Peer Pressure

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This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. If you’re new to Momopoly, please consider grabbing my feed or subscribing to my posts by email. I’d love to have you. :-)

Dear Fellow Parents,
So here’s my predicament. My oldest daughter, who is 5, has made a new friend, and I don’t like her. Not one bit. I can’t really put my finger on why. I mean, this friend is always (I mean, always!) smiling. She has the perfect manners and wonderful hygiene (she’s perfectly well-manicured, in fact). Besides, plenty of other moms think of her as a suitable playmate for their daughters. 

But there’s just something about her. I don’t want to be a  helicopter parent or go all Victorian on my daughter. Nor do I want to over-analyze this friend’s magnetism, but I’m wondering if I should nip this relationship in the bud before it blossoms into anything more serious.
As it stands, Madeline only sees this friend at others’ houses. We haven’t invited her to our own home as much as Madeline dreams of allowing her into our inner circle. 

I’ve tried to be nonchalant about this particular friend. I avoid talking about her and when Madeline brings her up, I quickly change the subject. But my daughter is growing more and more persistent. She’s always been a tenacious one. She works very hard to break you, and I’m starting to think that my stance against this friend may backfire and make her even more desirable to my daughter.

“What don’t you like about her?” Madeline asked recently.

“What do you like about her?” I countered.

“She’s pretty,” Madeline said simply.

But that’s just it. She is pretty. Too pretty. Too fake. Too perfect. I’m worried about the peer pressure that comes in to play when your peer is carved from shiny plastic.

Yes, the friend my five-year-old covets answers to the name of Barbie, and she’s more than just a pretty face. She’s gone all smart and nerdy on us. That’s a good thing, right? I’m not so sure. As if having amazing (and impossible) measurements, lustrous hair, and red-rose lips wasn’t enough pressure, now Barbie’s sending a message that you’d better be in the running for Mensa membership and look like a bombshell if you want society to notice you. Ugh.

So I’m probably being overly dramatic here and perhaps over-analyzing Barbie a bit too much. (It’s in my nature to overthink the smallest details.) What’s my deal with the doll anyway? She is just a doll. Yet, while I wouldn’t go so far as banning my daughter from visiting houses where Barbie hangs around, I’d prefer for the beauty to not become a permanent fixture in our home. 

Here’s my current case against adding Barbie to our family:

1. We already have too many toys. I’m afraid two decades from now Madeline might end up on that show Hoarders. I’ve never seen the program, but my mother-in-law has and she informs me the “stars” of the show are people who just can’t part with stuff.  Their houses are overrun with things to the point that they cannot move around or function within the walls of their homes.

While Madeline is a sweet, generous girl who is eager to share with her sisters and friends, parting with stuff isn’t easy for her. Just the other day she discovered a bag I’d stuffed with old clothes and toys to be given away.

“You’re giving away my polka dot shoes?”

“Yes, Honey. They don’t fit you anymore.”

“Keep them for Rae or M.E.” (Rae and M.E. are her younger sisters.)

“They were hand-me-downs, and I think I’m ready to give them someone else. Plus, they’re a little scuffed up.”

Sigh from Madeline. “Okay. They smell like pee anyway.”

I forgot about the peeing in the shoe incident (don’t ask).

Then she noticed the puzzles. The girl has dozens of puzzles. She does enjoy putting the pieces together, but you can only have so many puzzles.

“No! You can’t give that puzzle away. It glows in the dark,” she says.

I look at the space puzzle and sigh. “Fine. Then pick out another puzzle to give away. You don’t need all these puzzles.”

To her credit, she quickly selects a board book that actually contains several never-used puzzles. “This one,” she says.

So I toss it to the pile, wondering why she clings to stuff so much.

Maybe it’s part of her genetic makeup. Truth is, I still have notebooks from the second grade where I scribbled down silly stories. I’m all nostalgic about those stories. Besides, I can’t give away my nonsensical story about Jake the Snake. (Although I could afford to part with some of my clothes from long ago.)

Maybe my little hoarder is only preparing for the possibility of drought and lean times ahead. You know, like the pioneers hoarded and preserved food by stashing it in root cellars and by drying, by smoking, by pickling and salting everything. Maybe you can’t take the Laura Ingalls out a girl who wants to thrive and survive. 

