How can I help young boys see value in playing with "girl stuff"?
October 2, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I had a group playdate yesterday--2 female 5yos (one being my daughter) and 2 male 5yos. All good friends. My daughter's friend (the girl) was building a house with the legos, while the other three were assembling lego figures. After a while I realized that the two boys would ONLY assemble male figures. Any figure with a flower shirt, or with longer-than-boy-cut hair, they wouldn't even touch it. They were especially on the lookout for any figures that could hold weapons. This made me thing about the well-known fact that most boys won't play with girls toys or have female heros (e.g. wonder woman / princess merida) while girls are happy to admire batman, superman, and play with guns or other toys that could be considered as being for boys. The other day, I offered my 3yo son a choice of t-shirts, including a gray shirt with 3 disney princesses on it, which he previously loved to wear. This time, he told me that if he wore that shirt, kids would laugh at him. I have no idea where he got that from. I guess some kid laughed at him at the playground while I wasn't looking, or maybe at preschool. What can I do? I hate the idea that my son and my daughter's male friends think that girls, and girl things, are not worth their respect or affinity. Any idea for how to change their attitude on this without being obnoxious or didactic?
posted by tk to Human Relations (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
You may want to peruse this earlier AskMe. Kids that age go through a phase where they get hyper-aware of "boys are all like [foo] and girls are all like [baz]" because they've only just now started to get the idea that gender is a thing, so they're kind of trying to pick up the "rules" via observation - and sometimes culture reinforces some of those observations.

Just correcting some of the misconceptions when they come up is fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on October 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Like above, this is a stage they are in and I wouldn't try to force some egalitarian utopia on them when that's not how their minds think right now.

The best way for kids to have more fluid gender roles is to see women doing [traditional male roles] and men doing [traditional female roles]. So if you are heterosexually partnered, switch it up. Mommy fixes the car sometimes, daddy cooks sometimes.

Make sure daddy openly respects mommy, and other "girl" things.

Also, kids will laugh at him. Can't stop that. Just help build resilience in his own self esteem. As for the shirt, pick your battles.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:20 AM on October 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


If you want to raise a healthy kid, I feel like he basically has to learn things like "pink is for girls" first and then unlearn it. After all, he's going to grow up in a world where the collective culture, and most individual members of it, believe "pink is for girls." Trying to hide that concept from him is doing him a disservice. And "pink is for girls" is an easier concept to grasp than "societal norms are often arbitrary and I have the power to transgress them," so it only makes sense that he learns them in that order.

Anyway, I feel your pain. Just last week I took my 3-yo daughter to buy a "bicycle hat" for her brand new runner bike. Before we left, she was telling her mom all about how she wanted a red one to match her bike. Once we were at the store though, and I pointed out a nice solid red helmet, she frowned and said: "But maybe I need a pink one because I'm a girl."

In the end, she settled on a black one with Ed Hardy-like skulls on it, which is a whole different lesson in taste that we'll save for later.

But, as Empress says above, this comes just 6 months after her first "I'm a girl and mommy's a girl, but daddy's a boy" epiphany, and I'm certain these are not unrelated.
posted by 256 at 9:22 AM on October 2, 2013 [30 favorites]


Let your kids be who they are. Some boys will gravitate towards traditional boy things, some will like pink. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it and every attempt I've seen of parents trying to steer it has ended in failure. My wife is very much a "girly-girl" yet our 17 year old daughter has never pierced her ears, wouldn't have a clue how to apply makeup, and might own one dress, that she wears only when forced by the occasion. We have a lot less say in our kids personalities than we think we will going into this parenting thing.

Encourage them to be comfortable and confident in who they are, even at this young age. As for the teasing...I think the important thing is that they learn it's not ok and they shouldn't join in. But you can't control the other kids, and not making yourself a target by wearing the "offending" shirt is a perfectly natural and not necessarily bad strategy for dealing with it, as long as your kid understands that the shirt is not the problem, the other kid is.
posted by COD at 9:43 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


So if you are heterosexually partnered, switch it up. Mommy fixes the car sometimes, daddy cooks sometimes.

