Let’s help our kids work out what really matters

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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The government has recently set out to restrict the sale of ‘sexually suggestive’ clothing on the high street, including padded bras for young children and High School Musical-themed underwear with the slogan ‘Dive In’.

No longer will you be able to buy crop tops with ‘future porn star’ emblazoned across the front. And I am sure you will all agree, that’s not a bad thing.

Of course, no-one forces us to buy these for our children and if you are daft enough to buy into it, then you probably don’t think about it as sexualising your children.

But there is no doubt that our children are faced with issues that we weren’t when we were growing up.

Some girls may want to dress like their mothers – cropped tops, short skirts, hair straightened to within an inch of its natural life. But if I had chosen that route I would have ended up flaunting myself in an elasticated skirt, polo neck jumper and American Tan tights. And no one can say that was sexy.

Although there is no doubt that certain clothing choices are ill-advised, and should not be available, many of us parents, I would like to think, wouldn’t dream of dressing our eight-year-olds in Playboy-themed underwear.

I don’t actually think that these young girls are thinking about ‘being sexy’ when they wear them but what it may be teaching them is that how you look is what matters.

These days only about 25-30 per cent of women identify themselves as feminists and girls are bombarded with images of ‘celebrities’ parading around with flesh on show, in magazines, on TV and in films.

I have found my daughter avidly watching a range of TV shows, mainly focusing on makeovers and perfect weddings. Despite the fact that she lives in a household where you are more likely to find The Guardian Weekend magazine than OK magazine, she is becoming a little obsessed with these shows and already worries about being fat.

I was horrified to see a trailer for a new show on Sky called Chick Fix. It describes itself as inviting ‘smart and intelligent’ women who are facing tough choices with regards to careers, relationships or looks to a luxury retreat. Helping them will be a former Britain’s Next Top Model judge and X-Factor stylist and various lifestyle, fashion and beauty experts to ‘help them find the confidence that comes with looking great’. Really?

I am not about to insist my daughters burn bras and throw themselves in front of horses to make a feminist standpoint. I want them to develop their own style, enjoy wearing clothes that make them feel good, but I don’t want them to grow up thinking that what you wear is the be all and end all.

Thankfully my eldest daughter’s role models appear to be people like Dian Fossey (who worked tirelessly with mountain gorillas in Rwanda) and comedians such as Jo Brand and Shappi Khorsandi (who I recently took her to see at the New Theatre Royal).

But I do need to work harder on my youngest daughter.

I certainly need to monitor her TV viewing and insist that she focuses on her unnerving ability to brighten up any room she enters with her off-the-wall humour, rather than her beautifully natural girlish figure.