Even babies seem prone to want to pile things up (think block towers). Still, I’m not sure stuffed animal dogs and random beads she’s found on the floor at the grocery store are the best items for a survival stockpile.

Once I freed a new toothbrush from its plastic prison but before I could toss the package, Madeline snatched it from my hands and said she wanted to keep it because it was “sparkly.” I refused to let her, which in retrospect was silly of me. I should have let her keep the sparkly cardboard and then ditched it while she was sleep to save both of us from some intense emotions. Of course, she probably would have discovered it in the trash just like she found those polka dot shoes and puzzles out in the garage.

Every day I work to teach her that when we have too much stuff, we not only add unnecessary clutter to our lives, but we don’t end up using half the stuff we do have. Wouldn’t it be nice if each of our kids only had one toy but it was a really, really treasured toy – like Laura Ingalls’s beloved doll named Charlotte? (I wish that part of Laura remained deeply planted in my daughter.) 

Not to mention, there are so many people with so little. A few days ago the girls were running in a sprinkler laughing with a neighborhood friend. I watched the endless supply of clean water spray on the children, and I felt a pang of guilt. Here these American children were playing in a sprinkler when there are millions of people who do not have access to clean, drinking water. 

What does this have to do with Barbie? Not much, I suppose. Just as forcing our kids to clean their plates isn’t going to save starving children, not allowing my daughter to start a Barbie collection isn’t going to save the children. It may not even help her to detach herself from things. However, I do think it’s good for kids to want for things. Besides, there are just so many better toys out there. I’d rather buy her ten new books than one Barbie.

But onto reason number two…

2.  I worry about how Barbie’s perfect and unattainable beauty and curves might impact my daughters’ body image. I loved Barbie as a kid and while I don’t for a second blame her perfect beauty on my own tortured relationship with food and my body, I don’t completely discount her from sending some sort of subliminal message that if you want to be valuable, powerful, and/or happy, work on getting yourself a great pair of legs and you-know-what-else. 

As a kid, I remember giving two of my favorite Barbies (I’d named them Aurora and Rosie) bad haircuts. At first, it felt good to see their uneven bangs and their silky hair turned all spiky, but then regret and even shame crept in and made me wince at their crowns of glory turned crowns of gory. How dare I destroy their pristine beauty? Big brothers were supposed to do that, not Barbie’s beloved protectress. I still can remember crying crocodile tears over the pile of shiny hair and delivering a eulogy of sorts to it. So I was a weird kid. Clearly, there were some issues that had nothing to do with Barbie. But still. I don’t know. My girls will already have to wade through and learn to ignore the barrage of messages and images that being thin and beautiful equates to desirability, success, happiness, and social acceptance. Why should I allow one more thing – as innocuous as poor Barbie may be – to tempt them to fall prey to the narcissistic pursuit of a perfect body and good hair to boot?

3. Now perhaps my weakest argument is the physical threat Barbie poses on my youngest daughter. Long before she notices her shiny beauty, my baby will lust after her shoes – not because she cares a thing about style. In fact, if you try to put anything on her feet, she wrestles with them until her piggies are bare and free again.  However, tiny toy accessories draw my baby in like a bug zapper lures in insects. I have already fished out a safety pin, beetle, and a plastic gem stone from her mouth. I do not need any other potential chokers littering our floor and threatening the life of our youngest child.

There you have it.  These are my current arguments against Barbie. Now here’s where you come in. I need your input. Am I being ridiculous? Be honest. Am I making things worse by being so adamant against the bombshell? Fact of the matter is Madeline talks far more about Barbie now that she knows I won’t let her have one. 

Likewise, I don’t want my girls thinking I’m eschewing all that it means to be feminine. I like cute shoes (people have teased me and said that I have Barbie feet because of my high arches and the fact that they’re a small size 5 to 5 1/2). I enjoy dressing up. There’s nothing wrong with my girls being drawn to prettiness provided it doesn’t transcend into the Holy Grail of their happiness. Should I relent? Do you think if I let the poor, deprived child have one Barbie (if she’s willing to save for it and buy it with her own money, something she has petitioned for), that would be the end of it? Forbidden fruit always appears so much tastier until you take a bite, right? 