Also, if you ever have times when adults and kids are playing with toys together, it'd be nice for the male adults to play with and show appreciation for the "girl" toys and the female adults to do the same with the "boy" toys.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Get them girl stuff.
posted by sammyo at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I got around *MY* problem with this by making my kids a gender neutral playstation that was a store/restaurant/kitchen with all kinds of play food. And a dollhouse with little bears you couldn't tell what sex they were, instead of people dolls.

I didn't want them to have toy guns but then they made guns out of bananas and sticks and I had a real soul searching where I realized that I am expecting them to defend their family - all kids will think about this, but boys want to "practice" (what if a monster comes into the house?!) - I am asking them to defend their family with bare fists. Ten year old little bare fists. That's mean. I then started letting them think about what they would do if a monster or robber came into the house.

I'm not so sure having your kid's friends "respect" a disney princess shirt is really the goal here. Because what if they are rejecting crass commercialism?

But if a male child is wanting to "play dad" and wear a doll or teddy bear in a play baby pack and a male friend teases him about that you need to step in and if you can't talk sense into that kid then he shouldn't be asked over for play dates any more.
posted by cda at 9:49 AM on October 2, 2013


I think that trying to show your boys that "girly things have value" might be barking up the wrong tree, as I'm not sure many of them *do* have any particular value. This isn't to say that "boy" things do have more value, or that all girl things are valueless, but really, what value *is* there to wearing a disney princess shirt, for a little boy or a little girl, besides being able to say "Look, I have a disney princess shirt! Yay branding!" My daughter's favorite shirt has Curious George on it, and while he's not a particularly gendered character (I mean, he's male, but I don't think he's associated with a gendered audience), I don't think that's inherently more valuable to her than just wearing a plain colored shirt.

If you want to show your son how valuable "girl" things are, maybe have them help cook, or make art with them? I just think that using plastic toys and characters that are aggressively marketed as appropriate only for the opposite gender is a sort of losing battle. Disney wants princesses to be for girls. You're probably not going to convince your son that they're wrong about that.

But I'm a single father of a young daughter, so gender roles for my family are slightly off. My daughter thinks everything we do is for boys and girls, because dad does everything that she does and vice versa.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


This time, he told me that if he wore that shirt, kids would laugh at him. I have no idea where he got that from.

He got that from the other kids. The only unusual part of this story is that your 3 year old is already socially aware enough to notice this sort of thing. (which is pretty impressive btw)

It's really really hard to do this -- kids at this age are ruthlessly efficient at enforcing gender norms. (Anecdote: five-year-old Son of Ook came home from preschool and told us he had been playing superhero with his friend Claira instead of with the usual gang of boys who play superhero. We thought yay! Gender lines crossed! Teachable moment! And he said "yeah! I was Luke Skywalker, and she was my pet gerbil Squeaker!" Which was her idea, we ascertained: if he'd forced her into that role we'd have made sure he understood that that was Not Okay; instead we reminded him for the hundredth time that girls can be superheroes too, right? and he's like yeah yeah I knooooooow ugh and we moved on.)

All you can really do is teach by example, remind them that it's okay to like what you like, and be extremely careful never to reinforce those gender norms by referring to anything as "girly" or "for boys" in their presence.
posted by ook at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that trying to show your boys that "girly things have value" might be barking up the wrong tree, as I'm not sure many of them *do* have any particular value. This isn't to say that "boy" things do have more value, or that all girl things are valueless, but really, what value *is* there to wearing a disney princess shirt, for a little boy or a little girl, besides being able to say "Look, I have a disney princess shirt! Yay branding!"

Au contraire! There's an enormous value to children of both genders being able to identify with heroes of either gender. For one thing, it supports empathy across demographical lines. They might be heavily branded, but these are still stories about girls and women who show positive traits--curiosity (Ariel), bookishness (Belle), a desire to protect one's family (Mulan), an ability to endure hardship (Cinderella). And it's good for boys to be able to recognize the positives there, just as it's good for girls to be able to recognize, I don't know, the loyalty of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. They may be branded, but they're still stories, and stories show what we value, for children of either gender.

