Lessons From Cinderella: Cinder Girl Teaches Children About Endurance and Hope
Popular Children's Story Teaches Youngsters About Human Behavior
The Cinderella story teaches kids that they can make good choices when faced with tough circumstances and unfair treatment.
Cinderella is considered a beloved classic, a quintessential rags-to-riches story, but it offers so much more. As the tale unfolds, children are offered important insights: life is not always fair, difficult circumstances befall good people.
Readers or viewers are soon introduced to a veritable palette of colorful characters, both human and animal, Through them, the story models appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.The characters in Cinderella teach children powerful lessons about human character traits and how a person's true nature is revealed in how they treat others. This is a fairy-tale that enables children to develop deeper perception, a skill that will serve them well in real life.
Cinderella's plight at the beginning sets the stage for the story's happy resolution. But, long before Cinderella is rescued from a life of poverty and care, she has already triumphed. Why? Because of the choices she makes when faced with adversity.
From Beloved Daughter to Servant
The Cinderella story is the ultimate tale of good vs evil.
Song Delivers Inspiring Messages
The story opens with an inspiring song that contains important messages. Cinderella shows that while she is ordered around, she orders her inner world, a world that her step-family can't touch.
- A dream is a wish your heart makes
- In dreams you will lose your heartache
- Whatever you wish for, you keep
- Have faith in your dreams that someday your rainbow will come smiling through
- No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish, will come true
There's one thing, they can't order me to stop dreaming.
We should try to get along together.
Cinderella Teaches Children They Have Choices
Cinderella is good and kind but she's in a situation where these character traits would not normally flourish. She has to work hard at menial tasks, she's forced to wear tattered clothing, and she is cut off from a support network and isolated in the attic. She should be miserable and lonely.
How does she cope with her maltreatment?
Cinderella maintains a cheerful attitude and purity of heart. She refuses to become bitter, hardened and cruel like those around her.
She shows initiative and resourcefulness by befriending small creatures who prove kindred spirits.
Cinderella's step-family does not look to Cinderella's physical needs and yet she cares for the mice and birds, even making outfits for them to wear. Her step-family does not show her compassion yet Cinderella shows compassion for Gus by protecting him from Lucifer, the cat bent on eating the plump mouse.
Cinderella's character teaches children that they have choices. When treated unkindly, they do not have to copy bad behavior and act in the same fashion.
Cinderella is an orphan. She has lost her father, so is yearning for love and a sense of belonging. Her new family should provide it but do they?
We can lose those we love. In life, there are no guarantees.
Cinderella's Cruel Stepmother
Poor Cinderella receives no motherly comfort from her cold and uncaring step-mother. Lady Tremaine is jealous of Cinderella.
The cruel and distant stepmother character teaches children that adults are not always fair and they do not always show kindness. A young reader, by identifying with Cinderella and how she must feel, learns that those who are unkind cause suffering to others.
Sometimes even adults fail us. Those who should know better... don't.
Cinderella's Cruel Stepsisters
Cinderella's stepsisters' characters are almost as bad as the stepmother's. Anastasia and Drizella are jealous, selfish and vain, and they are lazy, ill-tempered and jealous.
Instead of befriending Cinderella, they treat her like an underling and they make her work all day.
When her stepsisters see the dress that Cinderella's friends have made for Cinderella to wear to the ball, they tear it to shreds. Through the stepsisters' actions, children learn that people can be unfriendly, even when there is no just cause, and that their thoughtless and spiteful behaviors impact others.
People can be unfriendly and cruel, even when there is no reason for it.
Undesirable Character Traits
Gus, Jaq, and the Birds
Cinderella pours out concern and kindness to the creatures in her world and they respond in a better fashion than her step-family. Instead of hindering her, they go out of their way to help Cinderella by working on a dress to make it beautiful.
Being kind to others is a reward in itself because of how good it makes us feel. And sometimes, love, kindness, and goodness spark unexpected rewards.
The Kind Fairy Godmother
The fairy godmother is the epitome of kindness--she's kind simply for the sake of being kind, with no motive. She assists Cinderella to get to the ball by repairing the torn dress, providing glass slippers, and magically transforming the mice into horses and a pumpkin into a coach.
The fairy godmother character teaches children that kindness can be an attractive character trait. This concept is made even more appealing by the fact that the fairy godmother can execute magic.
Kindness can have an almost magical effect in transforming lives.
A Pumpkin Turned Into a Coach
Desirable Character Traits
Animals Also Teach Lessons About Behavior
The animals in Cinderella's world also display human characteristics.
- Bruno--Cinderella's dog is an enemy of the cat, Lucifer, but obey's Cinderella's instructions to not harm Lucifer.
- Major--a horse that lives with Cinderella and that is friendly to the mice.
- Jaq--a skinny, unkempt-looking mouse that helps Cinderella.
- Gus--a chubby mouse that also helps Cinderella.
- Birds--friends of Cinderella and the mice.
- Lucifer--aptly named, the cat is fat, lazy, conniving and cruel. He is the step-family's cat and mirrors his owners' character traits.
Rags to Riches or the Wealth Within?
Cinderella has a happily-ever-after ending but long before that point, Cinderella has already triumphed.
Cinderella's Challenges & Her Choices--Every Bit as Timely For Today's Children
Cinderella's plight has resonated with generations of children and the different challenges and situations she has to endure are timely for modern-day children who may face similar situations.