Madeline doesn’t see commercials, so the only way she really learns about new toys is from her friends (who are, by the way, all great little girls who don’t seem brainwashed by Barbie’s beauty at all), but the only toy she really seems to hanker after is Barbie. Am I wrong to boycott the plastic beauty from our home? What are your personal feelings on Barbie?

Then again, I’m not a wishy-washy parent. I will set certain rules, limits, and boundaries and stand by them, and not care what the rest of the world is doing. But this isn’t really about taking the moral high road. It’s about having one stinkin’, albeit busty doll, for goodness’ sake, and a doll that many, many of her other friends own (and ironically completely ignore rather than obsess about like my own daughter).
As long as we’re on the topic, are there any toys you personally disapprove of and won’t allow your children to have? How do you handle it? Please do share. I’m eager to hear your feedback!

A Prejudiced and Conflicted Mom


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Enter the Conversation...

29 Responses to “Peer Pressure”
  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says:

    Like you, I grew up with Barbie and now vaguely dislike her. I remember my mom vaguely disliking her, too, but she let me get a couple and a few accessories. I never had anything big like the Dream House, but a friend did, so I got my fill of that sweet elevator there.

    My gut reaction is to say, let her have a Barbie and don't make too big a deal of it. I mean, we obviously grew up to be smart, savvy women, Barbies and all (we did, right?).

    As for the materialism/hoarding thing, I would say, first, don't assume your five-year-old's going to grow up to have a severe mental illness because she's a packrat now. I also had a lot of trouble letting go, and it's taken years of coaching and reflecting and example to make me realize that I really do feel better to let things go. What didn't work so well on me was my mom going ballistic and threatening to bag up all my clutter and throw it away. I think if it's really important to you that your kids learn how to let go and give away that you should model it for them and help them work through it at their pace. Like, maybe you institute a family-wide rule of one in-one out. Anytime someone gets a new toy (literal for them; for you, maybe a book or clothing or whatever), a similar item must go in the trash or to charity. Then it's her choice whether she gets a new Barbie if she's willing to part with something else. I do love the idea of Laura's one special toy and that's it, but — well, it isn't going to happen, is it? Not with grandparents around!

  2. Sara says:

    We have had a few Barbies over the years, despite the fact that I dislike them too. We generally end up with the Disney Princesses or High School Musical dolls, not the traditional Barbie. My rule is that they have to stay dressed, no lying around naked! We used to have a Rosie O'Donnell doll that we got because she had a "normal" figure, but then she came out of the closet and it was really disturbing to see her lying around naked!

    I also don't buy clothes for them, except on rare occasions, and then it can't be trashy. lol. So it's usually ballgowns for us!

    So, basically, they've come into the house, and they end up in a box somewhere most of the time.

  3. Deb says:

    We have a couple of the cheap generic versions, they're probably our least popular dolls. I was never into them and the girls are far more into being little Mummies, so baby dolls do it for us.

    I'm a hoarder too, but I try to use all the 'useful things' I keep to make toys. We make things like sandpit toys all the time, as well as making our own puzzles and books. That's another count against Barbie – she's tiny! But clever Mummy can make dresses and nappies for the bigger dolls, and that's much more fun. They can't dress her by themselves even if we had other clothes, it's too fiddly, but a simple wrap dress with a ribbon tie they can do.

    On the pretty side of things, we do a lot of dressups, makeup and fingernails. As far as the girls are concerned it is just painting on themselves and doesn't have all the beauty connotations, I'm trying to encourage that. The saying I use is "If you feel good, you look good." Rather than telling the girls they look pretty I ask them how they're feeling. Just the other day the big girl told me "I'm feeling really good today so I'm very pretty!" so at least some of the message is getting through.

  4. Colleen says:

    I grew up in a house with 4 girls (and 2 boys) and my Mom would NOT let us have Barbies. We wanted them when we were little, and if we ever got one as a gift we would have to regift it. She bought us My Little Pony toys instead, and that was fine for us.