And there are many positives that come with traditional "girly" imaginative play with dolls, too, from letting children practice nurturing to building social narratives. So yeah, rejecting a Princess Merida dol because you're a boy and other boys will laugh is a sad thing, and not great for the development of little boys, really.

I'd focus on reading many stories with female protagonists of all stripes to your boy, and when he tells you that the other kids laughed at him for wearing a princess shirt, talk a little bit about where that comes from: "The other boys say those things because they think that being pretty is wrong or bad. But it's not. Boys can be pretty too, and they can also dance and sing like Cinderella or Snow White. Just like girls can fight in wars and drive trucks." Your boys will probably be rigid gender enforcers for awhile yet, but just keep reiterating that, though some boys think those things, it's not at all reflective of the real world.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


But I'm a single father of a young daughter, so gender roles for my family are slightly off. My daughter thinks everything we do is for boys and girls, because dad does everything that she does and vice versa.

Also, I think it's important to note that it's much easier for girls to cross gender lines and are less heavily gender-policed than young boys are. A tomboy is cute; a girly boy could be gay and so better not wear those flowery shoes, or whatever. The kids who are policing these gender norms in pre-school sadly might be getting it from their parents. Just something to be aware of.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:24 AM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, I think it's important to note that it's much easier for girls to cross gender lines and are less heavily gender-policed than young boys are. A tomboy is cute; a girly boy could be gay and so better not wear those flowery shoes, or whatever. The kids who are policing these gender norms in pre-school sadly might be getting it from their parents. Just something to be aware of.

I'm aware of this but 1) even though the severity is different, I'm not sure the course of action to take is actually changed that much by it and 2) this is the only experience from which I have to draw. I'm also a man with shaved legs so maybe I just have a high tolerance for potentially appearing gay, which might make me downplay that risk more than some people would.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2013


I was raised a gentle man by a 2nd wave feminist mother and a father who had no objection to these things (and is a minority, so shared experience of being at the wrong end of the privilege stick).

Still, and despite this, I grew up with a very strong sense of gendered normativity. It wasn't particularly because of or in response to the work my Mom and Dad did to try to dismantle that. To be sure, they gave me a really good grounding in their opinions about how gender is mainly performative and that role preference is personal, and doesn't have to be handed down from on high by one's gender preference.

I grew up to find out I was interesex at 19 and my joining and living as a trans person in the trans community followed shortly after (when I met Leslie Feinberg, it happens). That journey is for another discussion, so I'll leave it at that, but I wanted to give you that spoiler as a foil to what I'm about to say.

The reason I grew up with a very strong sense of gendered normativity is that as a child of the 70's, everyone was talking about gender, sex identity, sexuality. There was a lot of uncertainty in the adult world and my sense of it as a kid was that kids reacted a lot of the time by becoming more absolutist. By the mid-70's I hit public school and by then it didn't really matter in terms of sheer volumes of inundation by the normativity police how hard my parents fought against normativity. When I hit school my primary sources of information and indoctrination were school, my peers, my friends.

Like I said, I think the grounding my parents got was deeply helpful in that it gave me more than the standard choices. But. In school, acting in a way that is not normative costs. It costs big. It's a hard road and it led to a lot of the episodes I encountered with bullyiing when I, in gender senses among other weirdnesses I did, caused me to transgress normative boundaries. But I was so weird and so inured that it didn't matter to me what it cost. One thing my Mom did inculcate in me was this enduring willful rebellion that's served me so well in my younger life, letting me bull through otherwise very difficult situations.

I'm not saying that your trying to give your kids more than binary gender choices is a bad thing and I'm not saying that it'll cost them what it cost me. The world's changed since then, a lot, and I think it's a lot safer to behave and speak contrary to normativity. And I think it's worth it to try.

But even without bullying, just realize that if your kids are not going to be homeschooled, they're going to spend a lot of time with people, young and old, who are more interested in fitting in and complying with socially proscriptive cultural guidelines and who will enforce that in themselves and in others (i.e. your kids).

So I think you can do what folks so far have said to help give your kids options and if you're lucky/skilled and your kids are convincing, maybe that attitude will propagate into their social circles, and that would be grand! But don't expect miracles. Often it takes an adult context and adult perspective to truly appreciate the things our parents taught us.

