Unless you’re a King or Queen, your son or daughter (whom you love so much), is not going to be a prince or princess. Sure, at the approximate age of five they might go ahead and dress up like one. A daughter donning a pink dress and waving a battery powered magic wand around is not a surprising sight for most parents. And it goes without saying but, it’s pretty adorable.
And that’s perfectly fine, of course. There’s nothing at all wrong with pretending to be a princess. Pretending is fun, creative and probably one of the more innovation-oriented behaviors our children engage in. But it can all take a pretty dark turn the moment we tell them that they actually are a princess. Or, worse, that they deserve to be one.
How we accidentally tell children what they should be
The first and most obvious problem is simple. We should be careful of making children feel like there’s something they should be. They already are. They’re part of the happening that we call our universe, and are more than capable, even at a very young age, to follow their instincts and learn and embrace who they are. It was all in the package from the very beginning.
Besides that, I think that a child’s grasp should be just a little bit further than their reach. If your daughter is grasping to be a princess, failure and disappointment will be one of her first experiences in life. She’ll be setting her sights on an ideal, and her attainment will ever disappoint the expectation.
The power of the princess
As an adult, it’s easy to forget that when we tell a child they are a princess, they truly believe it. Remember Santa Claus? If we tell our children that they are royalty, the center of the universe, they will feel supported in this supposition.
This is a slippery slope, where they may begin to expect the world to comply with their wishes. The symptoms of this are unpleasant, as they will never be satisfied in the real world. It empowers them to make every decision a demand. Sometimes we say this is being ‘spoiled’, but keep in mind who’s the one doing the ‘spoiling’.
Royalty expects to have his or her opinion in every choice that has to be made. I’ve seen examples where a five year old had a big impact on family decisions. The problem here is not that the child has a say in them. It’s definitely good to involve children as early as possible, teach them how to be decisive. The problem starts when we grant them the veto. I don’t mean the problem that this causes you, I am referring to the problem that you are forcing on them.
Because you see, a child is too young to have a veto (or, at least an endless supply of vetoes). The responsibility is too big. It will force them to explore the boundaries of their power. Because children are programmed to search for a boundary. Boundaries imply definition.
Kids will look for boundaries by manipulating and steering other people’s behavior when empowered to do so. This could result in a truly unpleasant disposition. A person that other persons don’t always enjoy being around. A princess.
And it wouldn’t be their fault, it would be yours.
The center of the universe is a bad place to hang out
Your children deserve clarity. It’s how we put our minds at ease in the big, incomprehensible world we get cast into. It’s important that adults make decisions for their kids sometimes, collaboratively if possible. This way they understand that someone is looking after them. It sets their mind at ease knowing they are not responsible, that they actually have very little influence and control. This way they aren’t paralyzed worrying about the consequences of every action.
An entire generation identifies with the psychological implications of being brought up as ‘special’, as ‘unique’, as the center of their own little world. Everyone wants to cast stones about what caused this, but the answer is simple. It’s what they were taught during their formative years.
Don’t misunderstand, no parent did it on purpose, just as no child took on that perspective on purpose. Let’s just live and learn, recognize what crafts the center of the universe illusion and try to avoid it where we can.
So if you want your son or daughter to be truly happy, tell them they aren’t significant. That they’re not entitled to anything. That are both good and bad, not more or less valuable than anyone else.
Humility is the greatest lesson of all, as ambition for the sake of ambition just leads us to climbing ever taller mountains instead of just enjoying the view. Once the pinnacle is reached, we don’t want our children expecting yet more from themselves and asking ‘now what?’. We want them to be a part of the scene, to feel small in the vastness that is the world. Beauty is better when it surrounds us than when it is us.