    I, in turn, will NOT allow my daughters to play with Barbies. They can have dolls, as long as they have realistic shapes and don't send a materialistic image.

    I know that's probably an unpopular and harsh stance to take, but it's something I grew up with that I would love to emulate.

  5. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    Oh, you guys are making such good points – thank you! :-)

    Hobo Mama, I coveted that dreamy mansion, too. But today I'm so thankful my parents didn't waste their money on that thing.

    Love the idea of encouraging My Little Ponies. Once I started collecting Breyer horse models as a kid, I had no use for Barbie.


  6. Dionna @Code Name: Mama says:

    I would hesitate to deny her a Barbie based on a fear of clutter/packrat-ness or the perfection argument. I imagine that you are doing more to help your daughter gain a healthy body image than Barbie could do to destroy it. And as she grows, you could always talk about the "ideals" versus the realities. As far as the clutter/packrat aspect, that seems like something you have a personal distaste for, and it's probably healthier for you to examine your own reasons for NOT liking clutter/packrats first. And rather than doing everything you can to prevent clutter, why not try to instill a healthy sense of stuff? Rather than throwing away the glittery packaging when she sleeps, why not let her hang on to it for a week and get tired of it, which she'd probably do eventually. Then you could have a talk about what to do with things when we're done with them – recycle, take things to a charitable thrift store, etc.

  7. Kris says:

    Having been through a daughter and the "Barbie-phase", I'll tell you from experience that it's fairly short lived. Within a year or two, Barbie was consigned to a bottom dresser drawer, only to be removed on rare occasions when certain friends came over. All Barbies also eventually became hair and art tatooo experiments, with cropped, colored hair, painted faces, etc. It's just a phase she's going through, and if you get her a Barbie or two, it will eventually lose it's appeal. That being said, we also did My Little Pony and Polly Pocket. Those lasted much longer. As a rule, I also hate Barbie – played with her a little when I was little, also coveted the dream house (which I never got), and eventually moved on to better toys. As a grown-up, I also HATE Barbie, and never buy her, or any of her accessories, for my nieces, or friends. As for the hoarder issue, I think most kids fall into that category. I find myself torn between making my kids cull the toy room so they can get in the mode of purging, vs. doing it myself when they are otherwise occupied so that I can REALLY clean stuff out. I hide those bags in the bottom of the trash, to avoid any confrontation. Sometimes, you just have to do that as the lesser of the two evils. They never even notice when stuff is gone, and if they do, I plead ignorance.

  8. Maman A Droit says:

    Maybe it had more influence than I realized, but as a kid I never thought about Barbie having "nice" legs or anything else, and by the time I was old enough to care about that sort of stuff (5th or 6th grade) it was no longer socially acceptable to play with Barbies. And I had over 20 of them! (also had equally ridiculous # of My Little Ponies and many other toys. I wasn't a Barbie maniac or anything). I had lots of the teenage and toddler Barbies too plus boy Barbies in all age groups and so all my Barbies were mommies and I played house with them mostly. None of my other dolls got to have large families, but my Barbies had a complex extended family of siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. One Barbie with especially white hair got a cropped do by me and became "Grandma"!

    You could consider American Girl dolls instead though. They're historical (I had the WWII one, Molly) look like 9-year old girls, and have much larger (harder for baby to choke on) shoes!

  9. Kylie says:

    Advice from a friend (mine are too young yet though we intend to ban too) get to the root of what she really wants. For my friends daughter it was real hair doll so the compromise was pretty easy.

  10. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    I love American Dolls, but they're so pricey. Thankfully, Gaba and Papa (my parents) have made it a tradition to buy the girls an American Doll at a certain milestone b-day.


  11. annemcd says:

    My little girl is also five, but she hasn't gotten into Barbie, either. I could list all my reasons, but its really a gut thing– I'm the Mommy, and I said no.

    My other thought was this: My two older boys have and LOVE GeoTrax trains. Their friends all had the Thomas train sets, which they also loved. Whenever our respective children would want to start collecting the other train sets, we'd remind them that we have one set, our friends have the other, and we get to play with the other toys when we play together. It wasn't too big of an issue. While Barbie is a little more well-endowed than, say, Percy or Edward :), I don't think that is going to make as much of an impression on my daughter's body image so much as how I mutter about how I don't like something about my looks, or seeing weight-loss commericals on television, or when referring to a person, only attributing thier outside beauty.

