dr. Meg Meeker. They delve into the influence of mothers and fathers, the challenges faced by stepdads, and the importance of helping kids develop a healthy sexual identity in today's toxic culture.
About the Guest
- Connect with Meg Meeker and catch more of her thoughts at MeekerParenting.com
- Find her on social media on Insta, Twitter, and Facebook @megmeekermd.
- Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about culture and parenting in her FamilyLife Blended episode, Raising Kids in a Toxic Culture, or any of her FamilyLife Today episodes.
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Discover the influence of parents on teenage girls’ fashion choices and insights on developing a healthy sexual identity. Join Dave, Ann Wilson, Ron Deal, and Dr. Meg Meeker.
Clothing, Sexual Identity, and Your Influence: Ron Deal with Dr. Meg Meeker
Clothing, Sexual Identity, and Your Influence: Ron Deal with Dr. Meg Meeker
Dave: So, we didn’t raise any teenage daughters, you know just sons, now we have daughters-in-law, but let me ask you this. Who do you think has the most impact on what a teenage girl wears in the home, the mom or the dad?
Dave: I know what I think.
Ann: Oh, I’m interested to know what you think.
Dave: I want to know what you think.
Ann: I mean a lot of my best friends had daughters, and all daughters in fact. It’s interesting because I think they watched what their mom wore,-
Ann: –but man they pushed hard against what she would say. But then their dad would walk in and say something, and it seemed like they were more open to hear what the dad was saying, but again they were watching what the mom wore. That’s just my take.
Dave: Well today we’re going to get the answer to that question.
Ann: Wait! What’s yours? What do you think?
Dave: I’m not going to tell you. I’m going to tell you later. [Laughter]
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: We’ve got Ron Deal from our FamilyLife Blended®. He directs that ministry here at FamilyLife. He sat down with Dr. Meg Meeker who’s a doctor, a pediatrician,-
Dave: –author, a speaker, a writer. I mean she really has wisdom and she got to answer that and many more. Man, they’re going to dive into some real stuff today.
Ann: It’s going to be so helpful.
Dave: It’s really going to help parents.
Ann: And this is Episode forty-one in FamilyLife Blended [podcast].
Dave: Yes, and yesterday we heard her thoughts about social media and mobile phones. Today they are going to turn the corner on a new topic.
Ron: Let’s talk a little bit about fashion in culture. [Laughter]
Ron: My goodness in your book of Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture you say this. “Sometimes mothers are more okay with girls wearing fashion that helps them fit in socially,” right? Whatever is kind of hot in the culture even though it may be revealing and demeaning to their own daughter. And then you said something I thought was really great. You said, “The dads can be more conservative but they often don’t trust their judgment and so they say nothing.”
Ron: Yes, so what’s going on there?
Meg: I believe that dads should have say over teenage junior high and high school daughter’s wardrobe.
Meg: Now mothers hate that, but here’s why I say that. Because if your daughter comes down to breakfast and she’s getting ready to go off to school and she’s in something that dad thinks is really revealing and he just sort of gasps at it, this is what happens:
He says, “You know what honey, I don’t like that. I want you to change your clothes,” and she goes, “Oh dad, oh dad.” And then mom rushes in and says, “Wait, wait, wait. Be quiet. You just don’t understand how girls dress these days. You don’t–she wants to fit in with her friends, because she needs to fit in with her friends.” And dad goes, “Okay, I guess I don’t get it.” Dad gets it! He really gets it.
Meg: But he feels intimidated by wife and daughter because his wife understands something about her daughter that perhaps he doesn't, so he just goes into the background. I say to dads, “Don’t do that,” and I would say to moms, “If your husband objects to what your daughter is wearing, support him.”
Ron: Listen to that.
Meg: Listen to that, because he knows how people are going to see her more than you do. You’re worried that she’s going to fit in with her friends and maybe get some attention from guys. He knows how guys are going to look at her.
Ron: That’s it.
Meg: And he knows he does not want guys looking at his daughter that way. So, dads, you know, stand tough. You need to look over your daughter’s wardrobe and have a very strong say over it. And moms, you need to let him have a say.
Ron: Okay so let me talk about the awkward piece for a stepdad. He comes to his wife imagining this conversation and he says to his wife, “What your daughter is wearing is too–” Now she’s thinking he’s–something like, “Now wait a minute, you’re looking at my daughter the wrong way.” What a bind for him. How do I have a voice in that situation?
I’ve thought through this a lot. Let me just throw a little idea at you and you react to it. I think in situations like this, here’s a good rule of thumb for a lot of different circumstances. When you find yourself in an awkward situation as parents, stepparent, whatever, you’re trying to work together, even in your marriage relationship. It’s just an awkward kind of bind. You don’t know what to do. You feel like you can’t win for losing. Make that overt. Say out loud what that bind is.
