With three daughters, my husband and I are constantly worrying about all the pressure that society puts on them. Times are very different from when I was a young girl. The pressures to look a certain way, and dress a certain way are even more intense.
Studies show that young girls today face more pressure than ever to be “princess perfect”. Not only do they have to get straight A’s, but they have to be fashionable, beautiful and kind. They are exposed to media that makes them worry about being pretty and sexy. Studies show that many media advertisements have a negative impact on a girl’s self-esteem.
Our oldest daughter is almost 8 and she is already bombarded with pressure from the media and from her peers. I can already see how society is telling her that how she looks matters more than who she is. I worry about what is to come. I hope that executives at big companies like Disney and Mattel don’t sit around in their board meetings and try to think of ways to sexualize our young girls. But “princesses” sell, and so these companies are going to keep pushing the stereotypes at our girls.
Although society is targeting our young girls, we are still their parents, and responsibility lies on us. We want to blame the media, but ultimately, as parents, we do have a final say.
So what can we as parents do to help our girls deal with the “princess perfect” pressure?
1. Watch what we say.
As parents, we need to make sure that our comments don’t teach our girls that success and happiness is defined by how we look and what we wear. This applies to the comments we make about ourselves and our looks, as well as the comments we make about others. If we are constantly complaining about how we look, and /or constantly commenting on how others looks, this can have a negative effect on our girls.
2. Praise our girls for their strengths and effort.
This goes along with the first point. If you have a girl, monitor what you say to her in a 24 hour period. What is the focus of your comments? Naturally we comment on how cute they are, “you look so pretty”, “I love your dress”, ” you look like a princess”.
Instead of commenting on their looks, praise and comment on the effort they put into things and for the areas they are strong. Society will bombard them with feelings about clothes and looks. As parents we need to teach them they are strong and capable.
3. Give them challenges.
Provide challenges for our girls. Kids don’t wake up and think “I am going to make myself do something hard today”. We have to help provide them with challenges that they can overcome. This helps them believe in themselves and translates into future challenges. It builds their worth, based on their talents, abilities, and work ethic, instead of their looks and clothes. It also helps them keep a sense of reality.
4. Monitor what your girls are exposed to. Parents do have a say.
T.V shows, music, magazines, clothing, friends and toys can all give our girls the wrong message about where their worth lies. Be careful what you let in your home. Be cautions what your girls are exposed to.
5. Love them.
Whether they like princesses or frogs, pink or green, keep your arms wide open at all times so that kids know they are loved. Loved for who they are, not because of how they look. They will face much rejection from society. Especially because no one is the “perfect princess”. Our girls need to always know we have their back and we love them because they are kind and funny and smart and sensitive, clever and wonderful. Loved because they are them. Plain and simple.