When daughters suffer from ‘Princess Syndrome

Fairytales and their lead characters teach young girls to value looks and material things. Tanya Datta examines this condition

Cindrella and Snow White are the all-time favourite fairytale characters for young girls. And why not? With their pretty dresses and Prince Charming coming to their rescue, they strike a chord with little girls who live in their own make-believe world. It is difficult to imagine what might be wrong with that. But a US-based author has penned a book which states that these fantasy fairytales send out a dangerous message to their readers. She goes on to say that it can have an adverse affect on their children's self-esteem.

What is the Princess Syndrome?

This term may not be found in medical books but a girl who suffers from the Princess Syndrome focuses on all things pretty and nice. According to her, she is the centre of the universe and is obsessed about her looks. It is commonly seen in young girls till adolescence but if she does not outgrow it, it can affect her personality in the long run.

This syndrome is not solely about appearance and body image. A wrong message that she needs to rely on a saviour to make things better for her will always be on her mind. There is no denying that there are messages everywhere being presented to girls that being pretty and beautiful will take them a long way. And so why won't it trickle down their system?

With clothing lines coming up comprising t-shirt's with slogans like 'Eye candy' or 'Too pretty to do homework,' it becomes difficult for them at such a tender age to decipher what is right or wrong.

Child psychologist Dr Belaraja, states, "Kids these days are aware of how much importance is given to someone who is beautiful or good-looking; like, maybe a movie star. And that is what gets embedded in their impressionable minds. Also, when they see their friend get an expensive toy and become popular in their friend circle, they think that this is the best way to be accepted in their peer group. These days when both parents are working, children have no one but their friends to go to. Those are the only interactive resources they are left with. The security they should be getting from their parents is given to them by their friends.

This is not constructive for a child's psyche. He/she needs constructive praise and criticism from their parents or teachers to get out of the superficial world." Psychologist Anjali Chabbria doesn't quite agree with this syndrome and feels fairytales have been there for generations. She says, "If such a syndrome had to develop, it should have happened centuries ago. Why is it that it's being highlighted now? I feel this is more of a page three effect. These young girls see how their mothers dress up for office or a party. They are seeing how much importance is being given to the outer appearance.

For example, one can see the number of women going to the parlour for a hair wash- something so simple, which was always done in the privacy for our homes. There is so much money being invested in beauty products, clothes, shoes, etc., which was never the case in our generation. These mothers themselves are sending out a wrong message to their young ones, that looks are important." Chabbria goes on to say that she, with millions of others, grew up seeing these cartoons and hearing these fairytales and was never affected by the so-called 'Princess Syndrome.' It may not be surprising to note that a lot of young girls get other sort of messages from these stories that they've heard. For example, she may learn that she has to rely on a saviour to make things better. This may lead to superficial friendships or a controlling boyfriend or partner or she may end up thinking high about herself.

Psychologist Kanan Khatau, cites, "To know what the child thinks, we use a technique of asking what is her favourite fairytale. This gets out the inner delusion she's living in. Such stories actually give a false picture to girls that they need to look pretty and be served, keeping themselves on a pedestal. Such a thing may backfire in the long run if the girl might not turn out to be pretty. This, more often than not, leads to personality disorders like having a superiority or inferiority complex. Such a girl may also turn out to be a perfectionist to an extent that it might not be appreciated by people. She may have an extreme love for brands and expensive things, which may be way beyond her budget."

Parents are the ones who can put a stop to all this. As a parent, you can use your influence to help direct her towards choosing things that will help her find her best self.

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