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The RIGHT to BE a PARENTEvery Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column encourages parents to take back their responsibility and right to train up their children.

I often gaze wistfully at that fashionable fall outfit: an oversized tunic with a belt over leggings. It looks so comfy cozy. But even though I like it, I can’t quite bring myself to buy it. Leggings on someone on the wrong side of forty doesn’t quite work for me, even if the tunic does cover a multitude of flaws.

Yet increasingly leggings aren’t working even for those on the right side of forty, namely because people aren’t pairing them with long tunics; they’re wearing them with shorter shirts. What was once fashionable becomes floozy. It’s not even flirty; it’s just gross.

There are some parts of one’s anatomy which should never be covered in thin, skin tight fabric.

As terrible as it is when adult women commit this fashion faux-pas, it’s worse when teen girls do it, because it means some parent somewhere has allowed a child to dress in public like that. One mom I know is heartbroken about her daughter’s clothing but feels rather helpless. Her daughter refuses to wear anything except tights as pants.

I do not understand this helpless attitude, whether it’s about clothing choices or other teenage behaviours, and I would like to tell parents, loudly and clearly, you are the parent. You have the right–indeed the obligation–to set standards.

If you do not exercise your right to act like a parent, then you are abdicating your responsibility to our culture. Our culture is the one that adores Miley Cyrus’ new persona. Do you really want to turn your child over to that?

Parents should not feel guilty for acting like parents, and yet so many of us are insecure.

Do we even have the right to tell our kids what to do, or what to wear?

The insecurity is understandable. In 2008 in Quebec, a 12-year-old girl took her father to court for grounding her from a class field trip. She had been using the internet inappropriately and sending inappropriate texts, so he put his foot down. She sued. And the Quebec courts, even on appeal, have decided the girl was right.

With this sort of ridiculousness around us it’s easy to feel like we don’t have a right to demand things of our kids. The schools should raise them, and if our culture has decided that Miley’s antics are the new normal, who are we to say they’re wrong? We may be uncomfortable with all the texting, and with all the explicit shows kids watch, and with the sexual activity, but these things are normal today. To fight back is like trying to hold a tsunami at bay. It’s too much.

Yet is it really?

What does it matter what the rest of our culture says?

It is not our culture that is going to have to deal with the repercussions of a teenager dropping out of school, or feeling great shame for something he or she has done, or getting hooked on drugs. It is you, the parent.

It is not our culture that will have to pick up the pieces, patch a broken heart, or help someone detox. It is not the school that will be there when a girl derails her educational future because she gets pregnant, or a boy decides to waste his life on video games instead of investing in college. It is you. You are the only one who loves your child more than life itself. You are the only one with a vested interest in how your child turns out. You’re the only one, then, that really matters.

So do something! You have power. You control the wifi, the television, and the money that pays for the cell phone. Use that power. Say no. Be a parent. And please, no tights.

Best of Reality Check

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