With hindsight, it was easier to have six than one. Having “half a dozen unassorted”, as one doctor described them, (i.e. six daughters) turned out to be a blessing for them, and for us as parents. The girls had to learn to share, cooperate and compromise.
We told them they could have an “attitude” when they became a teenager. If they displayed an attitude after their 13th birthday we told them they missed their chance. It was on the day they turned 13 they could have an attitude. After that was too late. With six, you set patterns and the others tend to follow with only the odd break out attempt. In our family there was the famous dummy spit over a school bag. It is memorable because it was a rare event. So the patterns went like this: “It is our family rule that we know who is supervising the teenage party before you can go”. This became a mantra for all of them. On one embarrassing occasion an unsuspecting dad was dragged into the house by one of our daughters to give evidence that the party she wanted to go to was supervised.
It was not all beer and skittles (bad phrase) but on the whole, parenting during the teenage years was a pleasure and not the trauma that many parents experience. The one exception was probably learning to drive as some of them suffered in the spatial awareness department (thank you uncle Rudi for all your patient work).
Sadly, as a teacher, I am seeing more and more girls, usually only daughters, who come through their teenage years with the “Princess Syndrome”. This disorder suggests to the girl that she is the centre of the universe. She is the prettiest, most important and most precious person in the world. The world owes her a debt for her beauty and charm. The parents serve this darling, as well as give and bestow anything the princess wants. You may have met her? Or even worse, you may be serving her in the palace right now!
However the harsh truth is, she is isn’t the most important person in the world – not even in a classroom of 25 students. The future that the parents of princesses are “preparing” their daughter for isn’t reality. As the saying goes, even if she is one in a million there are 7000 just like her! Real life requires people who can negotiate, see value in others, share, cooperate and compromise. The “Princess Syndrome” doesn’t allow for that. It only produces self centred, petulant people who will ultimately be unfulfilled and unhappy. Hollywood not only sets the standard here but also reveals the ugly results.
My dad said, “Never marry a pretty girl” ( I’ll let my wife decide whether I was obedient or not). I think his aphorism was an early warning against the “Princess Syndrome”. Whether we are parenting boys or girls (there is a “Prince” syndrome too) we are failing in our duty and calling if we don’t train them in the art of how effective community should work. In the words of Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it.” This is not a promise, but a principle: The more intentional our training the less likely any deviation from it. This can work positively and negatively.
If we train them to be princesses we should not be surprised when they reveal an ugly, petulant and preening, self obsessed ego. However if we train our children to respect, honour and value others it is unlikely that our daughters will suffer the “Princess Syndrome.” Their lives, and ours, will be better for it.