5 Dummy-Proof Parenting Tips from Disney Movies

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My seven year-old daughter loves the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. I’d guess it’s really the long blonde hair and the pink dress (well, when it’s not blue) and the fact that she can talk to animals–which, when you think about it, is really quite creepy.

Anyway. We were reading the story together recently and she was like, “Why did the king and queen outlaw spinning wheels and send her into the forest? Why didn’t they just teach her not to touch one?”

And I was like, duh! Even a seven-year-old girl gets it. Thus, the idea for this blog post was born: Parenting tips from Disney movies. Here are five of them:

Tip #1: Toss the Control Issues Aside.

Just as Aurora’s parents freaked out and tried to control everything (thus defeating the purpose), we learn from Finding Nemo that we really can’t control our kids. We can control what we teach them about the world, and to some extent we can limit what they’re exposed to, but ultimately the choice is theirs.

Take Ariel from The Little Mermaid. What would’ve happened if her king father had admired her human possessions instead of destroying them? What if he had sat down–um, well, the mermaid equivalent of sitting down–with her and told her all he knew about humans, the good and the bad? What if he’d gone with her to take a quick look and satisfy her curiosity? Or even given her legs himself, and accompanied her on land so she could find out what they were like in a controlled environment?

Yes, we are responsible for our children, and we do have a little control over what they experience–but locking them up and forbidding any knowledge of what’s out there isn’t the way to do it.

Tip #2: Enjoy Childhood.

As Wendy’s father learned in Peter Pan, kids do strange things when forced to grow up too quickly–like jump out of windows with strange flying boys in tights, for example. Or in Alice’s case, slide down holes into mysterious worlds with shrieking queens and crazy tea-drinkers in top hats.

When you think about it, a kid’s childhood doesn’t last all that long–maybe fifteen percent of his life, a time when he’s taken care of by others. After that, there’s a short transition during college when they get to take care of themselves and (usually) nobody else. It’s a rite of passage, a fleeting stage we recall with fondness.

When we start raising our own kids, suddenly it’s never about ourselves ever again. Like, ever. Even after the kids leave, there are grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren, etc., etc. And besides, childhood isn’t without its lessons–play is a child’s work. It’s how they learn about consequences, teamwork, friendship, and who they are as people in this world. So why rush them into teenage-hood and the real world? That’ll come soon enough.

Tip #3: Bad Things Happen to Orphans.

Have you noticed that the proportion of books and movies regarding orphans is much higher than that in real life? It’s because when you remove a child from his or her family, he either has to grow up and learn life’s lessons right away, or fade into the darkest parts of society.

Bambi got just enough lessons to keep him alive before his mom was killed, as did Simba in The Lion King. Miraculously, they were both of royal blood and had to realize the full scope of that before they could reach their potential. Same with Snow White and Arthur from The Sword and the Stone. And then there’s the regular Joe or Josephine who just got the short end of the stick when it comes to life: Lilo from Lilo and Stitch, Mowgli in Jungle Book, Aladdin, Cinderella, and Quasimodo.

Have you ever wondered about their parents? How dare they die! Almost makes you wonder if cartoon characters avoid marriage and children, because as soon as they have kids, they die! (I know, that was a stretch. Sorry.)

The crazy thing is, some real-life kids grow up with the same survival instincts as orphans, even when their parents are alive–because their parents are there, but they aren’t present in their lives. (It’s ironic that I’m typing this right now, since I just remembered that I don’t have a clue what my kids are doing downstairs…Ahem. Excuse me a moment while I go check…)

Okay, I’m back. But seriously, let’s be there for our kids so they don’t end up orphans–because orphans make great characters in Disney movies, but real life tends to be much harsher.

Tip #4: Parents Should Work Together.

There aren’t many Disney movies where the mother and father are both present. But in movies like The Incredibles, it can make for great conflict. Anytime you’ve got two super awesome people doing something as hard as raising a family, they’ll disagree on some things.

The key is to find what you have in common and work together. Think The Parent Trap, where the threads of their affection for their twin daughters are what eventually pull them all back together. Aww. Precious. Same with Wendy’s parents in Peter Pan. Usually, the mother character is right and the father character is wrong (smart scriptwriters, I must say), but in real life, it could go both ways, and it totally does. I’ve been wrong about the kids at least twice.

Don’t tell the hubby I said that.

Tip #5: Parenting is Hard, But Worth It.

In the words of Dory, sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” There’s nothing more worthy of the reminder than parenting!  The biggest lesson that Mary Poppins taught wasn’t even to the children she nannied–it was to their parents: Your little ones are priceless. Enjoy them while you can.

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