So, the conversation may go like this. “Hey honey, I want to talk to you about the way your daughter is dressing. And first of all, let me just say you know I love her like crazy and you know I have the best will for her and I want good things for her. I also know what I’m about to say is going to sound weird and bizarre and a little strange and it might just communicate the wrong thing. I’m definitely not communicating some sort of sexual attraction to your daughter. That is not what this is about. I want to help her understand her value separate and apart from what she’s wearing. Having said all that, I feel like what she’s wearing is just too revealing. I feel like it’s not healthy for her.”
What do you think about that strategy of say up front here’s the two sides, here’s how you might view this, here’s what I’m really trying to say, here’s what I’m not trying to say. Then you get to whatever it is about fashion.
Meg: I think it’s a great idea. There’s another tactic you can take, and I don’t know if it would work as well, but you could talk about it from the kid’s perspective and you could say, “Here honey, I’m uncomfortable with it because I know how 14 year old boys think and I don’t know exactly how 14 year old girls think, but because I was a boy a long time ago.
Ron: –mmm hmm
Meg: I’m concerned that those young boys would look at her this way,” and then you’re taking viewing off of your shoulders and putting it on the boy’s shoulders
Ron: Yes, that’s good.
Meg: So, mom thinks, “Oh, okay. He doesn’t want boys to see her this way. It’s not about him seeing her this way. It’s about boys seeing her this way,” and just say, “I know it’s hard for you, it’s kind of embarrassing, but you know what boys at fourteen think very differently than girls at fourteen and I just don’t want that kid who's just learning to shave or who already shaves who’s a lot older in her class looking at her that way. What do you think?
Meg: Do you think that he may and if so, what can we do about that?” and changing her wardrobe. So, I think both work.
Ann: Hmm. You’re listening to FamilyLife Today and we’re listening to a portion of a FamilyLife Blended podcast with Ron Deal and guest Dr. Meg Meeker.
Dave: Yes, this is episode forty-one, so if you want to listen to all of that please go find that on FamilyLife Blended. But man, that’s good stuff.
Ann: So good.
Dave: And there’s more good stuff to come.
Ann: Yes, we’re going to be talking about now helping kids develop a healthy sexual identity.
Ron: Somebody listening right now has an elementary aged child, what can they begin to do to just help them develop a healthy sexual identity?
Meg: Well, the hardest part for parents is that kids are going to be in a school system, a public school system that is openly going to work against them. What I encourage parents to do is say, “Look, your sexuality and your gender is a big part of who you are, but it’s not the biggest part of who you are.
The biggest part of who you are is that God created you with a mind and a heart and a soul. Yes, you know whether you are a boy, or a girl is important, and it’s entwined in that, but it’s not the biggest part of who you are. Because I think one of the biggest problems we have in an over-sexualized culture is, we make sexuality and sexual identity and gender identity front and center.
Kids are profoundly pressured to put a label on themself, even in third grade. We need to say to kids, “Okay, I know your friends in your class are thinking about this, but I want to go deeper with you. I want you to put that aside for a little bit,” to ride it out with your kids. But when you’re in the third grade and Samantha wants to be Sam and she wants to be a boy and you’re in the third grade looking at this person that looks like a girl and she’s saying she wants to be a boy, that’s extremely confusing.
So as a parent you say, “You know what honey, it’s complicated. You love her. You are kind to her. Don’t talk to her about it. Don’t talk to the teacher about it. If you have feelings talk to me about it.” Then as the parent talk very, very simply about it and tell your child, “As you get older, we’re going to talk about this more but all you need to know right now is it’s complicated. It’s not part of your life. Be kind to the person. That’s it.”
Ron: Hmm. Facing the messages of sexuality in the culture is just so hard for kids. It’s absolutely everywhere. It’s on every screen that they’re exposed to, every media, every entertainment source, every song. It’s everywhere. It just seems to be we have got to have ongoing constructive conversation. It’s not have a talk - it's have a series of conversations about sex with your kids, right?
Meg: Mmm hmm. You have to talk about that, and we know that a parent’s opinions, beliefs, and perceptions about her or his sexuality carry more weight than media. So, if you allow the media to shape your child’s sexual identity, you’re doing a huge disservice to kids. Now I know a lot of parents don’t want to do this, but we have to have to engage the conversation. You don’t need to talk about the nitty gritty all the time. But you say to your daughter or your son, “Look at–what do you think about that picture? What do you think about when you saw that in a movie? We’ve got to talk about this because this is really important stuff.”
Ron: Let’s come back to this whole blended family dynamic for a minute because as we’re talking, I’m thinking, “Okay, there’s all that cultural stuff going on and we’re trying to combat that within our home and help our kids make sense of what the messages they’re hearing in the culture. But I’m thinking about a stepfamily where parent and step- parent don’t really see eye to eye on this. So now we’re adding a whole other layer about parental disagreement about what should be done or what should be said.
