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5 Conversations: Princess Today, Royal Pain Tomorrow?

5 Conversations You Must Have with Your DaughterMy daughter, Kaylee, spent the second semester of seventh grade living with her father in Florida.  My boys and I went to spend Spring Break with her.  In our beach house, we had cable – something we don’t have at home.  Kaylee insisted that I watch a show with her about sweet sixteen birthday parties for young up and coming divas that she’d been watching at his house.

This show was horrible.  The girls were so spoiled and acted like the world should be beheaded and placed on a platter for their approval.  I couldn’t fathom a child in my presence speaking to me the way these girls spoke to the adults around them, much less my child speaking to me that way.

The parents not only allowed the behavior, they forked out tens of thousands of dollars for the parties – renting hotel ballrooms and lining up the hottest caterers and biggest names in entertainment, spending thousands of dollars on their daughters’ dresses – and presenting them with some vehicle that cost them about half of my total mortgage.

It was the epitome of spoiled brat-ness.  And Kaylee watched moonstruck – not at the behavior of the girls, but at the parties, the dresses, the decorations, the cars – wishing all the while that she could have a sweet sixteen party like that one day.  Her balloon was deflated a bit when I explained that not only would we never spend that on a birthday – we wouldn’t even spend that kind of money on her wedding day.

In continuing our discussion of Vicki Courtney’s 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter, we reach  Chapter 18, “Princess Today, Royal Pain Tomorrow?”

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For some reason, in this day and time, parents have a hard time telling their children, “No.” They buy presents all year long – not waiting for holidays and birthdays. They shower them with expensive electronics and communication equipment younger and younger — the competition as young as when my daughter was in fifth grade for the brand and style of phone children carry was insane – and that was four years ago! It’s only getting worse.

I’m not sure what drives this desire to constantly please our children. I don’t know if it’s a by-product of so many working parents, so many single parents, or so much disposable merchandise, or simply a keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ mentality. Maybe it’s a combination of several different cultural reasons. But the fact of the matter is, our children are plied with too much stuff, too early, too often, and don’t hear the word, “No,” on a regular enough basis.

I really had to think about the author’s drawing a parallel with the “Princess” items found en masse in the pink aisle of your favorite mega-l0w-mart and the diva attitude as teens. I’m not sure I really buy it too much, but I don’t have personal experience with it — I never did the Princesses. If they were big when my daughter was small, it was off my radar because I’ve never been a big fan of Disney (which has become a bane in my existence with the invention of Lightning McQueen and my 4-year-old son…but that is a story for another day.) So we never played princess, pretended we were princesses, had princess accessories, nor watched any of the movies. We did watch Mulan, because my sister bought it for her under my protest, and she enjoyed that, but Kaylee never got into any of the other films.

But as I thought of it today, I thought that maybe there was a slight corollary – and I thought of it this way: Boys tend to want to be heroes. It manifests itself when they’re young with a love for Superman or the like. They want to save the day, be the one to rescue the princess from the tower, kill the dragon with the sword and save the world. As they age, they’re able to keep up the fantasy of being a hero with video games – and it feeds a part of their brain that craves that action, that hero-ness — and it becomes an unhealthy substitute for life. It can grow into an unhealthy addiction for video games even into adult-hood. When all else in life fails, when their wife is disrespectful or their children misbehave, when they aren’t successful at their career or disrespected by their peers – they can lose themselves in a video game that feeds those desires to be a successful hero and in turn get the chemicals released in their brain that make them feel good. It’s a very vicious cycle.

I think maybe there’s something to be said for girls, too. Girls want to be a princess. They want to be loved and adored. They want their kiss to be so powerful that it turns a frog into a prince. They want a hero to want to fight a dragon to the death to rescue them. When we feed that feeling, and treat them as such, I imagine it’s very similar to the way that boys lose themselves in a fantasy world as they age — I imagine girls would continue to expect the royal treatment – even into adolesence and adulthood. Vicki Courtney could be on to something with the idea.

I’m sure it has much more to do with peer pressure than a princess bedroom set. On top of that, the marketing children face on such a scale that there’s never been anything like it in history has more to do with it than anything. They get bombarded with ads that have been market researched to the nth degree to the point that they have almost no defenses against them. So, a child falls for the marketing, and peer pressure makes other children fall for the marketing, etc., in a vicious cycle.

It takes keeping our children grounded. Pulling them away from possible marketing as much as possible. Strictly regulating their viewing. And telling them, “No.” Even when you don’t have to. I remember Kaylee wanting something simple at a store, and it occurred to me that I’d hadn’t said no in a while, so, I didn’t get it. She asked me, “Why?” in the pouty whiny voice little girls can perfect so young. I said, “Because sometimes the answer is just no. Period.”

As Kaylee has gotten older, I’ve also taken to making her think about this massive dumping of money these shows like this sweet sixteen one and shows like the one where women pick their wedding dresses encourage and make her think about how many people she could feed with $20,000. I don’t do it in a way to make her feel bad, just in a way that makes her think. And the more we talk about things like that, the less she seems to “want” and the more she wants to do to give.

I guess we just need to make sure our children don’t think they’re entitled to more than basic survival, and that anything else is “extra” and a “privilege” – extras and privileges for which they need to be thankful and for which they need to show proper appreciation. I think that will definitely help them as they grow older and start providing for themselves, and will lessen any possible “diva” preconceptions that their generation has placed in their mind.

Hallee


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