Princesses Save THEMSELVES

Day two

I love my daughter’s imagination. One minute her stuffed toys are getting on an airplane to fly to “Michigan or the grocery store” and the next she’s pretending to be scaling a wall to escape the evil Bowser.

She’ll ask you to play along, in her own way that really doesn’t include the “asking” part.

Now you be the Prince and I will be the Princess and you have to say ‘Princess I am here to save you’ and then I have to say ‘Oh I knew you would come!’

If you flub a line or miss a cue she makes you do it over again. And over again. And over again.

And you do. Because she’s 4 and she’s adorable and she’s twirling and doing that thing with her lips that reminds you she’s part you.

But I keep throwing a new line into playtime that she ignores. Ignores entirely as if it’s never been said, or doesn’t matter at all.

Princesses Save Themselves

She doesn’t even look up to acknowledge me when I say it, nor does she bat an eyelash when I launch into the 10 minute explanation.

Princess don’t need a Prince to save them. They can do it themselves. I know you’re just as smart as that Prince and you can figure out how to get down from this tower. You don’t need him, you don’t need anyone to help because you can do it all by yourself!

She thinks the Prince, or Mario, needs to save her. It’s every game she plays and every story she wildly imagines. Every. Single. Time. It’s how the story MUST go.

A boy must come save her from some large, hairy, evil monster.

Now I want to blame someone for this. Movies. TV. However she’s watched just as many Princesses get saved by their strong man as she has ones who have kung fu’d their captor’s ass.

And she has me, and her father, reinforcing the “you can do it without a boy’s help” constantly.

She doesn’t care.

Now maybe it’s because she has a big brother and she thinks he’s the greatest thing on earth. Greater than Mario and greater than any cartoon that has climbed a castle wall.  Maybe it’s all those other Princesses who do sit around waiting for their Prince Charming.

Maybe it’s her mother who still gets a kick out of acting the damsel in distress for some y chromosome attention.

Maybe I need to lighten up about it. I mean, when my son pretends he’s attacking the bad guys with a sword I don’t immediately think he’s going to grow up and slay people. Nor do I feel the need to remind him over and over again that nice people don’t stab.

I’m not sure. But I am going to keep repeating it, just in case. Over and over again. This way, if nothing else, it’s stuck in the way back part of her brain that she will tap into whenever it is we tap into the stuff our parents told us but we didn’t believe…

Princesses Save Themselves.


  1. Princesses save OTHERS.

  2. I love this! My little girl is 4 as well and I try to embed the same idea into her mind whenever I can. Last year I found a book called O’Sullivan Stew, and bought it thinking it sounded like a good Irish fairy tale for my kids, but found it to be the PERFECT book to help teach this lesson to my daughter. I highly advise picking it up, it’s a great story that shows sometimes the happy ending is the Princess riding off into the sunset all by herself and perfectly content to do so. I love reading it to my little princess.
    Great post!!

  3. Love it. This is the type of parenting tip that’s worth all the time I’ve wasted today on other blogs reading craft tutorials for projects I will never complete. My girlie (not yet 2) doesn’t get the princess thing yet, but now I’m ready.

  4. BPDad she can save others too. But first I need her to know SHE doesn’t need the saving 😉

  5. Totally going to check out that book Meghan. Thanks.

  6. I started giggling as I clicked on the link (from Twitter), before I even read this. I’m not sure why. I’m sure that your message is getting in there; maybe she just needs to play out the “traditional” princess role for a while to get it out of her system – or maybe she’s doing it to get your goat. ha ha! But I’m positive that what you’re saying is in that brilliant mind of hers and will never leave.

  7. Are you familiar with Chinaberry books? (No, I’m not affiliated.) When my daughter was young (she’s now a teen) I ordered a lot of books from them. They have books where the princess saves the prince … or herself. I used to love their books. I think they’re san diego based and they’re mail order. If you have an interest you could probably find them online. Hopefully they still do as good of a job as they used to with their book selection.

  8. Off to find Chinaberry books… Thanks Twenty Four…and cracking up at the disclaimer. I think everyone is going to do that with me now. LOL

  9. One of my favorite books is Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch – It still reminds me that princesses don’t need saving. (I also love Jim’s Big Ego’s song Prince Charming –

  10. okay, i’m a little afraid that what i’m going to say is going to come out wrong, but i’m going to try anyway. i agree – the whole, “i need a man to save me” mindset is far too prevalent among females in our society, so bravo for trying to get her to break out of that. at the same time, i know i – and many other women i went to school with at stanford – got an overload of, “you don’t need anyone’s help, you can do it yourself,” and we’re now paying the price. i can never admit when i need help. and when people offer help, my response is always, “no, i can do it myself.” unfortunately, that’s just not true – we all need help sometimes. i think that’s different than saying we all need to be “saved” sometimes, but we definitely can’t always do it by ourselves. there’s a middle ground somewhere… i hope.

  11. Remember the whole “Free To Be Me” with Marlo Thomas? There’s a great story in there about a princess that refuses to get married because she’s supposed to. Atalanta is her name, I believe.

    We love “The Paper Bag Princess”, too.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Mama.

