MamaBlogger365 – Attention Parents of Little Girls by Lowry Manders

Attention Parents of Little Girls! (Parents of little boys, keep reading, but breathe a sigh of relief!) Food for thought… Could our obsession with everything “princess” be transmitting dangerous messages to our daughters’ little brains? After all, it’s during these early years when she is not only forming her sense of self, but also her impressions of the world, society, and how she fits into it. This is just one of those opportunities to reflect, and to be “intentional” about the big and small decisions you make for your children. I found this princess pic on the Internet…

In response to the picture, my equally feminist-minded cousin-in-law in California said this on her Facebook page:

“Today Evie (4) said she wanted to be a doctor. Then she said, “NO! I want to be a princess and marry Mark from Red Room!!”

I know Mommy Kelley will encourage her to go for the first option instead, but the point is… what is our culture encouraging her to do?

So, you know your daughter can’t really be a princess when she grows up, but was she a princess for Halloween? No big deal, right? I don’t think so, but research shows you might want to broaden her dress-up horizons a bit. Throw in some choices: pilot, scientist, doctor, superhero! Let her color in her Disney princess coloring book, but make sure you are giving her real female role models to look up to (and by that, I don’t mean Gisele or Heidi). Check out books on women explorers and scientists, point out pictures in the newspaper of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (a mommy!), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (president of Liberia and the first democratically-elected president in Africa, who just won the Nobel Peace Prize), and there are 19 other elected female presidents right now around the world! (Why do we know the names of the Jersey Housewives instead?) By expanding your daughter’s media/book/play options, you’ll expand her own self-image and vision of “womanhood” to encompass more than just looks. In other words, if her room is pink with “princess” paraphernalia, her closet filled with “princess” clothes, and her DVD collection all Disney, you might want to avoid Princess Camp. (One of my students recently mentioned “Barbie Camp” as I relayed stories from my recent real camping trip. Hmmm, let me think on the differences – one of us was wearing make-up, jewelry, and dresses while we were “camping”, one was not. Did I mention that one of us is not even in 1st grade yet?)

Speaking of female role models, what about YOU? Talk about what you do, what you are an “expert” in, what you got your degree in. If you are “just a mom” now, I know that’s not true. Tell her about your past career, your passions, your strengths and skills, what you currently like to learn/read about, what community efforts you support. Brag a little! Talk about what other moms do when they are not being mommies… mommies like your neighbor who is a doctor, mommies like your friend who runs a non-profit, mommies like the minister in your church – just like your child always stands in shock and awe when they bump into their teacher in the “real world”, she will be fascinated to know that there is more to “Mom” than meets the eye! And isn’t that the point? Women should not be judged on how we look. We are multi-dimensional creatures! You’ll have to be intentional for that message to be louder than our culture’s constant messaging of “sexy, hot, pretty, sweet, princess, bootylicious, on and on and on….” Mommies, give this message to your sons, too, please! That’s how we mommies can change the world, one kid at a time! (For more on getting this message through to girls, read my post “How to Talk to Little Girls”.)

When it come to everything “princess”, I am not intending to be an alarmist or a “fun-hater” (as my husband sometimes calls me. He’s also bitter about the realization I’ve come to in my middle-age that margaritas in the evening make it too hard for me to sleep, and they’re still “frowned upon” in the morning.) But I am fascinated by this topic. And I’ve read the research: the problems that young girls are facing today are real and on the rise: anxiety, depression, substance abuse, at-risk behaviors… As a parent of a young girl, I will do what I can to protect her from these risks, and guide her on a path to self-esteem, self-worth, a strong voice, and good choices.

Regarding Halloween, I have to say it was so refreshing to see that my little friend, Ferren (2) was a fire-fighter, and Helen (7) was a samurai warrior, and they certainly stood out among all the princesses. But parents, it is not your fault that your daughter is obsessed with princesses! This is what companies have been strategically marketing to us in recent years. My husband and I were disgusted to see the scarcity of good options for girls at the pop-up Halloween store last week. For girls, there were either princess costumes (for babies, too) or some variety of “slut” (also available in baby size). I can only hope that my daughter’s options will be more varied when she decides on a major in college! So far, in her short life, my Ellie (2 1/2) has been a rainbow, a chef, and this year, a cowgirl (the boots were pink). She doesn’t really know about princesses yet, but I know it’s going to catch up with us soon. I can’t protect her forever, but I can have knowledge and a strategy. You may not choose to make your house “Princess-free” zone as I have, (http://www.princessfreezone.com/pfz-resources/), but I hope you’ll at least consider the choices you give your daughter, and be an intentional parent.

P.S. Ummm…maybe I wasn’t being “intentional” when I dressed like a bride (albeit, a casual jeans-wearing one) for Halloween, but my little veil and costume jewelry was all I could find handy. Plus, how often do I get to don a veil, right? (Not again until my next wedding, I guess. Just kidding, Honey!) But in reflection, I guess I was sending the message to Ellie, “Grow up to be…MARRIED!” Not to worry…It was actually my son (4 1/2) who commented on wanting to grow up to be a bride and borrow that “pretty white thing” someday.

For more on this girlie-girl subject, I recommend this very enlightening and funny book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. Read my post and review, Up to your eyeballs in pretty pink princess paraphernalia?

Bio: Says Lowry Manders, “I am a parent and music teacher, a teacher of parents, a child development nerd and lifelong learner, a singer and wanna-be-writer, and now, I’m trying to be a blogger! I feel I have valuable ideas to share, funny stories from my own parenting adventures, and hopefully, thoughtful reflections that will speak to YOU as a struggling mommy, because we’re all in this together! As a teacher, my mission is helping families to MAKE CONNECTIONS: connections in little growing brains and emotional connections that will last a lifetime, giving young children the foundations they need to achieve their full potential, even while creating more meaningful moments for parents with their kids. I created “Parent with Purpose” classes to share practical and inspirational ideas with fellow sojourners on this important path. Click on my website mommymanders.com to get some great parenting tips, and download some of my helpful hand-outs. Since I am also a Kindermusik teacher, I believe that music is the most powerful tool for making these connections (and research proves it), so, of course, my own parenting style is pretty much Maria Von Trapp meets Mr. Rogers.”

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