- Cinderella is an orphan and has lost both of her parents but she makes room in her heart and tries to love the new people in her life.
- She has to live with an unloving step-family but Instead of becoming despondent, Cinderella looks elsewhere for her emotional needs. The story teaches children that friendship and comfort can be found if one chooses to look for them.
- Cinderella is treated unfairly and unkindly. Instead of returning evil for evil, Cinderella chooses to remain kind and thoughtful. Children that they can act appropriately, even when surrounded by bad behavior.
- Cinderella has chores--and lots of them. Cinderella is industrious and uncomplaining. Her work ethic teaches children that tasks, while unwanted and unpleasant, can be dealt with in a constructive manner.
- Cinderella is forced to live in poverty while those around her enjoy creature comforts. At this juncture, the Cinderella tale teaches young ones much about enjoying simple pleasures, about endurance, and about the importance of maintaining an optimistic attitude.
- Cinderella has appearance issues for she has to wear unattractive clothing and sits in cinders. Children that seek peer approval are often concerned about how they look to others. Cinderella demonstrates that no matter what the exterior looks like, inner beauty will always shine through.
Children learn about maintaining personal integrity in the face of adversity and not giving into despair. In sum: they learn the importance of developing a positive attitude and holding to a deeper value system.
A Challenging Life
Despair & Hope
Cinderella finally gives into despair and for the first time, she utters self-defeating statements:
- "It's just no use. No use at all."
- "I can't believe. Not any more."
- "There's nothing left to believe in. Nothing."
In Cinderella's darkest hour, when her dress is destroyed, when her animal friends can no longer help her, when all hope is gone, the Fairy Godmother appears and rights all the wrongs.
Kids learn that sometimes, when one feels that all hope is gone, something can happen to turn things around.
While the Fairy Godmother Helps, Cinderella Saves the Day
The Fairy Godmother reveals an interesting truth. In response to Cinderella's statements, she says: "Now, you don't really mean that. If you'd lost all your faith, I couldn't be here."
The Fairy Godmother may be symbolic as the mother figure and the wand, a symbol of what she has passed on to Cinderella that has equipped her for hardships and will continue to do so.
So, once again, it is Cinderella's faith in goodness that wins the day.
The Glass Slipper
The Dress & Glass Slippers
The Dress--The theme of never giving up is reinforced again by the dress being one of the last things granted. Cinderella waits patiently while the Fairy Godmother creates the coach, driver, and all else.
The Glass Slippers-Instead of leather that would last longer, the Fairy Godmother creates glass slippers that are beautiful but breakable and they may symbolize what the Fairy Godmother cautions: "But like all dreams, I'm afraid this can't last forever."
Takeaway: Never give up but don't take good things for granted, because time changes everything.
Time Runs Out
Diligence and Care Important in Good Times
A secondary message is revealed when Cinderella's circumstances change. She is cautioned to leave the ball at midnight because her good fortune will end. She, who has diligently attended to unpleasant chores and carried them out in the worse of circumstances, now neglects this reminder, when her circumstances are far better.
Children learn that good fortune can be fleeting and that caution and diligence are needed to safeguard it.
The Glass Slippers' Fate
The glass slippers offer symbolic messages about life paths, how others' decisions and how our own decisions, and circumstances can ultimately shape our course.
The first slipper, broken by others' hands, may be symbolic of how Cinderella's life has been shattered by the loss of her parents and by her cruel step-family.
The second slipper, the one Cinderella has hidden, mirrors her inner qualities. This slipper has the power to transform her circumstances. It is the perfect fit, as is a life with those who return her love.
A Perfect Fit
A Timeless Treasure of a Movie
This remains one of my favorite movies from childhood. No violence, bad language, or other questionable values for young ones to absorb, rather, a movie that gives children excellent modeling as to what constitutes desirable behavior and what does not. A timeless classic that is every bit as valuable as when it was first released.
Role Model For Kids
Cinderella is a role model for young readers. She is beautiful inside and out. Identifying with her, feeling compassion for her, children are inspired to emulate her good qualities.
Questions for Children
- Do you think you could be as brave as Cinderella if you were alone in the world?
- What would you do if you had no friends?
- If you were treated unkindly how would you react?
- What's the best way to approach chores?
- What does Cinderella teach us about patience?
- If you were poor, what could you do to make your life more enjoyable?
- Why is inner beauty more important than outer beauty?
- How is Cinderella rewarded by being kind to her animal companions?
- Why is it important to hope?
- Why is it important to dream?
- Is Cinderella rewarded immediately for being good?
- Why does Cinderella try harder when she is faced with challenging circumstances?
- Why do you think that when she is at the ball, she almost forgets about the time?
What Are the Two Things Cinderella Holds Onto to Keep Going?
Does the Prince Really Save the Day?
At first blush, one could dismiss this story as old-fashioned because a prince seemingly rescues Cinderella, but... this story delivers a compelling message about female power.
Cinderella has been tested to the max, has shown incredible emotional strength, and has learned to find happiness within herself and to make the best of circumstances long before she meets her prince.
Happily Ever After
The Real Magic in Cinderella--Belief, Hope, and Kindness
While Cinderella and her prince live happily ever after, the real magic in the Cinderella story is Cinderella's attitude and how she responds when faced with a host of challenging circumstances.
© 2009 Athlyn Green