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A young superhero duo. Vanquishing evil in a single afternoon.

Queens and Knights: Raising Empowered Daughters

My girls love playing dress up. It’s an activity that they both enjoy doing together that tends to keep them entertained for quite a while. Usually, this gives me and my wife an opportunity to take a break, and we typically don’t intervene with their play unless conflict arises. They have vivid imaginations and are quite creative in their pretend play, but recently I’d noticed a recurring theme. They would consistently dress up as princesses attending a ball.

I’m hypervigilant about the societal messages that my daughters receive. We try to expose them to images of girls and women in a variety of important roles. We’re mindful of how girls are depicted in the shows that we watch or the books we borrow from the library. I don’t believe that it’s a bad thing that my girls like to dress up as princesses, I was just unsure as to why they chose not to depict other roles in their play. I asked them about it directly, and as expected for a 3- and 6-year-old, they weren’t sure. I rattled off several professions that they could pretend to be, including a doctor, astronaut, and police officer.

“We just like being princesses,” was the response.

It then hit me that they liked playing princesses because they had princess dress-up clothes, most of which they’d acquired as gifts over the years. You know what they didn’t have? Doctor, astronaut, and police officer clothes. I recognize that if I want to promote certain values or ideals in the home, then I need to be able to support that through my own actions. I can’t expect my girls to pursue these other professions in their play if I don’t provide them the means to do so. This was a reminder that as parents, we have to be proactive in teaching our children the traits that we want them to learn, and we have to provide them the tools they need to flourish. For example, if we want to raise kind kids, instead of just hoping that they naturally develop this trait along the way, we must actively give them an opportunity to learn and practice kindness. With any value or skill that you’d like your child to adopt, ask yourself if you’re actively doing anything to promote this in the home.

I decided to make a small change in the way that they played with their princess dresses. I recommended that they pretend to be queens, and instead of attending a ball, they would attend a meeting about how to rule their kingdom. They were slow to warm up to this suggestion, but eventually they incorporated this idea into their play. As I observed, I could see the change in their language, interactions, and even how they carried themselves. The next day, I bought them armor and a shield to dress up as knights and taught them how to conquer dragons.

They don’t know it yet, but they also may be getting doctor, astronaut, and police officer dress-up clothes sometime soon!

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.