A Little Girl Defines Princesses

This story was sent in by PPBB Mom Katie N:

“She gets it! My seven-year-old daughter overheard me make a hypothesis.

Last night a young friend declared that princesses need rescuing. During my lengthy argume– discussion with him, it became apparent that this was very deeply ingrained. As far as he had been taught, princesses are always needing to be rescued. His dad is very anti-princess. My hypothesis was that his dad didn’t want his sister to be into princesses because he also believes that princesses are weak and always needing rescuing.

My daughter asked me why he believed that. I said he probably believes it because that is what our society teaches. That’s what video games show and what stories often tell.

She got a little riled up: ‘But princesses aren’t like that! Princesses are strong and brave! *throws up bicep curl/victory fist* So are girls. Girls are just like princesses!’

She walked on for a bit, seemingly over her moment of passion. But then she stopped to let me catch up. She told me that tomorrow we should have some girl time to see how strong and brave we are.”

Image via thedeadintern.tumblr.com

Image via thedeadintern.tumblr.com

Further reading: 

Historical warrior princesses vs today’s “princess camps”: A Princess Camp Worthy Of Our Girls

How parents can help redefine what “princess” can mean: Repackaging Princesses  and A Different Narrative

Pointing out how ingrained in culture “princess = girls” is: A Sparkly Mermaid Princess Did Not Remove My Gall Bladder

A book list that helps shift the princess image: The Redefine Princessy Book List

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

Take Up Space

If I had a dollar for every time I have been told I am too forward, too intimidating, too bitchy, too aggressive, too you-fill-in-the-blank I could retire. The thing is, aside from being aggressive when playing sports I am none of those things. Confidence in women is too often reduced to bitchiness. I’m actually pretty nice. I was taught to take up space in this world so I do just that, but because I am a woman it makes people uncomfortable. Their uncomfortableness is none of my business.

I don’t apologize when I ask a question or make a statement. I don’t laugh at the end of statements, either, just in case what I said was too strong and the words need to be softened. I have a right to my thoughts and expressing them. I like to win. I like to be the best, to make money, to yell at my football team during the fourth quarter during a goal line stand. I don’t excuse the meals I eat and when I’m still hungry yes I will eat dessert. I workout to keep my body strong not to punish it for processing calories. I sweat when I workout, dripping sweat and heaving chest because I go big or go home. I don’t not apologize for the space I take up in this world. I have every right to it.

I am teaching my daughter to be these things, because in between painting our toes and playing mermaids and doing glittery art projects we talk about business and economics and tarantulas and how to use our voices. We discuss politics and take out maps and plan adventures around the globe. I will not teach her to shrink, to speak meekly, to not eat pizza when she is hungry.

She will take up space in this world.

Someone once said to me that my parents raised me like a boy, like my brothers. No. My parents raised me to be a woman who is not afraid to be a woman.

Take. Up. Space.

Your Place Or Mine? Big Words For A Little Girl

Last night Mr. Pigtail Pals and I took the kids to our county fair. One of their favorite spots is the corn pit (think sandbox but with corn kernels) so we chatted while sitting on a nearby hay bale while the kids swam and rolled around in eight inches of corn. He brought up a group of girls he had seen earlier in the night, and was disturbed by the clothes they were wearing. He said they were approximately 12 or 13 years old. He described their outfits: micro shorts and revealing t-shirts and tank tops. He said he noticed them when Amelia read one of the shirt logos out loud while they were standing by group, the shirt said “Your place or mine?”

“Those are big words for a little girl. Hope she understands the message that saying conveys.” -I said of the girl wearing the shirt.

“She didn’t even look old enough to babysit the kids, but was wearing that shirt. Her friend had on another one with an equally sexual message. It made me feel really sad for her. The thing that t-shirt said most loudly to me was that on first impression wearing something like that at that age, she didn’t have a lot of respect for herself. Why would you present yourself that way at a public event? If she were grown it would be a little different, but she looked like a child trying to be a woman. It was really disturbing, really out of place.What kind of guy is going to approach a twelve year old and hit on her so that she can ask ‘Your place or mine?’ Either one who is a predator or one who won’t respect her. Shouldn’t she be running around having fun with her friends and giggling about a cute boy or first kiss or something? Instead of offering one night stands with a t-shirt? It made me think of Amelia, five or six years from now, hanging out with her friends at the fair. That is just a few years away, but this group of girls made it feel like another world away,you know? It was shocking to see such young girls dressed like that. I think most of all, I just wanted to hug her and tell her she was worth more….I hope all this time you spend on the business, your book, I really hope parents wake up and take better care of their girls. That shirt seemed dangerous in a way…” -Mr. PP trailed off, and watched his little girl wearing a “Full of Awesome” tee dumping buckets of corn kernels on her little brother.

