Blog Post

Toddlers & Tiaras Show Could Cost Mom Custody

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The mother of a popular Toddlers and Tiaras star is on the verge of losing custody of her daughter after allowing the girl to parade around a stage dressed as Dolly Parton - complete with padded breasts and bottom.

Fox News is reporting that a judge in Campbell County, Kentucky has imposed a moratorium on all pageant participation of Madisyn "Maddy" Verst, 6, until further notice pending the outcome of a custody battle between Maddy's mother, Lindsay Jackson, and her father, Bill Verst.

The problem started last year when Jackson decided to dress her daughter up as Dolly Parton for an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. The girl has also been dressed as a "sexy police officer". Jackson insists there's nothing wrong with this.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, by way of being a mother, I’m a great mother,” Jackson told Fox exclusively. “Because I participate in pageants with my daughter is not a reason to take my child from me.”

She claims the outfits were never intended to sexualize her daughter.

“Obviously, if I had know that this Dolly thing was going to be an issue, I wouldn’t have done it, especially on national TV,” she said. “I never intended for it to be a negative costume – it was costume designed to represent our state. Dolly’s from Tennessee, so that’s what I did. As far as the police outfit goes, it’s nothing more than a pair of shorts and a shirt that says, ‘Bad cop, no donut’ on the back. You can buy it for retail as a Halloween costume – and it’s more revealing than what Madisyn was wearing. That outfit was never intended on being sexualized. (The court-appointed psychologist) thinks it is, but that’s a matter of opinion.”

The court-appointed psychologist disagrees and devoted more than 3,000 words to condemning both the Parton and the cop outfit and has recommended to the court that the father be granted custody of the child.

The opinion is shared by many in the mental health field.

"Renting out your young child for public display on television, combined with further bending her developing sense of self by sexualizing her dress and behavior (through dance moves meant to parody erotic themes), risks serious psychological injury that can manifest itself many years later in severe symptoms of major depression, panic disorder and other illnesses," said Dr. Keith Ablow in an article he wrote for Fox News.

In his expert opinion, Jackson is doing this, at least in part, for her own selfish reasons. "Parading around for applause, in part to seemingly satisfy one’s parent’s displaced need for attention and a form of success, while dressed in skimpy or racy clothing intended for adults can make a child forever wander in search of that firm foundation in self that other children, happily develop when free from acting out the pathological needs of their mothers and fathers."

This isn't the first time Toddlers and Tiaras caused public outrage. Last fall a furor erupted over three year-old Paisley Dickey who was dressed in an outfit that mimicked actress Julia Roberts' role as a prostitute in "Pretty Woman." The toddler strutted across the stage in a tight fitting mini skirt, thigh-high boots, a blond wig and a shirt that bared plenty of skin. When people accused her mother, Wendy Dickey, of tempting pedophiles, she scoffed, saying the outfit was "funny" and pedophiles don't hang out at pageants (says who?).

"When you take your children to the beach you put swimsuits on your girls, bikinis on your little ones or your big ones or teenagers," Dickey said. "I think there are just as many or more pedophiles at the beach and in the park and anywhere ... I do not believe pageants are a breeding ground for pedophiles."

Ms. Dickey needs to be educated about the dismal statistics of child molestation in the U.S. Authorities believe anywhere from 1 to 5 percent of the population molests children so the odds of a pedophile watching the show is much higher than Ms. Dickey wants to believe.

We live in a highly sexualized culture where little children are preyed upon in schools, churches, and most of all at home where the majority of all violent sexual assaults of children take place. This is why shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, which regularly features girls dressing and acting "sexy" on stage, should be banished from the airwaves. And the same is true of major magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Vogue which also feature underage girls in inappropriate dress or postures.

We can - and must - do better for our children!

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