    I've made a point several times to my children that one of the most beautiful women to walk this planet was Mother Theresa, and explain why she was so beautiful. I agree, God made outside beauty, and its important to take care of that beauty, but keep instilling the importance of true beauty.

    Hope I didn't get too off topic there!! :)

  12. Melodie says:

    I played with my mom's Barbies when I was little. My grandma and aunties made me Barbie clothes for my own. All of it has been saved for my own daughters when they are a little bit older (Or start asking for them). So far because of my oldest's reluctance to play with other girls her own age (a long story) she hasn't discovered them yet so she hasn't asked and I am happy to hold onto them as long as possible.
    But buying a new one will prove to be hard for me. I've seen them as they are now and I can understand your reluctance. They look pretty ridiculous. Does any one sew in your circle of family or friends? Could you tone down the flashiness of the present dolls with handmade accessories maybe bought on Etsy? Just a thought. :)

  13. Rachel says:

    i had a pretty big rubbermaid bin of Barbies growing up. We liked and played with them, but I think we played with our other dolls (paper or "real") more.

    I think your only valid reason is the baby choking hazard (oh how well do I know that reason now too!). So my suggestion is to get her a Barbie or two (cause you can't have just one!) and make them special dolls that she can only play with when M.E. is sleeping. And when M.E. gets up, the Barbies and ALL their little accessories get to go away!

  14. Melanie B says:

    Kate, This is so funny. You totally caught me off guard and I was almost pitying that poor little girl that you didn't like.

    I'm like you, I often wish my girls could just have one beloved "Charlotte". But that's not going to happen with a family who bring gift bags to almost every social occasion. The best I can hope for is not to drown in toys.

    We never had Barbies when I was a kid and I don't recall ever missing them. Except maybe just because I felt odd sometimes that I was the only girl I knew who didn't have them. I never wanted Barbie for herself, she was always an icon of fitting in, of keeping up with the Loris and Jennifers.

    In general my mom didn't encourage us to have any toys that you'd see advertisements for on television. No My Little Ponies or Strawberry Shortcake or Holly Hobby or Cabbage Patch Dolls. Unless we got them as gifts; but that almost never happened.

    In fact my mom's rule was almost universally that the more we begged for something the less likely she was to give it to us. We soon learned we were more likely to get something if we merely admired it and didn't ask.

    I'm so glad she was like that. I still have major issues of detachment from things but at least my mother started me off on the path of not instantly having to have everything I see and admire.

    As for my kids and their toys… I'll confess I'm probably worse than my mom. I'm allergic to anything that at all ties in with a television show or movie. That includes Disney Princesses, Barbie, Dora, and any Winnie the Pooh products that don't look like the E.H. Shepard illustrations. Which means that half the kids' Christmas gifts are still in their gift bags on my sewing table waiting for me to figure out how to pass them on to someone who can use them. Anyone want a Dora doll or a My Little Pony?

  15. Mamma Pie says:

    HRM. I'm almost afraid to comment you've gotten so many good responses. But I will try. I hate barbie. My kid is only 2 and we don't have barbies. I try to buy handmade and wooden toys, especially from local artisans and etsy to satisfy her creative play. I also make many of her dolls. I don't think plastic toys really *do* much for the imagination of the child, I feel like they take away a lot of the individuality of the toy and (since there are rows of the SAME.exact.toy stacked into those shelves) therefore the creativity of the child. Maybe peruse etsy with her and let her chose a beautiful handmade doll and name it barbie. I bet she can find one she would love just as much.
    Also on the "hoarding," I have a niece who does/did that. She would save cheese stick wrappers and those phone-book magnets and …trash! When she came to visit me last, I started noticing that her behaviors seem to be indicative of a sensory processing disorder. It sounds like your daughter might have some of those inclinations as well though I'm certainly no expert. It might be worth reading on though as children with such behaviors need lots of help sorting their emotions so they dont replace feelings with things.
    Alternatively, you could let her take pictures of her "collections" and make a scrap book of them until she's ready to let them go completely, but toss the items (like the peed on shoes and such).

