Becoming a Lovable and Capable Prince or Princess

Featured Picture Book


(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

PRINCESS IN TRAINING tells the story of Viola Louise Hassenfeffer, a princess wanna-be, but not an “ordinary” princess. Viola has lots of things she does well. But, they are active skills like karate, diving, and skateboarding – not waving and looking pretty like princesses are supposed to do. Of course, Viola wants to please her king and queen parents and be the right kind of princess, so she goes off to Princess Camp to learn to just be prim and proper. Not very successful at giving up her non-princess skills, she seems to be failing at becoming the “darling” of her kingdom – until a hungry dragon shows up. Viola’s skills are just what are needed to send the dragon packing and gain the kingdom’s admiration. She’s a princess who is so much more than a smiling, waving, pretty girl – she’s a lovable and capable princess in both spirit and in action.

Parenting Thoughts

Two important notes:

  1. Our featured book is indeed about a princess, but it could have just as easily been called, “Prince in Training.” Please think about everything said here as important for both your daughters and your sons.
  2. We understand that some of our readers are from countries that have royal princesses and princes. We respect the important history and official roles of these royal princesses and princes. However, we think there is much to be said about what being a princess or prince means for ordinary people – especially our children who are overwhelmed with storybook and media ideas about princesses and princes.

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How ordinary people become lovable and capable princes or princesses

Dr. Mom:

Self-esteem is what makes for a lovable, capable princess or prince.

So, what exactly is self-esteem?

Let’s start with what self-esteem is not

Self-esteem . . .

  • Is not just warm and fuzzy.39 Sidebar 1
  • Is not a result of overindulgence.
  • Is not a “you-owe-me” attitude.
  • Is not about expecting everything to be handed to you.
  • Is not getting away with misbehavior or mistakes.
  • Is not about being saved from feeling sorry, sad, or afraid.56 SideBar 1
  • Is not being full of yourself.
  • Is not about hearing and believing compliments that are not true.

Now, some of what self-esteem is.

Self-esteem . . .

  • Is knowing you are cared about, no matter what – just because you are you.
  • Is knowing how to do things for yourself – knowing you can gradually grow to be independent.
  • Is knowing the rules of life that will allow you to get along in your world.
  • Is knowing there are consequences for your actions and having the courage to pay them.
  • Is knowing that you can make up for mistakes you make and that people will still care about you.

Children naturally want to learn to do things.  They want to become more and more independent.  Amazingly, this includes wanting to know the rules, what the consequences are for not following the rules, that they can make up for things they do wrong, and that they can get back into good graces when they mess up.

56 SideBar 5Children may think, act and say they want to be the center of the universe and be taken care of – like storybook princesses and princes often are – but children that are treated this way are in danger of not being happy, healthy, or successful kids.  And, in danger of not being happy, healthy, or successful adults either.


People who are overindulged often grow to worry about whether they can take care of themselves. They worry about whether someone will always be there to take care of them.

They can have trouble finding things about themselves that they can be proud of. They can have real trouble being satisfied with what they have and find themselves always chasing after more and more. In other words, they are never satisfied. They can spend a lifetime looking for happiness and ending up just confused about why they can’t find it.

Talking so much about the dangers of becoming a make-believe, perfect princess (or prince), may mean a reader or two may want to do some things differently with their children. It is important for us all to remember children and parents can make changes.

Children are very flexible. If parents decide to act differently, their children will almost always change their behavior too. But not overnight. And, sometimes a child’s behavior will be more difficult before it gets better. Children like to test out whether you really mean what you are doing and saying.

It always takes time for both parents and children to adjust to new ways of acting. But, if a parent decides they want to parent differently about some things, the message is, “Go for it!” This blog is all about becoming the parent you want to be. So, make whatever changes you think you should, hang in there, be sure of yourself, and celebrate as you gradually see the changes you are going for – in yourself and in your kids.

