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Supersister Questions

Posted by Patience on March 10, 2009 at 7:14 AM in Patience
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Sarah writes:
How worried should I be about the effect of the Disney Princess Industrial Complex on my daughter and the impact of gun/war play on my son? Do I enforce my values (because I hate the idea of play centered around these gender stereotypes), or do I chill the heck out and realize they'll get over their fascination sooner or later?

Lucy has a special eye for all things princess. She can spot any such paraphernalia a mile a way. She loves shoes, dresses, dancing and singing in a warbled voice a la Snow White. This same girl isn't afraid to get dirty and can completely hold her own in a wrestling match with her brothers. She hates to have her hair brushed but can spend hours in the bath dumping water all over the place.

Yet I still worry from time to time. I wonder if she will think being a size 2 is the only beautiful shape, or if a handsome man saving you is the only way out of your troubles, if happily ever after includes a castle. While the gender stereotypes push every button in my grown up body, I think we end up (once again) in a parenting balancing act. While I don't think I'll rushing out to buy any Barbies anytime soon, I don't think I'll exactly forbid them either. Anytime we attempt to squash a desire or interest, we might be setting ourselves up for it to pop up in a different way later. Maybe good, maybe bad, I'm not sure yet.

What do you think? Is the nature vs. nurture argument still going in your head as a parent? Are you lost in the princess world at your house or have you forbidden all violent/weapon play? Do share; this is a biggie for a lot of parents. Sarah and I could use your collective wisdom.


Anne writes...

It's all part of the phases of childhood. While we are trying to balance nature vs nurture, our own children are trying to balance out who they are in this big world. Barbies and twirling skirts will go by the wayside to make room for best friends, team sports, cell phones, & non stop texting. Every stick turns into a gun/war game will move on into skateboarding, i-pods, team sports, driving & non stop texting. Kids will be kids and these activities do not mean you are any less than a great parent. You love your child, they are growing, they are going to turn out great.

Alice writes...

This has been a hard one for us. No matter how many groovy girls were stuffed in our son's stocking, he chose the hot wheels or trains to play with. Our daughter LOVES getting "fancy" by putting on princess dresses and make-up (she also enjoys playing, "kai-twa-do" as she pretends to take over the world).
We swore to ourselves that we would never get our kids toy guns and were unsure of what to do when our son got his first water gun but on one visit to Gettysburg, PA he told us that he wanted this certain toy gun, "more than anything else in the whole world." We decided that it was better to cave on the toy gun than to have him wanting a gun for the rest of his life. Our daughter now plays with said gun since our son could care less about it.
We've decided to counter the Disney tales with stories, and boundless human examples, of strong, independent women (as well as men who can be sensitive and vulnerable). We talk often about our views on violence and why our children should stay away from guns.
The world inundates our kids with visions of what they should and shouldn't be, for better or worse. They are both pretty stereotypically boy and girl. However, they are both independent thinkers and I'd like to think that they don't feel confined by those roles that nature/society/we have placed on them.

p.s. Check out Robert Munsch's Paper Bag Princess. She rocks. :-)

Ann Reavey writes...

I purposely bought my girls toys that were "boy" toys (and decorated their room in a balanced way - bedding with boats and trucks, fairy pictures on the wall). Then watched as friends were amazed that my kids liked playing with trains and trucks as much as dolls and the kitchen set. Our dress-up bin always contained swords as well as magic wands. They now build with Star Wars legos as much as (or more than) they play with their American Girl dolls.

However, I think our modeling as parents goes much further than toys ever will. Do they see mom getting out the hammer and ladder to fix something? or do they hear mom joking "Where's a man when you need him?" Does mom complain about her looks? Losing weight? Wrinkles? Girls and boys pick up on these messages in a powerful way.

I happen to love football and my husband likes to make fussy pastries, but we still have to be intentional about our messages. Do we talk about men we honor and respect for their strength, toughness, and intellect but forget to highlight their kindness, tenderness, and compassion? Do we let the men in our lives show deep emotion around our children? Do they hear stories about (or actually see) dad crying? Do we look at boy babies and coo about how big and strong they are while gushing about how pretty and sweet the girl babies are?

I watch the modeling far more closely than I monitor the toy purchasing!

Amber writes...

We have Disney princesses, and Barbies, and I sort of hate them and everything they stand for. But I also remember loving them when I was a kid myself, and I don't think I was harmed, so I allow them into my home. The grandparents generally buy this sort of stuff, which saves me from having to spend money on something I hate. ;-)

Amy writes...

I don't think they are a big deal! I played with He-Man and GI Joe as a child alongside Barbie and My Little Pony. I think kids should make their own decisions what to play with. I would only suggest discussions as to why they chose a particular toy. I think the manner toys are played with is a reflection of outside influences, not the toys themselves. For example, my Barbie was always married because that was what I was exposed too. I would worry more on how you raise a child than what toys they choose.

Amy writes...

Oh, and ditto on the Robert Munsch's "Paper Bag Princess". I just did a lesson on that book with my students. And they inferred so many wonderful things about her character! He also does a great reading of the story on his website!

Steve writes...

Provide them with an environment that has a wide variety of items to choose from, masculine/feminine, musical/arts&crafts, sports equipment and (simple to technical gadgets with age & maturity), and then sit back and watch them and what they do with them on any given day. When they ask for more refined items, and they keep asking you over and over again, provide them with a simple version (ex. basic drum) and move up the quality ladder as they pursue their interest further and continue to ask for more advanced items. Respect yourself and your family limits re: costs and if the interest continues to grow look for outside resources. Most children will attract exactly what they need. Items may come from friends, grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. Watch and be amazed! Keep a watchful eye for safety and intervene only when necessary.

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