There's just something about Cinderella -- from her gentle, guileless spirit to her glittering, glass slippers -- that makes her one of the most cherished Disney princesses for little girls. But compared to other heroines, like Elsa or Belle or Mulan, she seems to be extra passive and damsel-in-distress (though probably not as much as Sleeping Beauty!).
Although there have been attempts to give her character a modern edge (see Drew Barrymore's "Ever After"), her story (no matter which cultural version you're reading) works best when it's still rooted in universal lessons of kindness, fairness, and patience. Personally, I've always been partial to Cinderella for her inner beauty and goodness, and for the powerful lessons her story teaches -- timeless lessons that parents can teach their kids across all ages and backgrounds.
1- Always Be Kind No Matter What - A little kindness goes a long way, and no doubt Cinderella is a kind soul. Her kindness can make her seem like a pushover (especially when her evil stepmother and stepsisters are overloading her with housework!). But it actually takes a certain quiet strength to remain as kind as she does to others, be it elderly ladies who turn out to be fairy godmothers or defenseless animals. Cinderella's kindness allows her to be selfless, to remain grateful and to appreciate others. Takeaway: Help your kids understand the importance of kindness and generosity, and remember to show other parents some kindness as well!
2- Be Brave and Take Chances - Somehow, after a long day of hard work, Cinderella still finds the courage to say, "I may be treated like a housemaid, but I deserve to go to the royal ball, too!" She takes a chance to go with her stepfamily, even though it doesn't end well. And even when that happens, she's still brave enough to risk a ride in a pumpkin carriage to spend a few short but glorious hours dancing. Takeaway: From a young age, foster bravery and fuel independence so your child will grow up to be a trailblazer.
3- Don't Let Setbacks Stop You - This lesson goes hand-in-hand with #2. Instead of staying home weeping, sweeping, and having a solo pity party after her first ball gown is ruined, Cinderella stays determined and resilient to attend the ball. So what if the magical transformation wears off at midnight? And even when the stepmother tries to prevent her from trying on the precious slipper, Cinderella still finds a way to try it on. Takeaway: Raise your child to not give up on anything when the going gets tough; instead, inspire her to keep on trying.
4- Never Stop Dreaming - There's a reason why Disney's motto for Cinderella is "Dare to Dream" and why the animated movie is anchored on the song, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes." She believes her circumstances can change, and she doesn't give up on her dreams. So when she actually has the opportunity to change certain moments, she's already prepared to embrace them. Takeaway: It's never too early to set (achievable) goals, which can guide your child toward a happy future and well-rounded life.
5- Believe in Yourself - Cinderella's able to keep dreaming because she believes in herself and her self-worth. She remembers her loving parents and knows she is more than the designated housemaid. Despite her tough circumstances and her difficult stepfamily, she still chooses to be kind and brave, to persevere and remain steadfast in trying to change and take charge of her life. Takeaway: Boost your child's self-esteem (but be careful to avoid narcissism) so he knows that he has the innate ability to accomplish anything!
Royal Ball Cinderella ($39.99)
Wedding Day Cinderella ($23.99)
Lady Tremaine ($24.99); Fairy Godmother ($24.99)