Mom Calls Out Common Phrases People Use That Sexualize Toddlers—and It Needs to Stop

A concerned mom took to Reddit to note that it's "weird" when people say, "You better lock her up!" about her 3-year-old.

toddler with swimsuit strap falling off
GMVozd—Getty Images.

Every parent faces their fair share of feedback from family and friends—not to mention strangers—about anything from their parenting decisions to how they dress their little one. These remarks can be unwelcome and irritating, sure, but occasionally, they're welcome and complimentary.

For instance, most people love to comment on how cute a child is. But little girls, in particular, are often the target of eyebrow-raising, sexualizing comments, as evidenced by a Redditor's parenting post from 2019.

Writing under the handle u/Raidden, the mom shared, "I have a 3-year-old, and of course I think she's the cutest little kid in the world. She has bright blue eyes, long dark eyelashes, blonde hair, and chubby little cheeks. Most of the time, people will just say, "Your daughter is adorable/cute/etc.," [to] which we reply, 'Aww thanks,' and move on. But we also get a lot of people saying stuff like, 'You better lock her up, the boys will be chasing after her.' 'She's going to be so much trouble when she's a teenager.' Like could you NOT talk about my 3-year-old like that?"

She continued, "I have no idea what to say to people like that because most of the time its in passing like while I'm trying to check out at the grocery store and in a rush, so I don't really feel like lecturing. Out of habit, I just do this awkward grimace and forced chuckle and try not to talk to them too much."

u/Raidden posed a question to her fellow Redditors: "Does it make you feel weird when people say stuff like that about your kids? Am I being over-sensitive? What do you even reply to that in the 10 seconds?"

After u/Raidden posted her query, it garnered 1.6 thousand upvotes and almost 100 comments. Many of those who responded said they'd gone through similar things with their kids.

Redditor u/Bigdaddydria1 wrote, "I think it's very weird. My daughter is 2.5 and biracial and the comments I get are terrible. I also really hate when she's just playing like opening her legs or dancing and family members are like 'she's starting early.' I'm like, 'Wtf stop making things sexual about my child.'"

Another commenter, u/Fifty-Shekel, said, "My daughter is 10 now, and we get this all the time. I usually just say something like, 'She's 10, we're not concerned about that.' Most people get the hint without having to call them creeps. In my experience, it's never meant as creepy. It seems more of a generational thing."

A father named u/folsam shared that he had been through it, too. "I had a problem like this with my kids' grandpa recently," he shared. "Daughter is one, with two older brothers. Grandpa remarked, 'It's a good thing you have two older brothers to protect you when you get older, because you're so pretty.' Uggfhhh."

He continued, "Her brothers are not her guardians, she will be raised to be strong and independent just like them. So her looks will not 'get her into trouble' either (part of the response after my annoyance was mad apparent). I'm a dad, I have male and female children. They're all being taught consent, respect, and independence. I hate this attitude where girls are in need of 'protection,' and parents need to 'watch out when she gets older!' Jesus she is a f***ing toddler still, why are you sexualizing her looks. It's gross."

Several commenters thought u/Raidden was overreacting. u/EvilAngel13 wrote, "I've thought the same thing about kids who are especially pretty/attractive. It's a compliment. No one is saying they are attracted to the child. People need to relax."

u/Raeina118 agreed, writing, "It's just an offhand comment people say because they want to say something. They aren't sexualizing my kids…it's just a general stupid comment that they're using as a compliment. There are way better things to get worked up about."

Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of comments like the ones u/Raidden called out might be one reason some parents see them as benign. But, as a piece on Fatherly points out, you don't have to look much further than slogans on onesies to see cringe-worthy messaging like "Watch Out Ladies," "Chicks Dig Me," or "Total Heartbreaker."

Previous generations and current marketing gurus may have seen fit to apply sexualized language to children, but it doesn't make it any less problematic.

Even if the intention of these comments isn't to sexualize little ones, they still emphasize superficial attributes and often perpetuate harmful sexism and heteronormativity. And that's not what we want our kids to focus on. "Most of us are trying to teach a message of 'beauty is only skin deep,'" commenter u/nanocyto wrote.

Thankfully, if the majority of Redditors replying to u/Raidden's post are any indication, most parents are already doing a good job of that—and clapping back at the unnecessary comments.

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