  16. Maggie says:

    Oh my gosh…. My preggo brain had me all sorts of confused. I was thinking, "Some parents named their daughter Barbie?!" And the way you were describing her I was thinking, "Wow… this litle girl must be into all those pageants… the ones where they spray tan and wear fake lashes."

    It took me forever to realize what you were talking about!

    I don't really have any advice for the Barbie subject. And I don't really feel qualified to give parenting advice.. but as far as the "hoarding" goes… my nieces and nephews and almost every child I've babysat looks like you are taking away their ONLY possesion if you throw a toy package away or plan on giving away a toy that is 4 years below their development level. Maybe it's a normal thing with kids? And as long as you try your best to instill in your children that material things don't make one happy then you are on the right path!

    Just my two cents!

  17. creamofmommysoup says:

    UGH, I just tried to comment and it didn't let me.

    I only let my kids have a few toys — legos, blocks, books, and barbies. (And of course, bikes and such.) Keeps the clutter down, and they appreciate it more.

    If it's something else, it goes to "children who do not have toys/games/clothes/etc."

    We do have barbies. I don't think they're so bad per se, but I do keep a careful ear on what is said about done/how my daughters play with her.

  18. Zoey @ Good Goog says:

    I really don't like barbies. I have a strong aversion to them because of the whole body image thing. That being said, if my daughter really wanted one, I think I would get it for her. Because I don't want to give the whole barbie thing too much power. And I would try to trust that all the other influences would balance her out.

  19. Darcel says:

    The more you try to keep her from having Barbie, the more she will want one. I said the girls wouldn't play with Barbie. They now have 4, and most of the time they are naked.
    I also said I wouldn't let them have Bratz dolls. I despise those!
    We need to remember that our children don't see things the same way we do.

    Since the girls have been playing with Barbie for over a year, they have never once asked for a Bratz doll. If they do, I'll let them have one.
    So she thinks Barbie is pretty, what's wrong with that?
    I think by continuing to tell her no, your showing her that what she likes and wants doesn't matter.

  20. Muttering Mother says:

    Interestingly I too have said 'yes' to Barbie and 'no' to Bratz (although all of the Barbies and their equivalents have been gifts.) My 4 & 5 year olds love to dress up their Barbie & Disney Princess dolls (& currently two small teddies are borrowing some outfits; no, I don't know how they squeezed into them either.) We've talked about the way the Barbies & the princesses are unrealistically sized; young women are always going to be bombarded by unrealistic body images & although I try to protect them from a lot I'm quite happy we've started these conversations quite early. I feel happy that they're still sitting playing with dolls rather than being enticed into watching older stuff that is marketed at them & that their peers are already exposed to (High School Musical, Hannah Montana) – I guess it's where you draw your lines! But I think it's absolutely fine for a parent to decide that something isn't appropriate for play/watching in the home & stick to it.

  21. Melanie B says:

    Kate, thanks so much for giving me an opportunity to think these things out and articulate them. I'm sorry I'm overwhelming your com box; but literally I can't get back to sleep till I get these swimming thoughts out of my head. So here you are:

    More thoughts on Barbie:

    1. I admire your attempt to list out your objections and then step back to see if you think they are valid. At the same time, I do think it's perfectly ok to say: I can't think of a reason that satisfies my intellect; but still my gut says no and I'm sticking to that. I think it's ok to say no for no other reason than the ick factor, whatever that is for you. Mother instinct is a powerful thing and I don't think we should deny it.

    2. The direction of some of these comments really bugs me. Especially this: "The more you try to keep her from having Barbie, the more she will want one."

    I think that's a terrible reason to give in.

    What if the thing she was asking for was something you definitely knew was bad for her: only chocolate at every meal, or for that matter only chicken nuggets and fries for every meal? I think as parents we have not only the ability but also the duty to sometimes say no. And I don't think we necessarily have to always spell out our reasons. (It is good for our children to know we have good reasons for our decisions but I don't think it is always necessary for us to have to spell them out. Our children should trust that we don have their best interests at heart.) Because I'm the mom and I say no should be the end of the story. I'm not saying you have to draw the line at Barbie; but I do think you need to be able to draw the line somewhere.