7yo Amelia playing in the corn pit, just five years younger than the girl wearing the "Your place or mine" t-shirt.

Are girls ready to leverage a “Your place or mine” comment at someone when they are in junior high? Do they have the social skills needed to navigate the world of sexual come ons and sexual experiences? Or are they biting off more than they can chew? At that age, isn’t “my place” their parent’s house? Would they have the means to obtain birth control, or even the knowledge to require their partner to use it? Are they wearing that kind of tee to be rebellious and a bad ass, or because they are desperate for external validation? Both? Is it an expression of sexual empowerment or self objectification? Is that shirt an expression of authentic, youthful sexuality or corporate sexualization?

When I was her age, I was hoping a boy would kiss my cheek at the top of the Ferris wheel and hold my hand. But that was during a time when young girls were allowed to stay young girls and not rushed into a faux version of adulthood in order to pad some corporation’s bottom line.

Remember This: 8 Things I want to tell my 8 Year Old Daughter

Cross-posted with permission from our friend and colleague Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker.

My youngest daughter turned 8 years old this week. This means that she has moved into the world of tweens. Tween marketing is commonly focused on kids between the ages of 8-12 years, and it has become a stage in life when a mini version of adulthood is being promoted as fun and appropriate.

But my girl is still so young. Having gone through this stage with my two older daughters, I want so much for her to hold on to and enjoy her childhood. There’s no reason to rush into being a teenager at the age of 8! And yet, that is a vision that I see in so many programs and products marketed to her.

As she turns eight, these are eight things that I want her to know:

  1. Your uniqueness is what makes you amazing: As you enter the tween years, you’re going to feel pressure to be like everyone else, to follow the crowd, to not stand out. But the things that make you different are what make you original, uniquely you. Love those things about yourself; from your freckles to your love for animals to the way you feel things so strongly.
  2. Enjoy being a kid: You will be a teenager soon enough, and then an adult. Don’t stifle your exuberance, your love to laugh and run and play because it makes you look like a kid. You are a kid! Chase butterflies, play pretend, wear clothes that don’t match, run as fast as you can and play in the mud!
  3. Believe in your dreams: As I got older, I realized that everyone didn’t believe that I could do things I thought I could. I know that you’re going to feel that too, and that it will hurt your heart. But the voices of those who don’t believe are no stronger than your own. If you believe deep in your heart that you should pursue something then let’s do it!
  4. If you don’t risk, you’ll never know: It’s easy to play it safe and avoid taking risks in life, both big and small. But if you don’t risk, you’ll never know what might have happened. Whether it’s learning a new sport, trying a new food, or making a new friend, go out there and live your life fully.
  5.   You are more than your looks: My precious daughter, you may notice that people suddenly want to tell you that you should be plucking, shaving, coloring, glossing, making-up and whatever else to make you look better. You may suddenly worry about the hair on your legs or the freckles on your nose or the cowlick in your hair. If you’re not careful, it’s so easy to begin to believe that what really matters about you is how you look. But you are so much more than that! You are brilliant, strong, passionate, curious, kind, and more! Know that these are the things that are most important about you, not the way you look.
  6. Know that I am here: For the past years, I have always been here for you whether it’s been to give a hug, wipe a tear, share a laugh, or have an adventure. As you get older, it may get harder to talk to me. You may have feelings that you don’t understand. You may struggle with friendships and romantic relationships. You may struggle with feelings about yourself. Please know that I am still here for you, whenever and however you need me. Whether you need to talk out a disagreement with a teacher or make a big decision, my arms, ears, and heart are always open to you.
  7.  You were born to shine: I believe with all my heart that you were born with a purpose, that you can make this world a better place using your unique gifts and talents. Never forget that you were born to shine the beauty of your unique individuality on this old world and make it brighter.
  8.   Love other people: Even when they don’t deserve it, even when they hurt you, even when they make you mad. Let love for others fill your heart so that it flows out of you to touch the lives of those around you. It’s easy to share hate, bitterness, and rudeness. It’s so much harder to turn to hate with love, to look at the person who is being mean to you and see someone who needs mercy. But the world would be a better place if we all learned to do that. You can’t make other people love, but you can choose to love.

