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'Toddlers and Tiaras:' Child Abuse in the Making?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 16, 2011 3:13 PM

After watching a few episodes of the hit TLC show, one can only wonder - is Toddlers & Tiaras child abuse being played by pageant moms for our viewing pleasure?

The "Botox Mom" might have turned out to be a hoax, but the reality is that the parents featured on shows like Toddlers & Tiaras sometimes do seem to be teetering on the edge of being a bit too forceful or controlling over their child's grooming, and about the competition itself.

For example, the recent premiere of the new season of Toddlers & Tiaras has two mothers pitting their daughters against each other in some sort of faux rivalry - one is 6, and the other is 5.

The two pint-sized competitors have big dreams, but who's to say the dreams are theirs and not just their parents? Especially when considering their young age. The two girls, MaKenzie, a young upstart, and Eden, a pageant veteran, were competing to be "Ultimate Grand Supreme." The prize for their efforts? $1,000 and a princess-style canopy bed, reports the Daily Mail.

While the prizes may not be that fabulous, the "process" for many pageant moms includes a regimen where the girls are woken up by special Red Bull drinks, plied with sugar, and are "groomed" with things like fake teeth, expensive hair treatments and styling, reports The Washington Post.

Well, these pageant moms may not really be breaking the law. Child abuse statutes are meant to protect children from imminent risk or serious harm to their health, well-being or safety, and can include emotional or sexual abuse. When the "Botox Mom" made headlines for allegedly giving her daughter Botox injections and bikini waxes, the state investigated, likely believing that the girl may be in danger.

But what about the other things that pageant moms put their daughters through? Is giving a child energy drinks child abuse? What about piercing a girl's ears, or making your daughter wear an outfit that is uncomfortable for them?

Maybe it's because pageants and pageant moms are so entrenched into our culture that we don't think too much about it, like when we watch shows like Toddlers & Tiaras. "Child abuse" may cross our minds - but it isn't something that is seriously considered, until something shocking (like Botox injections) comes to light.

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