  12. Hoppytoddle, you beat me to it! YEs, Atalanta is her name. It is actually a retelling of the traditional Atalanta story, in which the princess wins the race so she can choose who to marry – but then meets the man who ties her in the race, and they chat, and don’t get married. It is awesome… Your Majesty, you must go online RIGHT NOW and order yourself a copy of the book and CD, Free to Be You and Me..RIGHT NOW!!! You will LOVE it….
    And of course, The Paper Bag Princess…which of course is Canadian! Robert Munsch rules.

  13. Ok so you’ve had the book recommendations so here’s a video game rec, since you mentioned Bowser and all… Super Princess Peach. It’s a DS game that reverses the “traditional” Mario/Princess roles and has Bowser capture Mario so Peach can save him! That being said, I don’t own it. I found it in my DS research a few months ago.

    We just started letting my daughter play DS games (Don’t judge me! It’s a looooooong car ride from Michigan to Arkansas), and as soon as she is old enough for Peach, we’ll add that one, instead of it’s macho equivalent.

    Off to check out the Chinaberry books now….

  14. Do you have the book “The Paper Bag Princess”? If not, you should get it. It might help a little — and it’s a fabulous book. A student of mine gave it to me when I was pregnant with my daughter. She wrote a little note, “because every girl should own this book…” and she was right. I think you’ll love it.

  15. Sounds like the phrase I always sneak in, especially to my princess book readings “And she went to college.”

  16. I LOVE your attitude, and yet this post made me so sad. I my short foray into corporate life I am shocked by how many women I see deferring to men (especially as I happen to know that the men in this case are often spewing pure BS). I also sometimes find myself, strong, competent, accomplished woman that I am, choosing a higher voice or a big smile to assert myself (I catch myself and stop… and yet I can’t believe that at this point in my life I still catch myself). Oh little girls! Oh… big women! WE are strong and perfect… will we ever give up the fantasy and own what is strong and true?

  17. I have a 4-year-old daughter, too, and she does a lot of the same things. She wants to be a princess, and tells me how to play. And she plays up the stereotypical part, asking for protection and rescuing. And it drives me sort of batty.

    At this point, I’ve decided to throw out some key phrases like your ‘Princesses save themselves’, and then just let it be. I also have a baby boy and gender stereotyping him doesn’t bother me nearly so much. I think it’s because the girl stuff pushes my buttons, since I was one. But the thing is, I played the same games and I’m fine. So I’m sure our daughters will be, too.

    But it doesn’t hurt to remind them they can be powerful, all the same.

  18. She hears you, even if she pretends like she doesn’t. And one of these days, she’s going to be the one saving the Prince 🙂

  19. commqueen123 says:

    Have had Disney’s first black princess, Tiana, and the whole enduring princess fixation for girls in general (and some women) stuck in my head as a topic for awhile. So after seeing , I posted link to your Princesses Save Themselves blog entry on Twitter at

  20. The things I have to look forward too–My son is 3 and the only thing I have to ingrain into his head is “We don’t shoot webs at people. I don’t care if they are pretend webs!” (thanks Spiderman). But my baby is a girl, and the things I have to worry about there–things like, as you mentioned, that she can save herself, that her body is beautiful etc, etc. I really don’t know which one is harder to raise–boys or girls.

  21. if I say lighten up, don’t hate me. Kids enjoy their fantasies. And heck, there’s nothing wrong with getting rescued once in a while.

    That said, yes, the tired old theme of boy rescues girl has been done more times than humans can recount. In stories, movies, plays, games, and more it’s been done over and over. It’s a long held theme.

    Why not push developers to create games outside of that. One way you can do that is to avoid buying the rescue games, or games at least where it’s the damsel in distress. Support developers who make alternate games, especially games with equal status for men and women, by buying their games for your kids or for other children.

    Lots of the newest games ditch that old them in favor of creative play. Heck, there’s all of those cooking games now as well.

    /rant off.

    I’m bad though. I’ve tried to raise my kids up to be rescue types. 🙂

  22. I love this story. I grew up with the family nickname of “princess”, in Orange County, CA and really did believe that my some-day husband would ride a white horse. I even worked at the Magical Kingdom during college to find him. Oh, but I didn’t!

    So now with my 3 yr old daughter, I work hard to teach her all the themes you mention above. Although we’ve not watched any Disney princess movies, she’s aware of “princesses” but thinks they’re just pretty girls in beautiful dresses. We also read books like The Paper Bag Princess and Do Princesses Wear Hiking Books.

    While I’d like her to do a better job than me at asking for help when needed, I want to teach her to try on her own first.

  23. I have two boys and have been working on this theme from the other side. We have read Paper Bag Princess and several others to make sure that they know that boys are not the only heroes. I also do try and make sure he knows that “nice people don’t stab.” Nor do the police always shoot the bad guys. One day when he was about four, he was dictating a play dialog to me (very much like your daughter) and I broke in and said, “Why do we have to KILL the bad guy? Can’t we just TALK to the bad guy? Explain why it is better to be a good guy? And then we can all be friends?” He literally rolled his eyes at me.

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