Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book review: Princess Recovery

Princess Recovery: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Daughter Who Can Create Her Own Happily Ever After Jennifer L. Harstein, PsyD.

There's no doubt that the the princess industry, that marketing and cultural juggernaut that includes Barbie, Disney and now even LEGO, is potentially destructive to our children.  Princess Recovery does an admirable job of laying bare the market forces that conspire to create girls and women who are image-obsessed, insecure and materialistic. It then goes on to provide options for parents looking to counter those influences with their own children. 

There is lots to like here - this title is extremely accessible, and the chapter structure, in which an issue is identified, along with a Princess Symptoms and contrasting Heroine Value, is well-suited for parents looking for help addressing specific behaviors. Suggestions for intervention are grouped by age, with a reminder that each child matures at a different rate, so parents should use their own best judgement when determining how to proceed.  Harstein lays out for parents the importance of modifying their own attitudes and behavior around body image and food.  While this sort of advice is common in contemporary books on raising girls, less common is the similar advice Harstein provides related to "retail therapy" and other consumerist behaviors.  In addition, parents are encouraged to see their children as individuals, and spend time having real conversations with their daughters, helping parents get past their own assumptions and address their children's lived experiences.

There are useful tips here, and I will certainly recommend this title to parents.  I plan to re-read a few chapters that are relevant to things happening in my home at the moment.  I question the age ranges for some of the Children's Books for Heroines (Appendix A), but that's a minor quibble; the Healthy Princess Play Ideas (Appendix B), re-focusing some of the most common modes of princess play in more active, creative and stimulating directions, are fun and likely to be acceptable to even the hard-core princesses.  I would have liked a more explicit discussion of sexism and capitalism, but the book succeeds even without that.  A solid addition to any parenting collection.

I received an e-book edition of this book for free through NetGalley.com.