How Disney princesses can help young girls be more confident at school

Inspirational mantras from princesses Elsa, Moana and Tiana are being used to help give young girls more confidence at school. Lisa Salmon reports
How Disney princesses can help young girls be more confident at school

By Lisa Salmon, PA

As a new school term begins this week for many children, new research shows the majority of younger kids are worried about starting school.

A Disney ( poll of parents of children aged between three and six years found 72 per cent of kids have concerns about the new term, and two out of five parents believe starting school today is much harder than in their childhood. In addition, more than a third (35 per cent) of parents admit they’re struggling to build their children’s confidence, and nearly half (47 per cent) blame Covid lockdowns for hampering their child’s confidence.

In a bid to help boost young girls’ confidence, Disney has teamed up with education charity The Female Lead (, which spotlights inspirational women, for the new initiative, Ultimate Princess Celebration: Time to Shine.

The campaign includes a series of Princess Pep Talk videos centred around inspirational princess mantras about adventure, confidence and potential, to prepare kids for school.

England football captain Leah Williamson (GirlsontheBall/PA)
Inspirational: England football captain Leah Williamson (GirlsontheBall/PA)

England football captain Leah Williamson, who was named children’s most inspirational role model in the Disney research, is supporting the campaign, and says: “Having the confidence to pursue endeavours are at the heart of all Disney Princess stories – so what better way to inspire children than through practising self-belief and perseverance. They can be anything they want to be!”

Disney and The Female Lead have worked with parenting expert Sue Atkins to create the pep talks, which showcase stories told by teenage sisters Kirsten Mbawa, 14, and Aiyven Mbawa, 13, who are published novelists and run the children’s book subscription service Happier Every Chapter (

Atkins says: “The pandemic has knocked a lot of children’s confidence because they were isolated at home during their early, formative years and weren’t as sociable as they usually would have been, so they’re more anxious about school and stepping into change and getting out there.

“There tends to be self-deprecation with girls as they grow, and they’re not really allowed to be in the limelight or celebrate what they’re good at. Research has shown boys don’t suffer so much from that, and I think it’s important for girls’ parents to model confidence, talk about it, encourage them, nurture it – it’s time for girls to shine!

“These pep talk videos start big conversations with little people early, and you can build up your child’s confidence from there.”

Sue Atkins gave us her parenting expert take on the three Disney Princess mantras…

 Elsa from Frozen: My potential is limitless

“Everybody loves Elsa, and this whole idea that there’s no limit to your ability to try, and to get back up,” says Atkins. “If little girls have a goal, however small it may be, this shows there’s no ceiling on what they can achieve.”

Atkins says having Williamson and the Mbawa sisters involved in the campaign reinforces the importance of inspirational female role models, and she stresses: “Children learn that it’s OK to shine and celebrate what they’re capable of. It’s really important that young children start school on the front foot, but because of the pandemic children weren’t playing with their friends, and it has set them back and they may be more shy.

“The best gift you can give any daughter is your time,” she says. “Play with her, talk to her, listen to her, and let her know she’s loved no matter what – that’s really important. Make sure she knows her potential is limitless.”

Tiana from The Princess and the Frog: I will try my best

Atkins explains that positive affirmations have been shown to work if you follow them over time and assimilate them. “It’s not about being perfect, and I think this is so important for girls – it’s about being happy and confident within yourself,” she stresses. “The idea of trying your best and it’s OK to make a mistake is about how you learn from that mistake and get back up and have another go.

“Trying your best is important – don’t settle for second best, aim high, and praise children for their reward and effort, not necessarily their achievement.

Atkins points out that it’s important to teach girls it’s OK to be ambitious, and to break the stereotype that type A women are bossy and men have leadership skills. She stresses that parents should be mindful of the messages they pass on to their children, whether they’re girls or boys.

She recalls:  “I wanted my own daughter to be kind, empathetic and thoughtful, but I didn’t want her to be a people-pleaser, so we used to talk and teach her about trying to find that balance between respecting and helping others, but also being assertive around what she thought and wanted.”

Moana: I am ready for any adventure

Being courageous is an important message for girls, says Atkins, who elaborates: “It’s about striving to have a go. Sometimes they might sit back and wait, so the idea that Moana is ready for any adventure and takes things on is a really positive thing for children to aspire to.

“Moana represents the ‘can-do kid’ who says even if I make a mistake it doesn’t matter, I’ll bounce back and have another go. Remember resilience is something that can be earned, and don’t rush in to rescue your daughter thinking she can’t do something – I think girls get the wrong message.”

She says parents acting as role models is key, and how they speak about their body and life, whether they’re shy, whether they’re open, ambitious or kind. “All of these things you’re modelling for your girls, and your boys too,” she says.

“Mums and dads have a fantastically important role to play because children are looking, learning and listening to their parents all the time. So using videos, reading books, talking – parents should be constantly nurturing their girls’ self-esteem and confidence.”

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