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About Jennifer Shewmaker: I’m a professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University and have been working with families and children for the past 15 years. I’m deeply concerned about the way that sexualized media messages are impacting children and adolescents. It’s my goal to provide families and children with resources to become voices of transformation in the world around them. 

Body Image Workshop Part 3: A Parent’s Guide To Talking About Body Image – Ages 4-8

Does This Backpack Make Me Look Fat?

by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler and Melissa Atkins Wardy

In 2009, a studydone by the University of Central Florida revealed that nearly half of 3-6 year olds in the study worried about being fat.

Truth be told, we all deal with a certain amount of worry regardless of how old or young we are, but there are certain concerns that just make more sense than others. Having to reassure your child that you’ll be home soon the first time you leave her with a babysitter or spending a few minutes before bedtime clearing her closet of monsters is to be expected, but having to convince your stressed out six year old that her nightgown or snow suit does not, in any way, make her look fat, is not the kind of thing most of us are prepared for.

Research tells us that children have adopted society’s warped view on body shape and size by the time they are five years old. One has to wonder, how society is finding its way into their young psyches so soon? Are the negative messages of self-judgement sneaking through some window we’re inadvertently leaving open or are they blatantly smashing through the front door? I think it’s both.

Some of the messages our kids are getting are loud and clear and therefore easy to spot, but others are way more subtle and even more dangerous because we don’t even see them coming.

For the first few years of our children’s lives, we pretty much control their environment by deciding what they eat, watch, and hear. As our kids grow, their toys and media change, and carry older themes very quickly (The average age a girl receives her first Barbie? Three years old). Once our kids start preschool, they become exposed to all kinds of outside influences (classmates, teachers, other parents or caregivers) and it’s important that we help them be able to process the examples they’re seeing and the lessons they’re being taught.

School and new friends change the scope of our child's environment.

LISTEN and ASK At School:

In Part 1, we talked about what we can do as parents to promote healthy body image at home and today I think it’s important to point out the significant role that teachers play in our child’s esteem while they’re in school.  Recently, a lot of schools have decided to make their schools healthier by implementing rules around what foods kids can and cannot bring for lunch and snacks. School have also decided to tackle the issue of childhood obesity by teaching healthy eating. While intentions are good, often the execution is anything but. I truly believe that our schools want our kids to be healthy, but when it comes to food and weight, we ALL come to the table with preconceived notions about what we should eat and how we should look. It can be hard for kids to think of teachers as “regular” people, opinions can be mistaken for facts, which could prove dangerous.

Parent Tip: 
 a) If you sense a difference in the way your child is thinking about or acting around food, ask questions.  If they suddenly decide to stop eating certain foods, find out why.
b) Talk to their teacher. There’s nothing wrong with asking if there will be any weight or food topics discussed and how they’re planning on handling it. Again, this is an EMOTIONAL issue and it’s important to make sure your kids are getting the information that YOU feel comfortable with.

New Friends:

 It can be exciting and a little scary for kids to make new friends and while we wish every new child they came into contact with was a great influence, we know that not all kids can get along or be friends. Sadly, peer pressure starts very young and it’s possible to feel like you just don’t fit in, before you even know what you’re trying to fit in to!

Preschool and elementary aged kids may also witness or experience the first time someone is made fun of for how they look. Even at just five or six years old, kids can start comparing themselves to their peers.

Recently, the mother of a seven year old girl told me that her daughter came home from school saying that she didn’t want to be that fattest girl in her class anymore. Another mom told me that her six year old son begged her to keep him home from school because he was tired of being the smallest kid in his class.

It is important to teach our children that it is never appropriate to comment or make fun of another person’s body. Especially true for children, as their bodies are still growing and changing. If your child witnesses teasing taking place, teach them how to be a leader, put their arm around the child being teased, and say simply, “Ava, I’m really happy to have you as a fun friend.” Let’s teach our children how to set the example that everyone has worth, and character is more important than looks.

When it is your child being teased, it can be so hard because our first instinct is to protect our babies. Be careful not to teach them how to play the role of the victim. Validate their feelings, and ask questions about how to ignore the situation or make it better (maybe with humor or a statement of self-confidence). Review with your child how the teasers are obviously mistaken because your child has a healthy body that looks just the way it should. Go over the fun and incredible things your child can do with their body.