I do think though, that whatever the results, it's worth it to try. Good luck and thanks for doing this work!
posted by kalessin at 11:39 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


How can I help young boys see value in playing with "girl stuff"?

By not having girls play with" girl" stuff.

But that then creates a chicken and egg situation. There is active association and validation on both sides. Luckily, these 'problems' are temporary and very local. The vast majority of the world does not worry about such things, and their kids are not only well-adjusted, but they rank higher than American kids in various areas.

Social engineering you hold dear can just as easily be imparted a bit later, when there will be less confusion and the chance for greater adoption.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2013


When I want to teach my four year old a Big Lesson, I find something relatable and visual - video, pictures, his pre-school friends - to discuss.

In this context, I would say, hey, do you want to see something interesting on my computer? Then show them how boys used to wear dresses and only boys would wear pink. Ask them if they have any girl friends who wear short hair, or pants, and so on. Followed by the obvious segway into a conversation about boy/girl legos/t-shirts.
posted by rada at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think forcing boys and girls to play, be, and think exactly the same is not the same at all as teaching them to respect the opposite sex. I mean I think it's OK that most boys like guns and most girls like dolls. Yeah, it's OK too if a boy likes dolls but that's just not gonna happen as often. We can celebrate our differences and all that. I wouldn't make them play with things they don't want to play with, I would just enforce respect towards others. I mean, in a way, if you go too far you're saying it's NOT OK for boys to only like traditionally "boy stuff" which is defeating the whole point. I do a lot of non-traditional-for-women things but I also don't like the way I look in pantsuits, I prefer to wear a skirt. I don't think my clothing choices imply anything about how I feel about equality between the sexes. Sometimes it's not that deep - especially for 3 year olds
posted by Valkyrie21 at 12:34 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


guess some kid laughed at him at the playground while I wasn't looking, or maybe at preschool. What can I do? I hate the idea that my son and my daughter's male friends think that girls, and girl things, are not worth their respect or affinity.

And you aren't their parents, and you can't change their opinion on that. In the end you're going to have to chose between holding the ideological line on this about how you think the world should be and having your kids(and especially your son, as noted above. Young boys are mean) constantly made fun of for their choices. Especially if you go out of your way to convince them that all the haters are wrong and they should just do their thing.

Either you'll end up frustrated that they don't want to follow your script and become convinced that they're "drinking the kool aid" and hating girly things because they buy that stuff when it's just because they're bullied, or end up with miserable kids trying to follow your lead and "stick it to society".

Definitely discuss it with them, and explain why people don't like this stuff and how it's nonsensical and wrong... but don't expect them to go against the grain at that age. Save that stuff for them to act out against in middle/highschool/college when it actually starts to personally upset them. Give them good answers to "but why does my friend jimmy hate princesses" questions.

I really really really wish i could favorite the post more than once above about how learning that this is a norm, why it's a norm, and why it's wrong is too advanced for that age. Even just "it's wrong and i should go against" is a pretty mean lesson to teach when they can't even grasp exactly the intricacies of why, and when all the other kids will just treat them like shit. This isn't a simple "good vs evil" thing that makes sense to them at that age, it's a lot more insidious and complex than that.

Signed, a homeschooled and alternative school kid who saw a ton of kids who were miserable because their parents drilled in to them "let your freak flag fly! go against the grain! don't let anyone get you down!" at the expense of them being absolute social pariahs then or a couple years later in life. A lot of those kids caught hell from other shitty parents too. It's a hard road to take, and something they should choose on their own if they want to subvert those norms in front of their friends.

It's totally another thing however to teach them they can do whatever they want at home without any judgement. That's a great thing to know.
posted by emptythought at 3:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


This made me thing about the well-known fact that most boys won't play with girls toys or have female heros (e.g. wonder woman / princess merida) while girls are happy to admire batman, superman, and play with guns or other toys that could be considered as being for boys.

Is this the case, though? I guess I could be an outlier, but anecdotally, as a kid I was really not interested in any toys, media, etc. that had no girls at all in it or which could only be used for "masculine-style" play. While I think studies have shown that girls will read books with a male protagonist (Harry Potter, for example) or play with gender-neutral toys, I don't think it's correct to assume that girls as a group will happily center their imaginative lives around "for boys" stuff. And even Harry Potter has lots of interesting female characters!

