If you have found yourself steadily transforming into your child’s minion and are subject to her whims, drama and crazed impulses, you are not alone. Many parents, upon observing their formerly sweet baby girl’s drama-induced rage, ask, “Where did this little diva come from?”
Princess personas are born from the union of nature and nurture. Genetics might incline a child toward diva-like behavior, but nurture can tip the scales in deciding whether or not she develops what psychologists commonly refer to as “Princess Syndrome.”
*Intelligent Nest aims to provided a balanced perspective. Before you tossing out all your daughter’s princess dress-up clothes or dismissing the arguments, keep an open-mind. Much of the Princess Syndrome is fueled by external cultural forces, built into our collective expectations about the definition of gender which are reinforced through our experiences and not intentionally transmitted to girls.
Princess Syndrome can be wrapped up in one word- “me.” It is the failure of a child to move beyond the egocentrism of her youth and is characterized by placing unhealthy emphasis on beauty, comfort, indulgence and the self, as well as an infatuation with playing the role of the victim.
While playing princess is a healthy game that many girls enjoy, this article seeks to deter the development of the belief that one is actually a real princess, of sorts. Here are five ways to repel the diva within your precious baby girl and nurture a more healthy perspective of herself, her gender and place within society.
Pink, Pink, Pink
Make a point of buying some clothing and toys for your daughter that are NOT pink. Hand her the bowl that is green. Offer her the bib that is orange. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the color pink, but over emphasizing pink can lead to identity issues.
Why? Children are trying to find a place in this world and they do so through oversimplification and classifying life with sweeping generalizations. They define and group themselves and others by their preferences. In the preschool years, children begin to select friends based upon their similarities with them and reject other friends on the grounds of their differences. Their mentality is such that if you like blue, you MUST be a boy or identify only with boys, and likewise for pink and girls.
A girl who is pushed with pink may subconsciously feel pressure to adopt this hyper-feminine persona, which is defined by the color pink. Just like offering a variety of healthy foods develops your child’s palette, it is important to offer a variety of colors, toys, imaginative play options and roles to a child. A girl needs a chance to try on many different hats, even if she insists that the only one she likes is pink.
Be care what you wish for…
Consider which traits you highly value in your daughter. Are you excited that she is petite, has long eye lashes or beautiful skin? If you audibly discuss her physical attributes, even in a positive way, she will overhear and internalize these values. If how her hair looks, the way she dresses and the size of her body is emphasized and micromanaged enough, even in the early years, your daughter could come to believe that this is who she is and will add an unhealthy level of importance to these more superficial attributes in herself and others as she grows.
Children overhear how we talk about our own bodies and can pick up on our body language when we disapprove of how we or they look. Our impressions of ourselves can transfer to our daughters. Beauty is desirable and not negative, but communicating to your daughter that her personal worth is wrapped up in dressing and looking beautiful is not healthy. There is a difference between being beautiful and looking beautiful as beauty is subjective, but being a beautiful person is a objective.
Research demonstrates that childhood friendships can significantly impact a child’s overall development. Avoid encouraging friendships with other prima donnas. You daughter will mimic behaviors that she sees in her friends. It is a parent’s job to select friends who display behaviors that are worthy of emulation. Of course, young children are far from perfect, so don’t write off every child who makes a mistake on a playdate. But, beware of consistent self-centered play, demanding and controlling behaviors, lack of age appropriate manners, lack of general considerateness, exclusive behaviors based upon superficial variables, and the lack of the ability to apologize.
Don’t Feed the Monster
Immediately shut down your child’s princess syndrome by not accepting her diva attitudes and behaviors. Laughing at her dramatic display or commenting about how she is “quite the little princess” will only reinforce her behavior. She will come to see herself as a real princess who needs to be demanding, controlling, beautiful and very important indeed in order to be classified as such. Hide your smile and put on your stern face. Let your daughter know that her behavior shows you that she is not ready to be in that particular situation. If she can’t rephrase her request and apologize, then she’ll need to be taken out of the situation completely until she can. Ask leading questions about how others involved in the situation might feel. Help guide her to understand how her behavior affects other people and her relationships.
Our culture loves to impress the power of the princess upon girls. It isn’t all bad. In past generations, princesses were beautiful, helpless and dependent upon males to rescue and give them a happy ending. They were also sweet spirited, but fragile. The modern day princess is entitled, independent, in control, gorgeous, wealthy and popular. Sort through the books, movies and TV shows and offer those with heroines whose values you support. Stories offer a powerful medium for life lessons and your daughter will learn behaviors from what she watches and reads. No need to forbid princess movies, but be prepared to have a conversation about what she is observing.
Ask your daughter questions to help her evaluate the values of the characters.
- What do you think about what she did?
- Do we treat others like that?
- Do you need to look like her?
- Would she still be a good person even if she didn’t have a pretty dress?
- How would you feel if you were her?
- What makes her life good?
Saddle up your horses parents, armor yourself with the tools above and prepare for battle against a princess-obsessed culture. No need to dismiss and reject the culture. Anyone else love Disney’s Frozen? Instead, help your daughter to interpret the princess culture. Offer her the option to be something other than what she feels pressured to become and encourage her to find true beauty, strength and passion from within.