The hard fact is we have a lot of overweight kids these days. It isn’t right for them to be teased for how they look, but we need to be honest about the state of our health. Maybe there are steps your family can take — with the guidance of your pediatrician — to get your child back into a healthier weight range. Focus on how to make healthy choices around food and exercise, so that playtime is more fun and less of a physical strain. When we love ourselves from the inside out and fuel our bodies with healthy food, we look just the way we should. Healthy bodies can be many different shapes and sizes.

Kids have a very small frame of reference and need to be reminded that they’re not supposed to all look the same!Unfortunately, television doesn’t help, because most of the kids they see are carbon copies of each other.

 Parent Tip:
 Show your kids that people really do come in so many shapes and sizes. An easy thing to do is to take a trip to a mall on the weekend when it’s pretty busy and just people watch for awhile. Point out all the different people that you see remembering to mention that it’s our differences that make us unique and special and that we are all different and unique in our own way.

New friends= New Toys:

It’s easy to decide what we’re going to buy for our kids to play with and what we’d rather leave on the shelves at the toy store, but when the play dates start, that control is lost. To some people, toys are just toys, but many of us know how powerful they can actually be.

We all know that the Barbie doll has been causing some controversy over the last few years, and with good reason. With all the “evolving” she’s supposed to have done, her physical appearance is still unattainable. While the newer Barbie has moved beyond supermodel and beauty queen into careers in business and medicine, they all still have 18 inch waists and live in impossibly high heels. Barbie is considered old school now, as there are many new 12-18 inch dolls on the market perpetuating the “beauty is best” mentality.

study from Pepperdine University gave a group of preschoolers a choice of 2 toys to play with who were identical in every way except for their weight and 9 times out of 10, the girls chose the thinner toys. An upsetting carry over from this preference is that this behavior tends to continue in the playground when choosing friends.

Children's toys with dispproportionate bodies.

How does the Beauty Myth perpetuated by plastic dolls transfer into real life? A 2010

 Boys Toys on Steroids:

 Girls aren’t the only ones who play with dolls, except for boys, they’re called ACTION FIGURES.

I can remember being a little girl and watching my big brother play with his G.I. Joe, his toy being much different than the one for sale today. The original G.I. Joe was created to look like a regular guy who was fit and strong, while today’s version looks better suited to be on stage at a bodybuilding competition. Even our beloved Superman has been given a makeover. Apparently, someone decided that he didn’t look strong enough and gave him insanely exaggerated muscles and an impossibly square jaw.

For a lot of little boys, these dolls, I mean….Action Figures, represent what a hero is supposed to look like. As a result, I have 9 year olds asking me why they don’t have six pack abs or killer bicep muscles! We need to tell our sons that a truly strong man isn’t judged by the strength of his muscles but on the strength of his character.

 Simply put, toys should encourage creativity and imagination, not feelings of inferiority and shame.

Parent Tip:
Start a conversation about the important people in your child’s life; feel free to pull out family photo albums for a visual prompt. Have them talk about the people who make them happy, make them laugh and help them feel good about themselves. Ask your daughters to name the women who they look up to and have her explain what is so special about them. Help her understand that these women are special because of WHO they are and not how they look and they would be just as amazing and loveable if they were taller, shorter, thinner or wider.
 
Same idea for the boys:  Who are the men that your son looks up to? Why does he admire them? Do they make him feel safe and protected? I’m willing to bet that not all, if any, of his male role models possess perfectly chiselled, well sculpted muscles and this will help him understand what true heroes look like. Discuss what kinds of people could be considered superheroes in his community; what types of people really do save lives? Why not take a trip to your local Fire or Police station where he can meet these heroes in person and see how different they look from each other, and as a bonus he’ll get to see some heroic women as well!
 
Now  Switch!
Do the same exercises in reverse. Have your son list the important women in his life and discuss how different they may look from each other and then take your daughter to see meet her local heroes and sheroes.

 

The great thing about really drilling home messages about body image for kids at this age is that they still think their parents are brilliant. That’s only going to last a few more years, so we need to take advantage while we still can.

Our voices matter, our actions matter and our children are listening; let’s make sure we’re proud of what we’re saying.

 We can do this. Together.

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Marci Warhaft-Nadler is a certified fitness instructor and body image consultant. After overcoming her own body image and eating disorder issues, Marci created her Fit vs Fiction program to tear down the dangerous myths related to beauty and fitness and empower kids with the self-esteem they need to tune out negative messages and be proud of who they are instead of judging themselves for who they think they’re not. 

Self-Worth should NOT be measured in pounds!

www.fitvsfiction.com
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fitvsfiction.wordpress.com
marciwarhaft@rogers.com