Re your son and the Disney Princess shirt, why push him? I wouldn't have wanted to wear a Disney Princess shirt as a preschooler, either, and I'm female. It seems weird to try to make your son like something he just isn't interested in. Especially something that offers so little of value even to its target demographic.

As to what you can do, in general?

Make sure your kids know that it is OK to like whatever they like, and OK for them to be themselves. If that's Disney Princesses, great! If that's construction equipment, also great! "But other kids will make fun of me" is not a good enough reason to deny yourself something you otherwise enjoy. That said, I really don't think you should pressure them in the other direction and try to "make" traditionally feminine stuff attractive if they're not interested. Let them develop their interests at their own pace.

Also maybe think outside the gendered toys/media box? I think that's the really damaging aspect of all this stuff, not so much whether boys will play with girl toys. I went to McDonald's recently and noticed that the Happy Meal toy choices were The Wizard Of Oz "for girls" and Batman "for boys". Since when is The Wizard Of Oz "girly"? It's not a movie about nail polish, for chrissakes. This is what I think you should try to transcend, not so much worrying about forcing your son to identify with Tinkerbelle.
posted by Sara C. at 3:31 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a difference between learning 'pink is for girls' (demonstrably false and stupid) and 'lots of people THINK pink is only for girls and can be mean to boys who like pink' (demonstrably true and awful). I have no compunctions about telling my daughter that some people are wrong, and mean, if they tell her she's 'wrong' for liking swords since she's a girl, or are mean if they tease her (male) friend for liking to dress up in princess dresses. People who make fun of you for wearing pants, or playing with friends who are not the same gender? They are jerks. We can go into the intricacies of it, but generally 'they are wrong and mean to behave that way and you do not need to listen to them' is the level we work at.

Learning a social rule like gender isn't going to change anything if we allow 'rules' like 'pink is for girls' or 'boys like violence' to infiltrate and THEN try and address them. Because there is learning social guidelines (like 'people tease non-gender-normative children') is very different to learning that those awful behaviours are 'true'. I am going to challenge shit like 'girls only wear dresses' because not only is it false, it's constrictive and unhelpful for her to internalise that (trying to climb in a skirt is far more difficult). There are patterns, obviously - I wear dresses, daddy doesn't. There are also exceptions - Uncle D has long hair, our friend B has short hair.

So we've got a pretty firm rule that nobody is allowed to slag off genders in our house - there are no girl toys or boys toys, no 'stupid girly pink', no 'boys are gross'. But that's only our house - she knows that at other people's houses they do say those things and think those things - they are wrong, but that's how they think. I cannot make the world treat her well, I cannot make the world treat her respectfully, but I can give her the tools to be herself and that's gotta include calling a jerk a jerk, and knowing when people are wrong, even adults.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I hate the idea that my son and my daughter's male friends think that girls, and girl things, are not worth their respect or affinity.

My impression is that it's not so much they think girl things are not worth anything, but that they're learning (the hard way) that it's socially safer to eschew these things regardless of whether they like them, and that because they don't feel like they fully understand what that's all about, they will carefully over-police themselves to be on the safe side.
Kind of like how kids who do not know what "gay" means (or any other playground accusation) will still adamantly deny being it if accused of it - they're reacting to the social dynamic. A passing of judgement on the toy is for show and conformity (or an appeal for a toy where they won't be worried about what their friends think). In the privacy of their own room they may be less inhibited.

Some ideas that may or may not be useful:
Maybe make sure that their toy collection usually includes some kind of girl toy that is legitimately awesome to play with, but which doesn't need to be public knowledge or played with publicly. For example, perhaps a big Lego Friends set? It's brand new Lego, that's got to be tempting, and (as you saw) they don't have to use the parts when playing with Lego around their friends, (in fact they can make a show of ignoring the parts, when they feel they might be judged), but they can be tempted to use them when playing alone, and keep alive the idea that this stuff is fun to play with regardless of being pink.

