I have a 3-year-old daughter who is completely obsessed with pink and princesses, and she kicks all of the ass. I always swore I would keep princess culture out of our house, but my kid has made it very much a non-issue. She likes the color pink, she loves dresses, and she likes sparkles, and she was naturally drawn to those things long before she'd ever seen the promotional photo for a Disney movie scroll across our Netflix dashboard. I think teaching her values is important, and one of those values is that it's okay to be who you are and like what you like. There is no wrong way to be a person.
Similarly, I want her to understand that liking certain things doesn't mean she's limited to being one specific type of person, and that she has the freedom to thoroughly explore anything that appeals to her. I have no problem with her expressing herself however she wants to, as long as it's appropriate and not harming anyone else. I do have a problem, though, with the way the world responds to her because of the things she likes right now. I don't know why we're so anxious to peg and label children, but it happens all the time and it's exhausting. Everywhere we go people ask my daughter the same lame questions about her favorite princess, if her favorite color is pink, and if she's a "girly-girl." Never mind that she also likes books, music, soccer, painting, dancing, drawing, being a big sister, and doesn't even know what the word "girly" means. I guess if I want people to ask her about books she needs to be wearing one on her person?
3 is really, really young and extremely impressionable. 3-year-olds know nothing about life or small talk or what makes them interesting people. They just assume the things adults are interested in are the things that matter, and it pisses me off to no end that an endless stream of adults is helping to reinforce for my daughter that her "girly" preferences, clothes, hair, and nail polish are what make her an interesting person. I understand the desire to talk to kids about things they like and that we use visual cues to know what those things are, but we need to be careful about discussing this stuff in a way that is limiting and, well, basically just plain sexist.
Here are 10 things you can ask little girls that have nothing to do with pink or princesses and everything to do with celebrating the whole, kickass people they are:
1. What is your favorite book?
2. Who is your favorite character from a book/movie/television show/cartoon/etc.?
3. What's your favorite thing to do at the playground?
4. What's your favorite thing to do with your mom/dad/grandparents/etc.?
5. Do you have a favorite song?
6. What's your favorite thing to color/paint/draw/etc.?
7. If you feel you must compliment hair, clothing, nail polish, etc. try telling them how unique or creative they are, instead of just relying on words like pretty and cute. Maybe even ask them if they enjoy being creative and other ways they express their creativity.
8. Ask them about something they've learned recently, or get specific: ask if they know their ABCs, how to count to 100, or what 2+2 is, etc. Kids love showing off their skills much more than they love confirming that yes, they like pink and/or sparkles.
9. What is your favorite place in the world?
10. What is something that makes you special?
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