When I found out I was having a daughter there was one thing I knew for sure, I would make sure that she never got into Barbie or Disney Princesses. I did not want my little girl to grow up expecting a perfect life of “happily ever after,” or, worse, to feel inadequate because her body proportions are a lot more like her mom’s than Barbie’s.
Now that she’s almost four, I’ve changed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I still hope to share with her the rest of the story: that even when dreams do come true you still will have struggles in life. I also hope to help her value character and the way God designed her body over feeling the need to look like a plastic doll. But, I now think that princess toys and even Barbie might be a healthy part of my daughter’s play and learning.
Let’s look at the princesses. Snow White and Cinderella are exceptional at keeping things tidy and are kind, even under the worst of circumstances. Belle’s an avid reader and Aerial is an explorer. They are well-groomed and dress in beautiful, modest gowns (I’ve never seen one wear a leather bustier and mini). They have lovely voices, but more important, they sing because their demeanors are cheerful and pleasant. They don’t let the prince yell, “Yo, babe, ya ready?” from his horse when he comes to pick them up. Yes, they are beautiful on the outside, but they behave in ways that show their inner beauty.
Then there is Barbie. I still feel that my daughter is too young for some of Barbie’s more “tween” appropriate themes (dating, fashion, make-up, etc…). But, there is a newer line of Barbie princess and fairy toys that have great appeal to preschool girls. Barbie just released a new movie called, “Barbie Princess Charm School.” The storyline might still be better for girls who are a little older, but who doesn’t want their child to have good manners? If Barbie can help reinforce the message – all the better!
Last week my daughter and I had the opportunity to attend an event to help promote the new movie. It was a princess tea party with special manners training from a Dallas manners expert, Mrs. Elise McVeigh (www.elisemcveigh.com– if you’d like to enroll your child in a manners class). Mrs. McVeigh talked to us about the proper way to greet people, good table manners, how to set a table correctly, and, the part all the little girls loved, how to curtsy and twirl (two essentials for every princess).
Although I doubt I’ll have many opportunities to use my newfound twirling techniques, I will say that it was a great manners refresher course for me too. In fact, I noticed all the moms sitting up a little straighter and acting a little more “princess like” as our tea party continued.
When Barbie made her grand entrance she quizzed us on what we had learned that morning and encouraged the girls to find the “princess inside” of them. I really like the way that this mantra helps the girls focus on inner beauty and calls them to act like a princess, not just to dress like one.
Though my daughter wasn’t particularly interested in meeting Barbie, we still had a lovely time. Best of all, we came home with a new motivation for her to practice good manners – so she can behave like a princess. And, it seems to be working.
Here are a few of the easier manners tips we learned. These can be taught to girls as young as age 2 or 3:
A princess always:
1) Makes eye contact and smiles when introduced to someone.
2) Says please and thank you.
3) Places her napkin on her lap and uses it.
4) Chews with her mouth closed.
Consider inviting Barbie or the other princesses to help you with your manners training. As you watch their movies or read their stories, stop and point out to your daughter the princess-like behavior you would like to see her emulate. Putting the practice of good manners in the context of, “this is how a princess would act” is great motivation for little girls.
Opportunities may also arise to point out how princesses share, practice kindness, help each other, or take care of their friends — more great material for you as you teach your princess-in-training these same things.
Of course, she’ll learn most from watching her favorite princess of all — you, mom! So, use google to find some etiquette answers if your manners have gotten rusty.