Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More thoughts about princesses

In my post Re-Training a Princess Carolie said:

I'm a pretty cheerful person...and I was brought up to believe that even if I was in a nasty mood, I should at least act pleasant to those around me. I had a boss who was disgruntled allll the time. She hated computers, and had hired me to be her designer, and also to update her computer software. One day, she stuck her head in the office and said "oh, by the way, when you finish that, will we be able to blah blah blah(something to do with the new software)?" I said "No problem!" with a cheerful smile.She went ballistic, screaming at me not to condescend to her, and how dare I, stop that fake sh*t, etc., etc., etc. All I meant with my cheerful, smiling and sincere response was "I'd be happy to do that and should easily be able to fulfill your request, boss!" What she heard was "that's easy, you dumb bitch!" said with fake cheer.Where do you draw the line? After Rhonda has manipulated you with her eye-batting routine once, how do you know when she's manipulating, or whether you're reading in ulterior motives to her smiling demeanor? (I'm seriously asking, and not at all accusing you of misreading her!)

I think this is an incredibly important observation and I suspect the heart of the answer is in a recent post Gawdess wrote. Gawdess, in discussing her daughter's princess-like behavior, pointed out ways in which she was oblivious to others feelings.

And I think that might be really important. It might be that that obliviousness is what makes the behavior clear and distressing to those who live with princesses and invisible to those who merely interact with them occasionally. It may also be the answer to Mongoose's question in a comment on the same post:
Why does it matter if she's cute about asking for something she's allowed to have? For that matter, why does it even matter if she's cute about asking for something she isn't allowed to have, as long as you don't give in? I'm sure we all do it sooner or later.
It matters because it is not really the behavior. Oh any behavior repeated constantly can drive you up a wall. But princess behavior is a problem because, at the heart, it rests on a blindness to the needs and feelings of others. This is probably true of all sorts of manipulative techniques, of course.

But I wonder if that is the answer, such as it is.

After I wrote the post I began thinking about what it would be like if I could and did find a way to get Rhonda to stop engaging in princess behaviors. What if I taught her not to give me wide eyes, pouts, and pleading tones? How would she understand the lessons?

Would she see them as simply a different role to follow? A way to manipulate people who don't respond to her current skill set?

I don't know, and I confess that I am relieved that I will not have to figure it out, but I think that somehow the heart of the problem and the key to the solution has to do with teaching empathy.

Now if someone could just figure out how to do that, we would be all set!


  1. Once again you hit the nail on it's head...it is about empathy. Manipulative behavior is just that...and that is why it matters, not what ever the request behind it is. Seriously though, this is one of those things that you don't get until you are in the trenches yourself. It just occurred to me, empathy for foster parents is also something that can't be taught but learned through experience. hehe

  2. A little more insight today on my own royalty issues - more on my blog so I don't hijack your comments -

    It sounds to me, in the incident that Carolie related that she was the one being manipulated by her boss, rather than the one doing the manipulating.

    And frankly, it is not something that casual observers will pick up on - because my little girl is so good at her public persona of very cute and at being manipulative that
    it can all be taken as relatively normal behaviours for a child.

    It is far more than being cheerful and willing, in fact it is, in some ways just the opposite.

    Empathy is the thing.
    Again, more on my blog.
    Thanks for these discussions, it comes at a very important time for me.

  3. I'm here for both of you but for now I'm just listening.

  4. It's also about the ability to function independently in the world. Princesses have a sense of entitlement that ultimately works against them. Oh, they may be able to cutesy their way into things, but the lack of substance behind their cuteness always comes back to bite them. Then they get to be victims - "poor me. I'm so cute and sweet and the world is out to get me."

  5. Wow. Thank you, Yondalla. THAT helps me understand the behavior (and your reaction to it) much more clearly. It's not about the cuteness, or the eyelash-batting, or the wide eyes. It's the lack of empathy...and the fact that the lack is less visible to others because of the veneer of princess behavior, and so the lack of empathy is sometimes rewarded. Maybe it's the perception that behind the sweet behavior there is a smug "the only thing that matters is that I get what *I* want" thought.

    Thanks, Gawdess, for your comment. I certainly didn't think I was being manipulative or falsely "sweet" but my ex-boss sure did! I wonder if the princess behavior of others soured her to see it even when it wasn't there?


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