By Karen H. Whiting
Tulle dresses, sparkly shoes and tiaras. When little girls are around, I don't have to look far to find something princess-related. Many of them seem drawn to fairy tales and are often dressing up to look like their favorite princesses. My daughters loved pretending to be princesses, but they didn't always act like royalty.
One day, we were shopping for a coat when my 2-year-old dropped to the ground and began screaming and kicking. She was becoming a queen of tantrums. I determined to stop the spoiled-princess syndrome by helping her develop character qualities that would please God. I focused on training her in the godly attributes listed in Galatians 5:22-23, using the acrostic "PRINCESS."
As a parent, I had to model what servant love is. This love happens when we care for the needs of others. One way to do this is to enlist our children's help with chores, such as laundry, explaining that clean clothes help other family members and doing laundry is a way to show them love. As our daughters find ways to show love, they become princesses of purpose.
One year, we were sorting out clothes to give away at Christmas. There was a pair of jeans for a girl. But Rebecca wanted to do more. She came up with the idea of putting "treasures" in the pockets of the jeans, such as small toys, notes and a some money. I was excited by her creativity in loving someone she had never met and affirmed her loving attitude.
Reach for peace
A young princess of purpose prioritizes the need for peace in relationships with others. When my little princess grabbed a toy from her brother or sister, I followed through with an appropriate consequence, such as losing that toy for the day. When she shared nicely, she earned praise for respecting her siblings and extra time with a favorite toy. Boundaries helped her see that peace in our household is attained through rules and consequences.
We discovered that princess tea parties also provided fun opportunities for developing an understanding of peace through hospitality and good manners. As my daughters greeted, made polite conversation and offered treats to their guests, they put others first, which is an initial step for this age group toward realizing how one’s actions help facilitate peace between guests at our event.
Joy comes from God. We can help our daughters understand His joy through small, teachable moments.
One morning my daughter told me that she had lost her joy. When I asked her why, she explained that she was lonely and needed a friend. We talked about how joy is different from happiness. Joy is possible even when we're lonely or sad because it comes from the Lord.
I also noticed that all my daughters seemed to explore expressions for their joy when they were exercising their creativity. So I provided each one with a box of art supplies and encouraged them to use art to share what they learned from Bible stories or simply to praise God.
As parents, we can tend to our princesses with tender loving care to bring out their God-given gentleness. We can comfort them when they hurt or feel sick and help them learn to speak softly and use gentle hands when petting animals. My princesses found purpose as they directed their gentleness to the care of others.
One day my daughter scraped her knee and came to me crying. I gently cleaned the wound and applied a bandage, speaking softly and holding her afterward. Later I watched her comfort a doll in the same way. She explained to me that her doll fell and needed her help.
Cultivate kindness and goodness
My daughters enjoyed experiments. One day we added food coloring to a jar of celery and water, and watched the color seep into the stalk. I used that to illustrate how kind acts can seep into a heart and change it. I encouraged them to write notes, showing kindness to people, by complimenting their good qualities.
Goodness comes from a relationship with God. Along with reminding our princesses that it is impossible to be good apart from God, we can help them develop goodness by acknowledging their good deeds and telling them when we see Jesus in them.
A princess of purpose trusts that God has solutions and doesn't give up. Developing a consistent prayer life is a great way to help your princess experience the fruit of faithfulness. Pray for your daughter and with her. Keep a praise jar of answered prayers expressed in words or pictures. Encourage her to review those answered prayers to see God's faithfulness. Rejoice when your daughter responds to a problem with, "Let's pray about it."
One of my daughters had some trying health problems when she was young. Each time she was sick, we prayed. The problems persisted for a few years, but we continued to pray, believing God would send an answer. One day, an aunt mentioned that my daughter might have a dairy allergy, which turned out to be the root problem. We thanked God for sending the answer through her aunt. Though not all answered prayer turns out to be exactly what we want and how we want it, this time it was, and this example helped my daughter understand God’s faithfulness a little better.
Start with patience
Begin teaching about patience by being patient. Have your daughter work beside you to learn new skills, such as cooking or making something with tools. When you take time to help her learn to patiently practice each skill, she can observe your patience and work on her own.
When she needs to wait, such as not interrupting while you're having a phone conversation, make sure she is prepared to use the time wisely. She can make a "patience bag" that includes a book, game or journal and special pen for such occasions. She could also pray for a friend while waiting for her turn.
Rebecca, my queen of tantrums, needed help learning to control her emotions. We taught her techniques to help her remain calm and set goals to reframe her desires.
When she threw a fit in a store over choosing a coat, I removed her from the store. Once at home, we talked. In the end, she actually wanted the coat I had shown her, but I reminded her that first she needed to tell the clerk and store manager she was sorry. We returned to the store, she apologized, and we purchased the coat.
As she grew, we continued to teach her age-appropriate techniques to control her frustration. She learned to tap her 10 fingers while breathing slowly, draw a picture about how she felt, repeat a Scripture about peace and ask God for help to be calm.
God invites each of his children into His royal family. Your daughter's longing to be royalty may come from Him. As you guide your daughter in developing godly fruits of the Spirit, she will begin to understand what it means to be a true princess of purpose.
Karen Whiting is a speaker and has coauthored the book Raising a Young Modern-Day Princess.
From the Focus on the Family website at focusonthefamily.com. © 2016 Karen Whiting. Used by permission.