Why girls love fairy tale princesses
Girls love fairy tale princesses and the fantasy is a right of passage for manyIt comes as no surprise to most parents when their little girl announces she wants to grow up to be one of the fairy tale princesses. Many will humor her with an adorable princess dress and tiara, a magic wand, too, if their dream world calls for fairy dust. The princess phase comes over so many young girls that it's almost expected, but why?
To understand why girls light up when they get to wear pink ruffles, you have to look at the life of a princess through the eyes of a child. Grown women may see these "role models" as relatively helpless, high-maintenance, materialistic and always in need of being saved. These are female characters whose sole purpose in life, according to the Disney versions, is to find love.
Put on your child lens for a moment and remember that getting to wear a princess dress is the ultimate form of make believe. These gals get to live in castles and people love them. When not being hunted by a wicked queen or jealous step sisters, they wear elaborate gowns and everyone pays attention when they talk. Theirs is an uncomplicated world of grand balls, chatty frogs and always happy endings.
Why fear the dreaded phase?
Parents and educators know how important it is for a child's development to engage this/her imaginations, but with that there's also a fear of over-indulging or reinforcing biased gender roles. The stories that many of these Disney films are based off of originated centuries ago, when young girls didn't have the opportunity to get an education and have their own career.
Times have drastically changed, but these characters still live in a world where men rule and passivity is expected. Cinderella's fortune doesn't improve because people finally see how smart or clever she is, but how pretty she looks in expensive clothes.
Positive lessons to learn
Like many childhood phases, fairy tale princesses teach positive lessons as well. In Aladdin, Jasmine has a heart that longs to see the world; she doesn't want to marry whoever her father wants her to. This independent spirit is what leads her on the adventure that changes her life. Granted, the story still ends with a marriage proposal, but Jasmine makes her own choices and that's an important life lesson.
A love of fairy tale princesses is not a cause for parents to worry; it simply opens up room for more conversations. Ask her why she wants to be one, and what other characters she likes. For many, Snow White and Belle are the first introduction they have to a fantasy world of bright colors and wow moments that dazzle their minds with possibility.
The reaction parents have to the behaviors and interests children demonstrate early on have a significant influence. Teach her to ask questions and speak up so she won't hesitate to raise her hand in class once she starts school. Emphasize the positive lessons these fairy tales illustrate to shift her focus from the makeup and glitter.
Deemed the fairest of them all by Mirror Mirror, the wicked queen is threatened by her physical beauty, but Snow White survives her ordeal because she has friends. The seven dwarfs show the same kindnesses to her as she did to them.
Tinker Bell doesn't sit around waiting for adventure or a hero to save her. This girl never slows down. She soars through the air and embraces the things that make her unique.
In Beauty in the Beast, Belle shows that real beauty is inside of the person, and has nothing to do with their physical appearance.
Cinderella proves that bullies don't always win. Another important lesson she drives home that parents will appreciate: don't stay out past curfew!
Let's not forget Pocahontas. While not a full time resident of Fairyland, she's based on a real woman who saved a man named John Smith, her Disney movie and wide popularity puts her in league with the other girls. She not only demonstrates bravery, but standing up for what's right and going with your heart over what people want you to do.
Though we analyze why children do what they do, the answer is often pure curiosity. They're constantly exposed to new things that don't always make sense. Disney stories make sense and they're entertaining.
Celebrate the princess phase for a little while - the key is to continue the lessons these tales introduce and teach all children how to make their own happy endings.
Babble: Raising a Daughter in Princess Culture
Julie Andrews Collection: National Princess Week