It was a hot summer’s day in 2002 when I decided to buy sandals for our 4- and 6-year-old daughters. I never anticipated our retail excursion would prove to be so educational.

We’re talking sandals, now. Plain, ordinary sandals, the kind every one of us grew up in. But after going to eleven different stores I still couldn’t find anything even remotely suitable. Why?

Because every pair of sandals I found – every single pair – had high heels.

High heels for a 4-year-old? How can a child run and jump and play wearing high heels? I’ll tell you the answer: She can’t. Apparently, girls’ sandals aren’t mean for running and jumping and playing. They’re meant to make little girls look like tarts.

As a mother of daughters, I am horrified by the constant attempts to pre-sexualize my girls. Even though we homeschool and don’t have television reception, everywhere we turn there is something that reminds us that 6-year-olds should be sexy. (Have you seen those awful Bratz dolls? We call them Slutz dolls.)

Every generation thinks they have it tougher than the previous generation. In some regards, this time we may be right.

I had been telling my mother for many years how awful girls’ fashions are. Because of the provocative nature of many clothes, we often shop in the boys’ department for my daughters. Like many of the older generation, my mother thought I was exaggerating until the day she took my girls shopping.

She came back hours later, shaken. “You’re right,” she said. “Almost everything we looked at was bad. We ended up in the boys’ department.”

Mom decided that it might be better to sew the girls some clothes, so they went to a fabric store and looked at patterns. “Even the patterns were trashy,” she related in wonder. “The patterns!” She ended up finding some old patterns in a thrift store for pennies and bought an armful.

Now that her eyes were opened, my mother wonders how we can raise our daughters to be virtuous and decent young women. “We do it,” I tell her, “by teaching them to use the tools. When they become adults, we hand them the toolbox.”

What are the tools? Modest clothing. Godly behavior. Respect for their bodies. Self-confidence in themselves – not as sex objects, but as intelligent young women.

It amazes me that 40 years after the sexual revolution that was supposed to “free” women from the “oppression” of men, we find ourselves teaching our daughters that their only worth is in looking slutty. Boys don’t respect girls anymore because girls don’t require and demand it. And it all starts by buying 4-year-olds high-heeled sandals and Bratz dolls.

So, who is at fault for pre-sexualizing our kids?

Sure, we can blame a lot of things. Society. The fashion industry. Hollywood. Public schools. Pick one.

But what it boils down to is you, the parent, allowing it. Yes, allowing it.

I was visiting a friend one afternoon while her 13-year-old daughter watched television. Though my friend and I were sitting in the kitchen, I could hear a plethora of four-letter words and multiple sexual references from the blaring TV.

This child, with her parent’s permission, had a boyfriend. “I had to allow it,” said my friend, “because all her friends had boyfriends. She would have been teased for being different.” The child has a poster in her bedroom that says, “Sex is like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.” She also has a wardrobe of tight, midriff-baring, provocatively low-cut shirts. And this is a stable two-parent home with a stay-at-home mom!

Our oldest daughter will be 13 in a few months. We would never allow her to have a boyfriend, put trashy posters on her bedroom wall and dress like a slut. Remember that word: allow.

Remember when Abercrombie & Fitch marketed thong underwear targeted toward little girls with “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on them? While the outcry convinced A&F they should stop pitching this stuff, let’s face it – they didn’t dream it up out of thin air. They wouldn’t have featured kiddy thongs if they didn’t feel there was a market for it. “The underwear for young girls was created with the intent to be lighthearted and cute,” the company assured everyone. “Any misrepresentation of that is purely in the eye of the beholder” – thus reducing the concerns of horrified parents to the level of dirty-minded old men.

And I remember in 2006 when I read about an English company marketing – I kid you not – pole-dancing kits for 4-to-6-year-old girls with the instructions, “Unleash the sex kitten inside … simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go! … Soon you’ll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars.”

The company, facing a hue-and-cry from revolted parents, quickly withdrew it from the toy department and remarketed it as … a “fitness accessory.” For kids. Uh-huh.

I’ve heard some parents say they can’t “stop” pre-sexualization because kids will learn it in school or from peers. Many parents feel victimized, swept helplessly along the tide of society and unable to do anything about it.

Hogwash. It’s parents who are permitting inappropriate clothing, toys, posters and music into their home.

It’s time to get tough on your kids and recapture moral behavior. Stop allowing trash in your home. If you feel you can’t combat what they’re experiencing in school, yank them out. Yes, this is drastic – but is it any less drastic than having your 15-year-old daughter turn up pregnant? Or your 15-year-old son become a father?

For cryin’ out loud, be the parent. Resume authority.

It was Zig Ziglar who said, “A hypocrite is a person who complains about all the sex and violence on his VCR.” Sound familiar?

By the way – remember my friend whose 13-year-old daughter had a boyfriend? A short time later, the children broke up … because the boy was pressuring the girl to have sex.

At 13.

Related special offer:

“Raising Maidens of Virtue”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.