    "We need to remember that our children don't see things the same way we do."

    Yes, that's because they are children and are in the process of being formed. While we should respect their personhood, and acknowledge that their likes and wants are different from ours, still, they are immature and the reason they need parents is that they do not yet have the ability to make good decisions. I need to be able to say: Don't jump off that table, don't poke that in your sister's ear, don't eat that. And my children need to learn to listen and obey. In the same way that I need to listen and obey when God tells me no. Too many Catholics ignore Mother Church when she tells them that what they want isn't good for them. Obedience is a necessary life skill if you want to get to heaven.

    "I think by continuing to tell her no, your showing her that what she likes and wants doesn't matter."

    No, by continuing to tell her no you are saying that you are the mother and she is the child and sometimes you know better than she does. You are saying, I know that you want this but I know that you don't need this. Sometimes we want things that we don't need and we need to be able to control how we respond to our desires.

    Now if you never took her likes and wants into consideration and always acted like a dictator, that would be bad. But I don't get that sense from you. In general you allow her to make her own decisions but in this one case your likes and wants trump hers and I think that's ok.

  22. Melanie B says:

    (Sorry about being so long winded I need two comments. It's a personal failing I know. I'm too tired to spend time editing my comments, though. )

    3. What bugs me about Barbie.

    I've been thinking about this further, trying to articulate what it is about Barbie that bugs me. Then it occurred to me that perhaps it ties in with the Theology of the Body. I'm not sure I can exactly put my finger on the heart of the matter but somehow Barbie's body language is all wrong.

    To me it says that woman is a sexual being and that sex is divorced from reproduction. Just look at that chest and those hips and that stomach!

    I can't imagine Barbie nursing a baby with those breasts. (I can't see her comfortably carrying a sling or an Ergo for that matter.) It always comes up in every discussion of breastfeeding: our society is uncomfortable with nursing babies because it has sexualized the breast. To me Barbie may be one of the worst offenders in perpetuating the idea that breasts are for looking pretty and not for nurturing babies. So many women today say they feel icky and uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding their children. I wonder to what extent Barbie is responsible for that?

    For me body image does come into it. Not just the message that beauty comes from the inside. To me Barbie's body language perpetuates the idea of woman as sexual object.

    Lastly, while I know that creative children will use their Barbies for all sorts of role playing, as several commenters here have pointed out, I still think that the design of the toy and the way it is marketed make it clear that the way it is intended to be played with is all focused on acquiring clothes and possessions, at changing outfits and looking pretty. Kids aren't dumb; they get those messages. I know I certainly did as a little girl. These are the messages I'm fighting against. I agree that girls can certainly play with Barbie and still get positive messages in other places, can still come out being fine with a great body image and a well cultivated imagination. Still, I see no reason I should give any message I disagree with any toehold in my household and in my kids' minds.

    4. I prefer my kids' toys to be more open-ended. I prefer toys that don't come with a script for playing with them, toys that not only can be used for other purposes than the ones the designers intended; but that in fact don't have any message at all about what is the right and wrong way to play with them. I prefer toys that demand my children's creativity in determining how to play with them.

    Barbie doesn't challenge girls to step out of the box and find creative ways of doing things. She encourages conformity and sticking to the script.

    Now I know people are going to come back with plenty of stories about how they used Barbie off-script. And yet all the counter-examples in the world do still reinforce my point: with Barbie we all know what the script is supposed to be and we know when we've strayed off of it. There is no script for how to play with blocks or sticks or pieces of fabric. And even baby dolls have a more open-ended script than Barbie does.

  23. W says:

    I think Barbie doesn't change your daughter. All girls dreams about beutifull princess. Unfortunately Barbie is a princess of our present.
    I have no daughter. I have two sons. And sometimes Seva's games and toys are upset me. Too realistic or war games. But all boys plays knights. I consider so. Let it will play enough in the childhood and in future there is no any problem with that.

