Most of us expect our little boys to like trucks and action figures and our little girls to like dolls and princess costumes. But what happens when our sons want to be princesses, too?
Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book “Beyond Smart” gives advice for how parents should react.
Is it only boys we’re talking about? What about girls who like to play with trucks and climb trees and do things we think of as boy activities?
This is one of those classic inconsistencies in our culture. Girls can act or dress like boys – and people call them Tom Boys. Or, they’ll say, “Look how she imitates her brother.” Everyone thinks it’s cute. When little brother likes girl clothes or dolls, it’s not seen as cute. To some parents, it looks like a problem.
Is it a problem?
It’s really not. It’s common for boys in this age group – typically under 5 years old – to want to wear frilly dress-up clothes or have their nails painted. These little boys see the same movies and books and costumes as the girls do. Their concept of what gender roles are has not developed yet. They just want to try things out.
Should parents allow their very young sons to play with dolls or play with makeup?
Most experts in say yes. Most boys start developing more gender-typical interests by age 4 or 5, as they start paying attention to what other boys are playing with and are influenced by peers and are just more socially aware.
The problem comes in when the kids go out – and other kids or parents react to what he’s wearing. So you might choose to limit this kind of play at home.
What’s the best way to react if your son likes girl playthings?
- Be supportive
- Help him feel good
- Prepare for negative feedback
- Remember he's playing