Parent, Teacher, Author
In my positive pick today, I wanted to tell you about a book that was recently released by Dr. Jennifer L. Hartstein. Dr. Hartstein is a psychologist who works with clients to promote self-awareness and acceptance and she has written a great book for parents of girls. Princess Recovery is a how-to guide to raising strong, empowered girls who can create their own happily ever after. It will be a resource in helping you figure out how to respond to the princess culture that surrounds girls today.
Dr. Hartstein contrasts the Princess ideal with the Heroine ideal. Comparing and contrasting these two ideals, she shows parents how to help their daughter learn to reject the message that she should value her physical appearance above all else and learn to appreciate both inner and outer beauty. As Dr. Hartstein presents these two contrasting views of what it means to be a girl, the Princess ideal is characterized by valuing outer beauty, looking to others for help, feeling entitled to whatever she wants, believing romance can fix everything, defining herself by how others perceive her, and putting her own needs before those of others. On the other hand, the Heroine ideal appreciates looking nice but can see that it’s not the most important thing about her, helps herself and others, works hard to earn success, works to maintain success, believes in a bright future she’s imagined for herself, defines herself by her own standards, and expects the best of herself.
As I mentioned in my round-up of research on the portrayal of females in the Disney films and other children’s media, girls have been presented with the idea that being good is equal to being pretty and thin and that physical appearance is the most important thing about them. While a little princess play can be fun, this is not the image that most of us want our daughters to adopt. I love the idea of teaching girls that they can have the fun and sparkle while not necessarily adopting the “princess” values. In fact, there’s a whole section on healthy princess play ideas! What I appreciate about Hartstein’s approach is that instead of making you feel guilty if your daughter (gasp!) does enjoy princess play and dress up, she gives you fun ways to enjoy the princess idea without embracing the unhealthy messages that often come along with it. It’s “princess” done right! That’s so important, because it allows parents to take a cultural idea that’s already out there and shape it to meet their own family’s value system to promote strong, healthy ideas about girlhood.
Dr. Hartstein does a great job of talking about why the usual “princess” messages of style over substance and self-objectification are not healthy for your child. She also gives extremely practical advice on everything from dealing with gifts that don’t fit with your family’s value system to teaching your child how to be independent and build her decision-making and problem solving skills. Full of sound, useful parenting advice, Princess Recovery will help you examine the unhealthy emotional messages that your daughter may be getting from media and marketing, develop a plan for your individual family about how to handle the princess ideal, and find ways to promote healthier ideas about what it means to be a girl.
I highly recommend this book to all parents of girls. And, while the princess theme may not resonate with you if you have older girls, I guarantee that the sensible guidance on helping your child become an independent problem-solver will still apply!