    Be our guest at:

  24. Molly says:

    I'll start by saying I'm in favor of Barbie. Here's some random thoughts:

    1) As a kid, I had a lot of Barbies. I had Kens, Skippers, Stacies, Kellys, Todds, friends of Barbie, Barbie's baby sister. My Barbies came in different races, different genders, and different ages. I still have them all.

    2) I never once questioned why she was always smiling, although now that you mention it, it is quite odd. Mattel should have given Barbie more emotions than just "happy".

    3) My dad made me a Barbie dream house out of plywood. It was simple; imagine three square boxes stacked on three square boxes with a flat roof. He made it knowing it could be reused later as a shelving system, so there weren't any doors or windows, but that didn't deter my imagination.

    4) My older sister wasn't really interested in Barbie, so I got to have her all to myself.

    5) I could play with Barbie by myself or with friends.

    6) I made up stories and had my Barbies act them out. I worked through some personal issues that way.

    7) Even though I "played Barbies" a lot, I don't remember thinking about her skinniness. I remember wanting breasts, but I don't think that was Barbie's fault.

    8) My mother's name is Barbara, and my dad will sometimes call her "Barbie Doll" – how could I possibly hate Barbie?

    9) Barbie is pretty. Who doesn't like to look at pretty things?

    10) Barbie is fake. This works to her advantage. You can't hurt her feelings, she'll never yell at you, and she doesn't judge. She always looks you in the eye, she never says "just a minute", and she never gets distracted. She doesn't steal your toys. She just always smiles at you and approves. For children who are naturally self-centered, she's the perfect companion.

    I also had My Little Ponies. I still have them, as well as my Barbies. I hope to pass them on to my daughters some day, if God blesses me with marriage and children.

    I think Barbies were prettier when I was younger than they are now.

    I think Madeline should have a Barbie, a Ken, a Stacie, a Kelly, and Barbie's baby sister. It will be a little pretend family she can play with. If the expense is too great, I can share mine with her.

    Despite all my thoughts, I imagine you will stand firm in your decision. You are Madeline's mother, and you and her father know best.

  25. the grumbles says:

    Here's my experience- I was a tom boy but my mom allowed me to have barbies. I liked to dress them up and brush their hair. As an adult woman I now find them creepy and objectionable BUT, clearly they didn't shape me into some kind of monster. I think by making Barbie something unattainable you are putting her up on an even higher pedestal and making her WAY more important to your daughter than she would be if you just got one or two, a few outfits, let her play with them, and let them fall back out of fashion.

    That said, no child of mine will ever own a Bratz doll. EVER. I don't care how they ask/beg/bribe!

  26. Momma Jorje says:

    With my 11yo daughter, I pretty much laid down the law – no barbies. I literally would include that when inviting people to her birthday parties, "Please, no Barbies." Ugh, then Bratz were even worse! She did wind up with Barbie as the Wizard of Oz characters, but that was ALL about the Wizard and nothing at all about the Barbies.

    I think I took an extreme approach, but I think it worked for us.

    As for getting rid of things, my daughter was also a very sharing person and I just pointed out that we were going to pass these things along to some less fortunate children.

    We also had the rule that if she didn't get her room clean, *I* would clean it (which also meant getting rid of stuff).

    I also recommend checking out The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need.

    Not sure how much of that really applied to the original Barbie issue, but I hope it was helpful anyway.

  27. Jessica says:

    Hey Kate,
    Ok, like some others I was totally thinking that this was some real little girl that you had a thing against! Ha ha! I think she should get a Barbie. I think it will become a HUGE issue to Madeline if she doesn't get one. However, if she has one it will eventually be forgotten. I think that you are already doing a great job teaching your girls about self-image, and by the time Madeline realizes how fake Barbie is, she'll be long over playing with them. I had tons of Barbies growing up, and I don't recall ever thinking about them as anything but toys. Good luck, and can't wait to hear about it!

  28. Melanie B says:

    "I think it will become a HUGE issue to Madeline if she doesn't get one."

    Seriously? Doesn't that depend on how Kate and her husband are raising her?

    And if it is such a HUGE issue that a little girl can't handle being told no she can't have a toy, then I think THAT is a huge issue.

    Why are so many parents so afraid of saying no and sticking to it?


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