Storybook princes and princesses often have been told over and over how great they are. If we could read their thoughts, we would learn that they often don’t really believe it. And, when ordinary people have been asked to think back to when they were children being treated like storybook princesses (or princes), they have said they came to not believe all the false compliments or trust the “perfect” life that was being created around them. Some of the things they have said they do believe instead are:

1) They don’t really know how to take care of themselves;

2) They are dependent on others whom they are not sure will come through for them in the end; and

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3) No one really cares about them except when they are standout performers – killing
dragons, waving, smiling, and making kings and queens look good.

How to cure storybook “princess-itis” (or “prince-itis”)

I do get concerned about our current fixation about little girls being princesses. Everything today is “princess-ified” – food, books, clothes, movies, TV, lunch boxes, dolls. The list is endless. My concern: what does your child think it means to be a princess?

  • To be pretty (according to what others think is pretty)?
  • To be powerful?
  • To have everything she wants?
  • To have someone (a king or queen or prince) to take care of her forever? To always be happy?

56 SideBar 3Oh, how unhappy she will be when she learns that she does not live in a storybook world. She could easily feel hoodwinked – princess hoodwinked. In her real world she needs skills; she needs to learn to take care of herself; there are rules to follow and consequences for not following them; she can’t have everything she wants (often because her wants are endless); and there are times when she will feel very sad or afraid.

Ten ways to cure storybook princess-itis (or prince-itis)

1.  Make sure your child is appreciated for just being who she is no matter what she can and can’t do. (For more on appreciation messages, see And Calm Fell Over the Household and First Days of School.)

2.  Make sure your child is learning the skills that go with her age (basic health habits, dressing self, getting up for school, cleaning up toys, reading, writing, mathematics, etc.).

(I’m happy to have two “experts” join me in this parenting conversation; I hope their comments seem like they are living through the same parenting challenges and joys that your are  – because they are.) 

Darling Daughter:  And, once they learn a new skill let them do it – I have a bad habit of continuing to “help” after I am not needed. Or, I’m good for a while then fall into old habits.

Lovely Lil Sis: You have to also give your kids time to practice the skill. You may have to give them extra time to complete their task. You doing it for them will always be faster than letting them do it at their just-learning speed (say, tying their shoes, for example). Just remember to budget more time for newly mastered tasks. Even brushing teeth, you think they’ve mastered it, and it still takes longer than you expect.

On the matter of getting up for school, I recommend the old ice cubes in the bed trick … rise & shine! J – just kidding, of course. I love Lovely Lil Sis’ idea below.

We were able to turn getting up for school into fun. We have a hockey goal flashing light just like all NHL teams use to signify a home goal. It actually flashes and plays each NHL team’s signature goal siren sound. It has a remote so we can trigger it when we need it without even having to go in the room. Go BlackHawks, Go Bruins, Go Kings!

All great thoughts for our readers. Love the hockey siren idea. 

3.  Make sure your child is learning what it means to have “enough.”56 SideBar 64.  Make sure your child is appreciated for what she can do – for learning new skills that make her able to take care of herself. (For more on appreciation messages, see And Calm Fell Over the Household and First Days of School.)

5. Make sure your child is allowed to feel all of her feelings, including sadness, anger, or fear.

6.  Make sure your child is having the chance to make choices like what to wear, or what to have for a snack, but is not given the power to make family decisions like where to eat, where to vacation, and where people should sit at the dinner table.

I think it’s great to give choices.) My only advice is to make sure they are choosing from a small number of choices (2 or maybe 3).

And, ones that you are willing to accept – no matter what choice they make.

Don’t offer choices from their whole closet or the whole pantry. Then, they have a meltdown from brain overload.

Or, a meltdown from fear of regretting their choice.

Especially all of those little “perfectionists.”

7.   Make sure your child knows that there are consequences for his actions.37 Sidebar 1

8.  Make sure your child has chores to do and that there are consequences for not doing them. (For ideas, see PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary.)

9.  Make sure your child is getting all of her needs met, but not necessarily all of her wants (For the difference, see Needs Vs Wants (12-13-13).

10.  Make sure your child knows that he can make up for the times he makes mistakes.
43 Sidebar 2Read All About It

First Days of School

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson



PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary


 Surf the Internet:
  • self esteem
  • developmental tasks
  • overindulgence
  • discipline
  • chores for children
  • first days of school

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