SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP)–Author Vicki Courtney gets an intended laugh when she calls raunchy fashions peddled to preschoolers the “Prosti-Tot line.” But, from Hollywood to Madison Avenue, the unrelenting pressure on girls to dress sexy is serious business, she said.
Nearly 1,000 mothers and their daughters gathered at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., for a “You and Your Girl” conference to hear Courtney’s biblically based advice on confronting and counteracting the culture that seeks to rob girls of childhood. You and Your Girl conferences are sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The intense and entertaining mother-daughter conference, with age-appropriate breakout sessions for girls, attracted participants from as far away as Idaho, Florida and New York.
Founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries, Courtney is author of numerous books including “Your Girl: Raising a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World.” Her newest book, “5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter” is scheduled for release by LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group in November.
Courtney makes it her mission to expose how the culture zeroes in on kids, and she works to demystify how parents can stay tuned in. She shares the latest alarming statistics, including that 1 million teens will become pregnant in the United States in the next 12 months and that eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among adolescent girls.
“I’m not trying to scare you so you run out of the room screaming; I just want you to know,” Courtney said at the Sept. 27 conference.
It’s important to tell girls that 40 percent of sexually active teen girls have a sexually transmitted disease, Courtney said.
“Some of these STDs will go undetected for many, many years,” causing serious health risks and fertility problems, she said. “Even for your rebellious teen, none of them want to envision a time when they cannot have children.”
A professed agnostic and vocal Christian critic before becoming a Christian at age 21, Courtney said, “I especially would have given anything to have heard something like this a little bit sooner.”
With an abortion in her past, Courtney voiced her passion about teaching kids to avoid risky behavior that results in lifelong regrets that hold young lives back from the “marathon” they should be running alongside Christ.
And she affirmed that moms are justified in taking away cell phone and facebook privileges, and even limiting peer groups.
One of the hardest lessons her daughter had to learn was watching previously “good Christian girls go berserk in high school,” Courtney said.
“We put her in the big old public school — that I call the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. She watched some of her friends go through things, and she had to make a decision to cut away from the pack,” Courtney said.
“I want you to get your bravery back,” she told moms, encouraging them to “go for it.”
“When we go for it, I want to make sure we know what the goal is. This is your gift. You are really good at that, and you are to share and bless others with that,” Courtney said.
That’s what mom Susan Clause had in mind when she trekked with her 16-year-old daughter Sharon all the way from Stony Point, N.Y., to South Carolina for the conference.
“I try to find a way to build up each of my daughters with their gifting,” Clause said. “I try to reach out and find out what their giftings are” and how to use them for spiritual purposes.
Also the mother of a “tween” girl who is 10, Clause said facing a series of family challenges, including her husband’s disfiguring battle with mouth cancer and her mother’s failing health, makes it even more important to spend time with her girls.
“I want her to feel that I celebrate her and she is God’s treasure. I want to celebrate her teenage years, and move from being overwhelmed by circumstances of our current challenges in her young life to knowing that every challenge is an opportunity,” Clause said.
P.J. Friedel drove from Atlanta to bring her third-grade daughter Taylor.
“I want to teach my daughter about God. There are so many ungodly influences trying to get at her. I want her to be able to stand up to the culture that is so focused on making them something they are not meant to be,” Friedel said. “We’ve got women in our church even who have had plastic surgery, cosmetic enhancements, and it’s teaching our daughters that this is better. What chance do our kids have?”
Taylor clearly was enjoying the music and lessons.
“We learned respect, like, you have to touch your toes and put your arms up to see if your belly button shows. Brush your teeth. You need to make your bed and clean up your room. Listen to your parents,” Taylor said, smiling.
One mother revealed that by following Courtney’s advice, she learned to read her 14-year-old daughter’s text messages only to learn she had lost her virginity.
For 12-year-old Amy Burke of Winston-Salem, N.C., the event reinforced her own feelings about reading the Bible and being a Christian.
“I liked it. It explained so much, and you feel like you know everybody,” Burke said.
“It’s very confusing being in middle school,” she said. “I just liked the fact that there are so many moms and daughters that think the same thing. When you just come together with a bunch of girls who think like you, it reassures you.”
Her mom, Linda Burke, smiled in agreement. “It reassures the moms, too — that the message is getting through,” she said.
Andrea Higgins is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.