Ohhhh, Sexy Lady

Psy, Gangnam Style’s now iconic singing sensation brought the word sexy to our toddlers.Psy Gangnam Style

My youngest, when singing and executing the Oppa Gangnam style dance moves, alternates between saying ‘sixy’ or ‘sucksy’ which I quite enjoy, but truth is ‘sexy’ is a word in the lexicon of my young children.

Living in the hyper-sexualized culture that we do means our kids are exposed to ‘sexy’ language and images starting at a very young age.  At times, it makes me what to uproot my family and go live in a dark cave.

But since I’m reconciled to take the bad with the good of urban North American life, the question I have to ask is what am I going to do with the explicit and implied messages that my kids receive?

A lot of parents do nothing but doing nothing is doing something.  When we don’t say anything we still message all sorts of ideas and values to our kids.

So, what do we do? How do we explain ‘sexy’ and other sexual words, images and ideas?

For preschools

  • It might be wise to try and limit the amount of adult content our littles consume.  I know this can be hard (outside of the cave…) but as parents, it is our job to exercise choices about what our young kids do and don’t do, see and don’t see.  We can at least try to not be lazy and let popular culture completely educate our wee ones. That doesn’t mean you are condemned to listen to Baby Beluga for 6 years.  There is heaps of great music that doesn’t chronically reference sex.
  • Let your children know what you think, and what standards of behaviour are all right in your house. It’s also important to let them know what is socially appropriate/inappropriate, and what to do if they have difficulties or questions.
  • Sometimes the simplest answer, explanation or comment will meet the need of your kid while imparting your values.
  • I know it can be cute as hell seeing munchkins imitating adults. But try not to reinforce sexualized talk or behavior in your young kids.  Have a laugh after they go to sleep.

For primary aged kids

  • All of the above continues to apply, I think.  It’s appropriate (even for many pre-schoolers) to be taught that some words and actions are ‘grown up’. You could explain that ‘sexy is a word used by grown ups to describe somebody they find pretty or beautiful.‘  While that isn’t comprehensive, it isn’t inaccurate either.
  •  It’s not a bad idea to reinforce the grown up nature of the word (or behavior).  If you have a kid that always responds with ‘why?’, you can explain that just like having children, driving a car or voting, some things are for grown ups.
  • If (or when) you hear or see your kids engage in sexualized talk or behaviour, have a conversation with them about it. Reinforce what’s appropriate for grown ups and what isn’t appropriate for kids.  Make sure the conversation happens in a way that won’t embarrass or shame your child or give them the impression that there is  stuff that they need to do when you aren’t watching.
  • As children mature, it’s important to help them understand that other people’s standards may be different from yours or  theirs.
  • Also, as they mature, more details and more conceptually complex ideas can be absorbed by our kids.  You can begin to expand on the definition of ‘sexy’ and even challenge popular culture’s narrow definitions to help kids develop sexual intelligence.  For instance, talk to your kids about how sexy can often include things other than physical appearance.  Smart can be sexy; self-confidence IS sexy; etc.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines SEXY

1: sexually suggestive or stimulating : erotic
2: generally attractive or interesting : appealing  ie. a sexy stock

Sexy stock?  If they’re referring to a good bouillabaisse, I get it.  Regardless, I challenge you all to use the phrase ‘sexy stock’ at the next meeting with your investment broker.

This article has 6 comments

  1. Great blog – really enjoyed reading it! I’m definitely going to try and incorporate the word “sexy stock” the next time I’m at the bank or farmer’s market – thanks for that! One request – is there any specific responses you could suggest using when a pre-schooler (5) asked what sexy means? You mentioned that something simple is effective. And although I really really appreciate you not wanting to put words into people’s mouths, I would LOVE some suggested verbage. Any ideas? Thanks!

  2. Hi Sarah, thanks for the note. I’m so glad you like the blog so far.
    Language development is so fun, isn’t it? Until we have to explain words like sexy to 5 year olds! I suppose I would say ‘sexy is a word grown ups use sometimes and means they think somebody is pretty.’ Then I would say again that sexy is not a word for kids to use. And while you are at it, you could explain that Gangnam Style is really a song for adults too. Hope that helps…

  3. The “Sexy and I know it” song invaded our lives this past summer. I successfully diverted with a parody song “I’m a farmer and I grow it.” Couldn’t believe i got a posse of eight 9 – 11 year old boys to go for it. And no, readers, they’re not all mine!

  4. hi there,
    i also like using this parody too, maybe better for 5 year olds instead of 9-11 yr old.

  5. Hi I just found your blog on Twitter. When language development is happening at such a young age it might be better to be truthful but simplified. Sex is an word adults use to say someone is attractive, pretty or handsome. I’m just saying that telling them it is a adult word and there are other words they can use might be a good way to transition without making a big deal about it since they are going to be exposed to different language styles.

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