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Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Welcome to Princess Proofing 101 ~ there is no prerequisite for this course, and it is open to all parents of girls and boys.  If you are currently dressed in any of the following, by command of the High Princess of your household: tutu, tiara, cape, crown, jewels ~ you should calmly remove them and set them aside.  If you are dressed in any of the above by your own choice, carry on. Because it is all about the choice.
Check out the introduction post if you wonder what all this is about (and keep in mind, I have a tendency to type with tongue firmly in cheek)~ this series is meant to take a fun but intentional look at the challenge of raising a child in a princessified (yes, it is a word, I swear it!) culture.  I keep wanting to qualify the things I say for fear of offending someone, so I am going to stop that now by reminding you (and myself) that this is all my own opinion and I am open to dialigue, debate, objection and education~ it is just the ramblings of one mom of one girl about an issue close to her heart (and maybe yours).

The list of topics is at the bottom of the post, and I will link them up as each is completed.
Today... 'Don't Call Me Princess'.

I related my daughter's consternation at being taken for a princess while wearing a crown~ when in fact she was The King.  Another mom shared her daughter's frustration that, while being dressed as a pirate, people kept calling her a cute pirate princess, or just a princess.  They resolved this confusion (that an eye patch and cutlass must surely bring to all bystanders as to the nature of what they are seeing) by the pirate wearing a sign around her neck stating "I ate the Princess". Love it!

While there isn't much we can do about how outsiders are going to label our children, it does provide a perfect opportunity for our kids to practice respectfully setting the record straight~ the skill of learning to speak up for one's self is one that we women, especially, have trouble with.  And since it is often much harder to speak up to peers, beginning to develop these chops on unsuspecting grownups is a great place to start!

But when it comes to how we speak to our kids, that we can control!
Language defines reality. Names it, gives it power and life.
Words matter.
While we all have a stable full of reliable nicknames for our kids (ours include Bubbitz, Turkey, Kitten, Rowie Ro Ro Shabadoo Jr.), which might even include, for some,  'Princess' *gasp*, it is the others words we use for our daughters that may impact their self understanding.

Many writers have written of the pitfalls of 'good girl' as a descriptor.
What words do we use? Pretty? Smart? Goofy?
What ones come up most often?
I know that I have tried to make a discipline of offering balanced and honest feedback that applies to particular situations... "that was very kind of you to thank Mrs. Smith when she called you a princess even though you are a dragon" and to include more specific words like gentle, caring, funny, persistent...

Even so, in a recent exercise where Rowan was asked to tell someone about herself, her first response?
At age 5 being pretty 'like a princess' has become very important!

So what if that is not fleshed out? What if we are not intentional about helping our children becoming aware of other values, skills and gifts? What if Pretty Like a Princess is taken up as the whole of our daughter's little world or how she sees herself (along with the well meaning folks who think every young girl wants to be called Princess)?  At an age where the lines between reality and fantasy are very fuzzy, we do our children a disservice if we don't offer them the world of possibilities that belong to them regardless of gender!

So here's to Mommy's Little Princess who is also witty and kind, thoughtful and brave, able to fight fires and climb trees and wear a tiara with ease when wrestling dinosaurs in the jungle.

And if you would like to do an interesting exercise with words and self-perception, check out Wordle!
 (I made the one above by pasting the text of this post into the creator!)
You can ask your child to name things about themselves and record them and create word art.
It would be a great exercise for a child able to write~ if they wrote a paragraph about themselves and inserted it into the filter... I think it is a great tool for exploring self perception and building self-esteem, enjoy!

What do you think?  Please add your thoughts and comments to the comments for this post!

1) Don’t call me Princess
Get outside and get dirty.
Practice Empathy ::Consider other points of view
Avoid the Pink Aisle/ Resist the Hype
5) Be Creative (act, sing, dance, make...)
6) Develop a variety of interests
7) Keep toys simple and open ended
Share the classic Fairy Tales
9) Keep child’s play child friendly and child focussed
10) Love the Rainbow
The Real Thing
12) The Fairy Cheat


Annicles said...

We used wordle at school for a similar exercise. The children enjoyed it and it was surprising how many of them were shocked to be described as fun or loving. I think they expected more negative descriptors (which would have been against the rules, obviously!).

When my 6 year old starts asking me if she is a good girl it is often because of something that has beem said at school - if there has been an incident, Livi is often held up as an example of a "good" girl because she is incredible well behaved at school. She lets it all hang out at home though. I find it is important to help her give herself some more concrete labels. We talk about the incident and then we can say that she was brave and thoughtful. We also talk about how she felt. Often she says, inside she is angry with the child who has hurt another child or embarrassed at being made an example of but she has to have her "good Girl" face on. So we let the anger out - she punches cushions or says all the mean words that have been pent up inside her knowing that I will just let her experience that and let it out.

It is a strain being the good girl. What happens when the mask slips? I haven't worked that one out yet!

Unknown said...

Well, she is blessed to have a mama who lets her express it and helps her find the words and feelings she needs!
I know things like 'pretty', 'good/ bad' come home from school here, too, often about the other kids 'so and so is bad' and we often have the chat about poor choices rather than bad kids!

kerstin said...

I am happy to hear from another non-princess mom! My monkey girl always made up stories with the princess saving the prince...or the prince mysteriously missing, and not missed. What is a princess really? Someone who was born into a family of affluence and power and often traded like cattle for political purposes. I'd rather be a dragon any day :)

Unknown said...


Amie said...

My 7 year old loves to point out the "pretty girl" in her movies and I love to play the game with her of who's pretty on the inside and who's pretty on the outside. Whether this practice is good bad or other I'm not sure yet but it gives her a good grasp of the idea that beauty comes from the inside out.

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