Meg: Mmm hmm
Ron: And particular, someone’s listening in and they’re a stepparent and they’re going, “Man, I want to have those conversations with the children. I’m not sure I can.” That’s one question the second one is, the biological parent needs to be involved and they won’t.
Ron: How hard is that? Authority is that thing that stepparents should move gradually into. You’ve got to earn your place in a child’s life before you become the person handing down consequences and things like that. But I believe that pretty quickly, earlier than that, you can begin to be a tremendous moral influence, building character, teaching them about things like this in life.
Now you’ve got to get past the awkwardness of talking about sex for the very first time with your stepchildren and you decide if and when it’s time to do that. If you’re unsure, then let the biological parent take the lead, but that assumes the bio parent will take the lead and what if they won’t? Then nobody is giving instruction and the kids are just being consumed by the culture. Those are challenging situations, are they not?
Meg: Oh, they’re very challenging. You always try to get on the same page. I tell parents all the time to negotiate with each other. You know you’re used to negotiating business deals or things like that so come to the table and say you know, “These are three things that are very important for me to teach my kids. These are three very important things for me as a stepdad to teach the kids. I will honor yours if you honor mine and one of those is that I feel strongly about teaching our kids, you know, how to handle an over sexualized culture.”
Now if she says, “Absolutely not. You can’t do that. They’re my bio kids. You can’t.” I think the one thing that you can do is ‘A’ give her time and hopefully you can, you know, win her over.
But to even talk about things from your perspective. You know you can even say, “You know guys, I saw this movie and it had this kind of stuff in it and I was really uncomfortable. Have you ever seen anything like that? How did that make you feel?” And kind of–how can she criticize you for that if you’re opening up about your experience seeing something and then inviting the kids into the conversation?
So, I would try it from that tactic if you can’t get your spouse on board, I think that you can talk about your response to cultural events. Invite the kids in and then make those have to do with sexual innuendo.
Ron: Mmm hmm. I appreciate that approach. I think it’s really good. By the way, I think in my experience when a biological parent says to the stepparent, “No you can’t do that, I don’t want you bringing that up. I don’t want you talking about this. Don’t, don’t say that.”
I think it comes down to trust and as you said so you need more time and still about negotiating and finding unity, parental unity in this. So, keep the conversation going. It’s sort of like become curious parent at that point, “Hey, help me understand what it is that makes you uncomfortable about what I would like to say or what we want to do here.” Because until they trust that what you’re bringing to the table is truly going to be good for their child, they’re not going to let you do it.
Ron: So that’s what you’re chasing in that moment. Keep the conversation going behind the scenes and if you get into gridlock you know, get a counselor, a helper, a pastor, or somebody else to just kind of join the conversation and maybe help you guys lead through it. There’s some sort of roadblock there and sometimes it’s helpful just to have another voice.
Meg: Yes. The other thing you could do is ask for her permission to have the kids watch somebody online. I do this a lot. But talk about sexuality and abstinence in a healthy context because maybe they don’t want you talking about it, but they’ll let another person that you trust talk about it.
I’ll throw something back at you Ron. The real difficulty I have is when you have one parent who is telling them messages that are healthy and good and then you have another parent who has got girlfriends or boyfriends cycling through the house.
Meg: –And you know, very inappropriate. How do you reconcile that?
Ron: Hmm, and the child is moving between two very different homes.
Ron: We actually did an entire podcast on that subject, when the other household has a very different set of values than what you’re trying to teach. You know one of the things that I think is generally true is children definitely hear the messages of both homes. They definitely take those in and because they love their dad and their mom, they want to please them and that puts them in such a difficult bind.
But if they’re not really sure what they believe, then they’re just going to wave whichever way the wind blows and that does lead them to experiment with different kinds of behavior and for the Christian parent who’s trying to invite their child to walk in the light, that is so difficult to watch and experience. And so, the thing that we tell people is, “You continue to be the influence that you are and to live and to try to demonstrate the light as best we can and pray, pray, pray that they can move toward it. Maintain your love for them. Continue to demonstrate that and at the same time consistency around what you believe and teach and what you want for them.
Meg: The only thing I wanted to add to that is what I’ve seen is often kids go one way or you know another way during adolescence, but ultimately, they recognize what is good and true and right. And often if they’re familiar with that thing they circle back and that’s where they land in their twenties and thirties.
I always want to encourage the parent who’s trying to do the right thing to just be patient, to keep teaching and being an example of where you want the child to be and I really believe they’ll come back to that because eventually they realize that the lifestyle of the wild parent is having doesn’t end well.
Dave: Wow Ron, as we’ve been listening to your FamilyLife Blended podcast with Meg Meeker, you guys dove into some issues that are crucial in our homes at this time.
