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Hello Kitty and 6 Other Things 'Good' Moms Don’t Give Their Kids

Photograph by Getty Images

About a year ago, I noticed Hello Kitty didn’t have a mouth. If you’re wondering why that’s a big deal, it’s because girls grow up with a lot of toys and images that give them mixed messages about self-esteem. On the one hand, parents raise their daughters to be confident, articulate and outspoken. On the other hand, parents give their daughters a toy that giggles instead of speaks because she doesn’t have a mouth. See where I’m going?

This presents a problem for parents trying to be good parents because little girls, and sometimes their brothers, love Miss Hello Kitty. They don’t care if Kitty can stand up for herself in debate class or if Miss Kitty can express her feelings with confidence. Little girls see a shiny, pink cat/girl and they want in.

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As a parent, I constantly grapple with doing the right thing by my children. I’m sure you do, too. It’s hard to tell if it’s better to let your little girl play with the Hello Kitty airplane and the Barbie dreamboat she got for her birthday, or a gender-neutral doll that’s probably better for her self-esteem but a lot less fun. And what about boys and shooting games? Ugh, doing the right thing can seem overwhelming!

My kids are going to get Hello Kitty and they’re also going to get conversations about self-esteem.

One thing I do know is there’s no such thing as a good mom or a good dad. There’s just parents trying to do the best they can. Personally, I think it’s better to raise kids in a relaxed household than in a home where everything is a political statement.

So my kids are going to get Hello Kitty and they’re also going to get conversations about self-esteem. And they’ll always know that they aren’t good or bad, no matter what choices they make.

Here are 6 things good moms wouldn’t give their kids that I will.

1. Barbie

Why I Think She’s Bad: Barbie’s got the body of a supermodel and can only wear heels. I’d hate for my daughter to grow up thinking she’s supposed to look like Barbie and I’d hate for my son to grow up thinking girls are supposed to look like Barbie.

What Am I Going to Do? I’m going to have a lot of conversations with my kids about body image and teach them that no matter what you look like, you look just fine. And I’m going to deal with my own “Barbie dreams” so I don’t pass them on to my kids. And most importantly I’m going to let Barbie be just what she is: a doll. She’s no more or less important that Mr. Potato Head or that Slinky waiting to be played with in the corner.

2. Princess Stuff

Why I Think It’s Bad: Classic princesses are waiting to be saved by a guy on a white horse. This goes against everything I believe in. After all, what if my princess never meets her knight in shining armor? She shouldn’t have to feel like her life is less valuable.

What Do I Do About The Archaic Princess Messages? I’m going to teach my girl that her value doesn’t come from being picked by a guy. Her value is in her intelligence, effort, smarts and work ethic. I hope she finds love in her life. I also hope she picks a career that makes her happy. We’re going to talk about that and never pressure her to meet “the one.”

3. Video Games

Why I Worry About Video Games: I want my kids to play outside. I don’t want them to be zombies who can only be entertained by a screen. Plus the games are often violent and I’m worried about what all those images do to my kid’s brain.

To Video Game or Not? We’re doing it, with strict restrictions. And we have one rule: If video games start to become a fight or negotiation, they go away. But video games can be fun and they can be educational. There’s also the social, “I’ll be the only kid at the party who doesn’t know how to play Mario Cart” implications I don’t want to put upon my kids.

And what about the violent games? We’re not buying them. We’re just not.

4. Super Hero Stuff

Why I Worry About Super Heroes and Action Toys: One word: Fighting.

What to Do About Batman and Co.? My experience shows me that superheroes are a phase that kids, mostly boys, pass through. So I’m going to focus on the positive aspects of superheroes. After all, super heroes fight evil and try to help normal, everyday people. Plus, the gadgets are cool and open up a world of imagination from which kids really benefit.

5. The Color Pink

If I want to raise a strong empowered girl, I have to empower her to pick what she likes, including everything being pink.

Why I Worry About My Little Girl’s Obsession With the Color Pink: As a mom, I don’t want my daughter to be defined by classic gender roles down to the color of her clothing.

So How Do I Deal With My Pink-Obsessed Daughter? If I want to raise a strong empowered girl, I have to empower her to pick what she likes, including everything being pink. I’m not telling her that’s what she has to wear and teaching her she has to girly things. If that’s her choice, I’m going with it.

6. Junk Food

Why This Is a Problem: I want my kids to be healthy and fit. Plus, I eat healthy and want my kids to do the same. It’s my job as their parent to manage what they eat and teach them healthy habits.

So How Do I Have Healthy Kids And Give Them Junk Food? Part of teaching my kids healthy eating habits is teaching them moderation and why some foods aren’t good for you. I never want them to be scared of certain foods. So I want to teach them it’s OK to have those junk foods that you love, just not all the time!

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So what do you think? Am I a hypocrite or a realistic mom? And how are you dealing with the hard choices of being a parent? I want to know.

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