Book Review — “Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters”

I love this book from Dr. Jen Hartstein!

 I’m told the first 35 years of parenting are the most difficult. I tend to agree. Today’s parents face the extra challenge in our culture of wading through the omnipresent Princess Culture with their daughters (and maybe sons). Some little girls are drawn to frilly and princessy things, and that is a wonderful part of childhood for the young imagination to explore.

But there is another side to princesses. It is often called “Princess Culture”, and is defined by the obsession of all things pink, hyper-girly, beauty-focused play, and a sense of entitlement. Lacking from this is the idea of teaching girls to be confident, competent, and able to rely on themselves. It leaves our girls with a skewed sense of the world and their place in it. 
I have many parents email me asking for help with their girl who is princess crazy, and demonstrating some undesirable behaviors as a result. Maybe the little girl is too focused on her looks, is behaving with a sense of entitlement, or insists on playing the same princess story line over and over and over again. Parents want to know how to break the focus on beauty and vapidness, or maybe expand their daughter’s definition of what it could mean to be a princess and offer her different ideas of play.
I now have the perfect book to recommend to them — “Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters”  by my friend Dr. Jen Hartstein. This book is fabulous, I loved reading it (three times now!). My girl isn’t a princess girl, but I see how the info in Princess Recovery can help me navigate the waters of girlhood because the marketing to our daughters on how they should be a girl is relentless.
Dr. Jen’s book takes parents through the idea of using media literacy skills, creativity, and tangible tips and activities to get girls in the mindset of being strong and empowered and writing their own stories that get them to their own happy ever after. She takes us through the problematic lessons girls learn from Princess Culture, to the steps she’s termed ‘The Princess Recovery Program’, to chapters that give a Princess Symptom and a Heroine Value.
The book isn’t so much about tearing princesses away from our little ladies, nor does it advocate raising girls in a protected bubble. This book is all about striking balance, and making sure our girls are getting the best out of childhood and their interest in princesses, and giving them lessons and experiences that build them up and leave them prepared and ready to take on the world. Because this book has such a balanced approach, I feel confident in recommending it to our Pigtail Pals Community because as we all know, there are so many ways to be a girl.
Princess Symptoms like “Appearances Are Everything” and “Entitlement” and “Rescue Me!” are countered with Heroine Values like “Smarts Pay Off” and “Hard Work” and “Set High – but realistic – Expectations”. This book does such a great job of helping parents draw out the best from their girls, while not taking anything away from them or telling their girls that what they love is wrong or silly.
Even if you don’t have a princess girl, I think this book is still a great resource for raising girls in today’s culture. And to be honest, I even picked up some tips for helping me with my son. When I first met Dr. Jen and she told me about her book, I was a little leary it would be off-putting to parents who would feel like they would be on the defensive for their princess girls. I am so pleased I was flat wrong. I promise you, this book will leave you feeling optimisic and excited about new ways to challenge your girl, and open her world even wider. I read this book once because I had to in order to be able to review it. I read it twice more because I loved it.
I asked Dr. Jen why she was inspired to write this book, and she answered: “I work with lots of young women in my private practice, and I notice that many of them (too many) are focused on their appearances, what other people think of them, and how they present themselves to the world. They look to the external world to provide them with a sense of self, meaning, and understanding.

When I stood back from it, I realized that these feelings are rooted in their childhoods, so I started to do some research about what kind of influences start so young, and are so powerful, that these young women, who have so much to offer, cannot see it.

This brought me to the princess culture, and to Peggy Orenstein’s fabulous book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” Her book highlighted what the problem was, and motivated me to provide a guide that could help parents begin to know HOW to deal with the problem, in the hopes that these young women would feel more in control of their lives earlier in their lives.

Next, I asked Dr. Jen about the feedback she has gotten: “The feedback that I have gotten from parents has been really phenomenal. I think most have been able to utilize the strategies and ideas with their daughters, and have found the recommendations to be practical, useful and easy to implement. In fact, some mothers have stated that they are starting to think about how they are going to utilize some of the ideas for themselves!
Overall, I think people have really received the book well and are finding that they can utilize the ideas to shift their princess to heroines…and they girls can wear their tiaras as they play in the mud.”
Dr. Jen Hartstein
Dr. Jen is a nationally recognized child, adolescent and family psychologist based in New York City. She is also the mental health contributor on CBS’ The Early Show and regular contributor on the Anderson show with Anderson Cooper.
You can find Dr. Jen and her blog HERE.