Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Empowering the princess-obsessed pre-schooler:

Use your daughter's obsession with princesses as a way of teaching her about values, media and culture.
By Rebecca Hains
Date: January 06 2015
Editor Rating:

When little girls become princess-obsessed, parents react with a mix of “aww” and shock. Seeing a toddler in a princess gown is enough to make even the most cynical adult swoon and praise her for her adorable beauty.

But when that same little princess refuses to get dressed for preschool in mid-winter because, she tantrums in a heap of tears, “Princesses don’t wear sleeeeeeeeves!” - well, some parents wish their girls would have a feminist awakening, and fast.

What can a parent do? The situation often seems hopeless, as Devorah Blachor’s satirical-prescription-gone-viral for creating a feminist toddler - Turn your princess-obsessed toddler into a feminist in 8 easy steps - suggests.

So many parents are so frustrated by the grip that princess culture has on their daughters that, as a professor and researcher of girls’ media culture, I decided to research what could be done.

I spent two years immersed in the literature and in fieldwork, interviewing more than 40 parents about what worked for their families. I even went undercover à la Ms Steinem’s “Playboy Bunny” days, getting a job as a birthday party princess and partying with little girls while dressed as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid on weekends.

It was incredibly fun and also yielded a lot of insights (despite having to fend of off the occasional drunken uncle leering down my clamshells, eww).

As I explain in my resulting book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, there’s no switch you can flip to de-princess a little girl - nor should there be. Princesses are terrific fun for girls, and the newer crop of princesses (like Merida, Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa) are actually pretty decent role models for our kids.

No, the answer is not to turn our toddlers into little feminist automatons who can quote Naomi Wolf on demand.

Rather, it’s to raise children - boys and girls alike - to be critical, media-literate viewers, and it’s absolutely possible to begin this process in the preschool years. If you’re concerned about princess culture devouring your daughter’s identity and delivering nasty stereotypes about what’s appropriate for girls to do, wear, and think, here are some tips.

1.  Communicate your family’s values to your child

Studies show that if children don’t know what their parents value - for example, that they believe girls should be more than just pretty, or that it’s important to have friends from different backgrounds, with different interests - children can assume their parents believe the opposite of what they do.

So let your kids know, in age-appropriate terms, what’s important to you. Young children identify with their parents, so clarifying what you value is key.

2.  Establish a healthy media diet for your child

Avoid letting her have more than two hours of screen time each day, and make sure that junky TV shows, apps, and movies are countered by pro-social ones. It’s all about balance.

3.  Watch and talk about media content with your child

Every now and then, be sure to sit down and watch TV or movies with her. If something happens on screen that aligns with your values, talk back to the screen and offer positive reinforcement in an age-appropriate way. This can be as simple as saying something like, “Wow, I’m glad she spoke up for herself! That was really great.”

And if something you disagree with happens, call it out: “Oh, that wasn’t very nice. He shouldn’t have treated her that way.”

4.  Teach your child about media creation

When kids realise that all media are created by people, and that TV shows are not some benignly neutral window into another part of the world, this can really change their perspective on the media in a healthy way.

With pre-schoolers, this can be as simple as pointing to the end credits on a movie and saying, “Wow, look at how many people are listed in the credits! Those are the names of people whose job it was to make this movie.” You’re planting seeds that will be useful later on - for example, recognising that, hey - that character could have acted or looked a different way, but someone decided to create another boring stereotype, instead.

Practicing these techniques won’t effect an instantaneous Cinderella-style transformation on your pre-schooler, but over time, it will make her media literate.

If you establish healthy patterns of communication with your daughter from an early age, she’s likely to feel comfortable coming to you with whatever problems she faces later on - stuff that’s way more worrisome than a few passively pretty princesses.

* * *

If parents are interested in more practical tips you can buy Rebecca’s book,The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years. It’s full of straightforward advice on raising empowered girls, and it’s grounded in solid research.

Share This Tweet This Email To Friend
Related Articles
So many toys are labelled 'educational' as a marketing ploy,…
Read more
If parents can't limit children's screen time, at least try…
Read more
Kids prefer everyday objects over expensive play equipment.
Read more
Nick Jr's Sam Moran with tips on how to keep…
Read more
Cry babies

Dry your eyes!
The newest additions are on their way from the Babies who cry real tears!


Latest Tech Used In Shipping Containers
Read how the shipping industry has revolutionised

Motherpedia cover-2

Win 1 set of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set
Barbara Murray’s new 4-book Sound Stories is perfect for parents and educators and could assist with NAPLAN results

Motherpedia cover (4)

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest Australia
Get ready for this celebration!

Motherpedia cover-4

A Fortnight of Foodie Experiences at East Village
A taste of East Village. What's in it for me?

Globber my too fix up cover

We Try: Globber My TOO Fix Up
A scooter that grows with your child

Throw a winning cricket pitch

3 Steps to a Winning Backyard Cricket Pitch
Ex-Adelaide Oval legend curator Les Burdett shares his tips for getting your backyard cricket pitch test match ready this summer

A bike that follows your kids life cycle - motherpedia - cover

A Bike That Follows Your Kids Life Cycle
Check out the Bunzi 2-in-1 gradual balance bike!

Moonlight lifestyle

Moonlight Cinema to bring…
Moonlight Cinema announces brand new Western Sydney venue

Screen shot 2019-11-26 at 8.29.12 am

Your Magical Christmas Wonderland…
Adventure park is about to light up the night sky with its "Christmas Festival of Lights"

Screen shot 2019-11-21 at 11.11.36 am

The Preston Market Gets…
It's time to feel pumped up for the holiday season!


Bunnings team members get…
Help raise funds by buying a snag or donating at your local store.