Facebook was ablaze yesterday with a sweet little girl named Sophie who was being interviewed by her father in the wake of a blue nail polish and Barbie debacle. Sophie was upset and imploring her daddy to understand that she was unduly pressured by those sneaky Barbies to paint their nails. We felt such compassion for sweet Sophie that we wrote her a letter we hope she remembers next time those Barbies or anyone else is pressuring her to do something she doesn’t want to do! We hope you will remember these things too! (transcript at the end)
In Radical Love,
~The Body is Not An Apology Leadership Circle
Dear Sweet Sophie with the Blue Nail Polish,
You are so small, still in diapers, and you tried so hard to not be pressured by your Barbie dolls, who told you “hundreds of times” to paint their nails with blue nail polish in your bedroom on your carpet. You know you can only use your nail polish outside, but those Barbie dolls just would not stop egging you on, telling you over and over again to paint their nails. What a terrible situation to be put in. We can see you did your very best.
Your awesome Dad talked to you about how next time, even if the Barbie’s tell you to paint their nails in the house, you should tell them “no.” You said you would say “no,” but that you knew those Barbie dolls were going to come at you again, “hundreds of times,” and tell you to do it anyway. You and your Dad worked out that you will say “no” next time, but if you can’t say “no,” then he will throw all your Barbies away. He tried valiantly to help you learn to do better with the few, almost non-existent, tools we are given as parents.
I know you will come up against more times when Barbie tells you hundreds of times to do something you know you don’t want to do. Then in grade school, your school friends will tell you, hundreds of times, to do something you know is not the best idea. It will happen again and again- in high school, when you get a job, and when you are out at parties with friends.
In order to start, even at this young age, to practice radical self-love and let self-compassion guide you in those moments, I have some advice for you for the next time Barbie pressures you:
- Ask your parent(s) to give you a hug! It is hard to be pressured like that. You need your feelings validated. You need to know that you tried hard to listen to your own heart and do what was right, but that is really hard when someone keeps pressuring you. You need to know that it’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to feel pressured to do what someone else tells us to do.
- When you tell Barbie “no” and she keeps telling you “yes,” tell Mommy or Daddy or whoever your guardian(s) are. Ask them to talk to Barbie for you and explain to her that you can’t paint her nails in the house.
- Practice with your guardian(s) saying “no” to Barbie and then asking her what she really wants. You need to find out why this is happening for Barbie. Maybe you will find that Barbie really, really wants her nails done and she was afraid to ask an adult for help, so she pressured you. Maybe Barbie can learn that you and Barbie can always ask for help from an adult and when you can’t, maybe playing dress-up or building a new house for Barbie would be just as fun when you don’t have an adult to help you paint nails.
- Remember, Barbie is not bad and does not need to get thrown out to learn her lesson. Barbie wants something really, really, bad and does not know how to get it, so she does the best she can. Tell Barbie you understand her and you understand how hard it is to not get what you want right away. That feels terrible!
- Instead of throwing out Barbie if she pressures you next time, maybe your guardian(s) could tell Barbie that they understand she is upset and she really wants her nails done and you can all do your nails together after dinner. If they throw out Barbie, you may get the message that we “throw out” people who don’t do what they are supposed to do. You will also learn that if you give in to peer pressure, other people get punished because of your behavior. That would be really scary and lead to you hiding and not asking for help when you need it. Your ability to say “no” and make better choices will decrease and as you get older. You could get really hurt because at that party in high school where everyone is pressuring you to drink, you won’t call your guardian(s) for help because you don’t want to get in trouble and you don’t want your friends to get in trouble.
- Know that we all make mistakes. Maybe your guardian(s) can share with you times that they made mistakes too and how they learned to do better next time. We have all painted out nails when we were not supposed to. I did. And I spilled the polish on my parent’s new coffee table and ruined it. I was afraid to get in trouble, so I covered it with a plant. That made the situation worse. What I know now is that we all make bad choices sometimes and we can learn from them. I learned that I should call an adult I trust when I need help.
Sophia, you are wonderful and loved. You are loved when you remember to paint your nails outside, and when you paint your nails on your carpet. Being human is hard but I hope that these tips help you learn to have compassion for yourself and love yourself at all times.
Clearly, this letter is really written for us, the guardians of our precious children. We are really given no tools on how to parent and how to handle tough situations. Usually, all we know is how to enforce negative discipline (taking things away and other “Consequences,”). Those methods are not the most successful and often cause further problems for our kids down the road. Here are some resources on positive discipline and empathy based parenting:
Nonpunitive Discipline Does Not Equal Lazy Parenting: http://www.positive-parents.org/2011/07/nonpunitive-discipline-lazy-parenting.html
What to Do When Consequences Don’t Work: http://www.positiveparentingconnection.net/what-to-do-when-consequences-dont-work/
What’s Wrong With Timeouts: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/positive-discipline/timeouts
All of Dr. Brene Brown’s work: www.brenebrown.com
OK, so Sophie you just painted your Barbie with nail polish, right?
Yes, she told me to.
She told you to do it. So when Barbie was laying there, Barbie said I’m gonna go ahead and just lay here and you can play with me and then all of a sudden Barbie said OK, can you paint me with nail polish?
She said it 100 times and I said no.
So you were saying no, you shouldn’t put nail polish on Barbie and she kept saying over and over again, 100 times, she kept saying please paint me with nail polish.
She said that 100 times.
100 times. And then when she was all painted blue did you think that you should’ve stopped painting her with nail polish in your room on the carpet?
I couldn’t get it off, but it was getting on her – I couldn’t get it off.
So you tried to get it off but you couldn’t?
No, it go on!
Now, where are you allowed to use your nail polish?
Outside, but when you painted inside, why did you do that?
She told me to.
She told you to?
Does Barbie know that she could’ve ruined your carpet and your bed and all of your blankets?
Yes, she told me to. I said it was horrible and she didn’t listen to me.
So you told her it was a horrible idea?
I’d said it 100 times, all of the time. All my Barbies say be – keep saying that. All of them do! All of them!
Oh my goodness, so who should get in trouble? Should Barbie get in trouble or should Sophia get in trouble for using the nail polish in the house?
All my dolls say they want me to paint on their nails.
OK, but should you get in trouble or should your Barbies get in trouble?
Me, but my dolls – always they want me to paint their nails.
But it’s not a good idea, is it?
They tell me to.
I understand, but next time they tell you to are you going to let them – are you going to listen to them?
No, I’m gonna say no, and they’ll say yes 100 times!
But you’re going to keep saying no right?
Yeah, no they’ll say yes!
OK, but are you going to paint your nails in the house again and paint your Barbies in the house again?
No, because they’ll just say yes.
OK, but are you going to say no?
Yes, I’m going to say no but they’ll just say yes.
Alright, but next time we paint our nails and our Barbies in the house, we’re just going to have to throw out all our Barbies, what do you think of that?
And then they’re gonna – no.
They’re gonna say no?
But then they’re going to say yes, 100 times, a lot of times they do that.
OK, well I think you learned your lesson and I think you’re not going to paint your Barbies anymore, right?
Yeah, but they say yes!
But you’re going to say what?
No, but they’re going to say yes.
But you’re going to say what?
Good girl. I love you. I love you.
I love –