Ann: Thank you because we need a biblical perspective on this, because we hear the culture’s perspective on it all the time so I’m really glad you guys have talked about this.
Ron: Yes, these are real world subjects and we’ve got to be ready to go after it as parents, grandparents.
One of the things is as I reflected on my conversation with Meg, one of the things I’d love to add to the conversation right now is we also need to be balanced. I think sometimes in in talking to our kids about God’s truth, about their sexual identity and their sexuality, that that can inadvertently create a situation where children feel like they have to withdraw from stand back in judgment of those at school or in their world, of those that don’t hold that same biblical viewpoint and we would not want that.
The one consistent picture we see of Jesus is that He always moved toward people who needed truth. Now that’s a very important balance. We move with truth, but we move toward them emotionally. We connect. We stay in their lives. We engage with them. We draw up close. Don’t pull back in judgment.
So, I think that’s a hard balance for me as an adult to coach my child to try to move toward their friends, move toward that kid in school who’s gay or lesbian or trans, and to still befriend them, love them, be near to them if you will and at the same time still hold to a biblical viewpoint about their particular lifestyle. That is tricky. That is difficult, but it’s something that I think we need to help our children try to do.
Ann: I think Ron as I’m listening and remembering, even when our kids were back in high school and college, there’s a fear in us as parents that we think if our kids are around some of these lifestyles, they’ll be coaxed into it. Is that why we’re afraid? Because I love what you’re saying, move toward them, love them. That’s what Jesus did, but why are we so afraid as parents?
Ron: Yes, I think that’s a legitimate fear honestly. I mean “bad company ruins good morals”Scripture says. That is something to be aware of. But let’s just say, if we arm our children with love and confidence in how they posture themselves with their friends then I think they can come in with a strength not a weakness.
Ron: It's the weak child that’s going to be influenced by the world. It’s the strong child that’s doing the influencing.
Dave: Yes, and I think as both you and Meg said, we need to be having conversations with our kids around the dinner table, in the family room, wherever. I think it’s easy, you know, when you’re not sure what to do and there’s different lifestyles and your kid’s being exposed to that, you pull away and then you don’t even talk about it.
Ann: Yes. We bury our heads.
Dave: As a family. I think our kids are thinking, “What do mom and dad think?” if they’re a blended situation they’re hearing different opinions in different homes.
Dave: Man it is a topic that we have to say what is our perspective, what do we say. How are we full of grace and truth you know as a family, and then as we send our kids to school or to be around people who have different beliefs and are living different lifestyles? How are they loving in such a way that the trans kid at school wants to be around our kid because they feel loved by them, but they also know they’re going to hear the truth from them as well?
Ron: Yes Dave, you nailed it. Let me give our listeners one ‘how to’ very practical. One way you influence your children, particularly teenagers, is talk indirectly to them rather than directly. “Hey, listen son, you need to do this. Daughter, you need to say this, do this.” That might be met with resistance.
Talk about yourself. The indirect approach is to say, “You know I’ve got a coworker. I had a conversation with them the other day and inside I was feeling this little turmoil of ‘do I say the truth, or do I continue to just engage them and love on them’?” You talk through real world experience for yourself of how challenging it is to posture with love and the same time hold the truth, and you just tell that story and leave it sitting there. Kids get the message. They hear what you’re saying.
Ron: That’s a great way to influence them, to try to help them figure out how they’re going to walk back into the space with their friends.
Dave: That’s great wisdom
Dave: Well, what else would we expect from Ron Deal? Thanks.
Ann: Thanks Ron for really giving us tools and helping. That was awesome.
Shelby: Yes, I love that. Talking indirectly with our kids can really deliver a message without them feeling like it’s a lecture or we’re just trying to fix them -- so, so important. In particular selfishly for me, as my kids move into their teenage years, in just the next few years - Yikes.
I’m Shelby Abbott and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal and Meg Meeker on FamilyLife Today. Meg has given us so much wisdom today. She’s written a book called Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe. Wow. If that isn’t needed right now.
This book you’re going to learn certain important truths, like what every daughter needs to know about God; why depression is often a quote unquote “sexually transmitted disease”, is what she calls it; and how to launch your daughter into successful womanhood. You can pick up a copy of Meg’s book at FamilyLifeToday.com. Now you can listen to the full program with Meg Meeker on our [FamilyLife] Blended podcast in the show notes.
And if you were listening to this conversation and wondering how you can help kids in your church or community, you may be interested in this year’s Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, a one day virtual event. This is the perfect time for you to learn more about how you and your church can minister to blended families in your community. You can learn more about the October 12th virtual event and register by going to SummitOnStepfamilies.com.
Now coming up next week Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined in the studio with Jordan Raynor. He’s going to be talking to us about how our work matters, that work is a gift from God and that your work points to God. That’s next week. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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