When I watched Miley Cyrus slither on stage at the recent MTV awards looking like a cross between a 12 year- old boy and a seasoned pole dancer, I felt as though someone had kicked me in the stomach. Clearly she was coached to act sexually outrageous in order to get attention. But her handlers forgot to tell her that she would embarrass herself and, hopefully, her family. Her performance showed how seriously she has been prostituted by adults wanting to gain one thing: a lot of money. And as she moved on stage I wondered, where is Billy Ray?
I remember an interview that Billy Ray did in 2007 when he described his relationship with his then 14 -year -old daughter. He remarked that he enjoyed teaching her to cook hot dogs and play games with her but when it came to discipline, he wasn’t very keen on it. That was her mother’s territory. Clearly over the past six years, his fatherly influence has waned miserably. I don’t know Billy Ray and before I would indict him as a bad father, it is important to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Miley and /or her mother cut him out of Miley’s life. What happened on stage several nights ago shows what happens to young girls who have no fatherly influence; for no dad who cherishes his daughter would advocate such sexually ridiculous behavior.
But rather than point fingers, I think that it I important to learn a few things. First, Miley, at 20 years of age, is still cognitively not yet an adult. We know through studies on brain development that the higher brain functions (those that help young people understand behavior and their consequences) aren’t complete. That means that parents must still give strong and clear guidance to 20 -year -old children in order to keep them safe. I wonder if Billy Ray knows this.
Second, we must recognize that the same forces, which seduced Miley to behave as she did, are at work on our kids too. The difference between our kids and Miley are only two things: she has more money and more exposure. But with access to the Internet, many of our young daughters can acquire enormous exposure and let’s not be fools. They know how to get attention, just like Miley does. So we must be relentlessly diligent in keeping tabs on what our girls show to whom and when.
Third, Miley’s behavior shows us how desperately girls crave male attention. That means, dads, you’re on. We can glean from her performance that she didn’t get nearly enough attention from Billy Ray because we know that girls who get attention at home are far less likely to seek it outside the home. And, as I wrote in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, the most effective way to boost a girl’s self-esteem is to have her father show her more physical affection. Can changing a girl’s behavior be as simple as having her father hug her, pay attention to her and show her that he loves being with her? Yup.
Finally, this is no time to be a wimpy parent. Every parent needs to learn to be comfortable stonewalling their kids when necessary. Specifically, moms and dads need to learn to say “no” to their daughters more frequently and with more authority. Skip the friendship thing- you have the rest of your life to be friends. Engage your kids in conflict because it shows them you care enough to protect them. When it comes to how girls dress, for instance, we mothers seem to lose our minds. We want our girls to “fit in” with their friends and that means we are too lenient with skanky clothes. We need to listen to our husbands when they tell our daughters that they can’t go to school wearing skirts that are two sizes too small and shirts that dive to their navels.
Parents be warned. The world doesn’t like kids very much. Young girls are seduced into believing that in order to be anyone, they need to look and act promiscuous. If they can do it to Hannah Montana, what young girl is off limits?