Or maybe get them stealth girl toys, such as Cynder or Sonic Boom for the Skylanders game (they're kick-ass dragons... in a game that boys (and girls) love... that happen to be female. The 3yo is too young for Skylanders, but it's just an example from what I know)
posted by anonymisc at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2013


In the longer run, you can combat this by trying to stay away from stereotyped "male" and "female" activities, clothing, friend groups, chores, tv shows, hobbies, etc. yourself. If you can get any other parent figures in your son and daughter's lives to do the same, that will go far in building their ideas about what men and women can do.

Over time, if your children have these attitudes and values, as they grow up they will tend to pick friends who feel similarly. As to what you can do to change the attitudes of another parent's 5 year old, your options are rather limited -- you might get these boys to play with dolls, but if they go home and their own parents tell them it's for girls and they shouldn't do it and it's wrong, you will have trouble getting any lasting change in attitudes.
posted by yohko at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Re your son and the Disney Princess shirt, why push him? I wouldn't have wanted to wear a Disney Princess shirt as a preschooler, either, and I'm female. It seems weird to try to make your son like something he just isn't interested in. Especially something that offers so little of value even to its target demographic.

What I've been trying to do with my experimental subject of 1 little girl (nearing age 3) is be casual and question. For the shirt, maybe something like, [quizzical face] "Huh. I think it's a cool shirt -- I like the pictures and it's so soft. But you don't have to wear it if you don't want to. Shall we give it away or keep it for awhile?"

A couple weeks back, she was rejecting her green, girl cut with slight ruffled edge, Angry Birds underpants (so awesome, right?) because they were "for boys." I was all, "What? These are Angry Birds underpants! These are for everyone! But these ones are yours so they must be for girls. But, if you don't want to wear them today, you may pick something else." A couple days later (because I am evil), I said about some princessy underpants, "You know, I think these might be for boys...what do you think?" She did think about it and she couldn't express why the Angry Birds underpants might be for boys only but she decided I was wrong about the princess underpants. And now she's put Angry Birds back in rotation.

But, it's all very startling how soon this stuff starts up and the parameters it takes. With the boys disinterest in the girl Lego figs, I'd be tempted to jump in and start giving different figs special superpowers. "This girl can fly! This girl can lift 1-million-pounds! This boy can talk to bats! This boy can sew costumes!" and see if that intrigues them. Change the narrative.

I also try to watch my defaults. For my daughter, all her stuffed animals are girls. All random people are girls. I made up a song for her about the dentist – the dentist is a "she." I feel like maybe, charitably, 25% of the world is reserved for girls. The rest is for the boys. So, I have to give her those heroes that relate to her. Boys, the world is their oyster. But, maybe if 50% of the stuffed animals and heroes and made-up people are girls, that helps boys in their evolving narrative and world-view, too.
posted by amanda at 9:54 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


So we've got a pretty firm rule that nobody is allowed to slag off genders in our house - there are no girl toys or boys toys, no 'stupid girly pink', no 'boys are gross'.

I think this is the most important thing. I trained and worked with children for years, but have none of my own, so adjust your grains of salt accordingly.

It's always going to be hard, once your kids are spending a lot of time out of your influence and out in the wild amongst other children raised by Ford knows who, to know if they're choosing toys, clothes, etc. based on their own tastes, on what they think their friends will like, or on marketing.

The only part of the process that I can't see as anything but 100% damaging is when value judgments are applied to those choices. And it isn't just boys - I see girls doing it to other girls all the time, too.*

So, I guess one thing to do is allow kids to play with/wear what they like, but insist that they respect other kids' choices in the same way they want their own choices respected. "Well, maybe Johnny doesn't like YOUR shirt, either. But those are just your opinions, and you keep them to yourselves, because it's rude to say so."

So, I guess one thing to do is to talk to kids when they reject those things. Not A Big Important Talk, but more like amanda's awesome casual underpants questions. If Child A rejects LEGO Figure in Flowered Shirt B, see if he can articulate why. If his answer sounds more like, "I identify more with figures that look like what I like to wear," and less like "Flowered shirts are stupid because girls wear them to look frivolous and silly," then he/she's probably OK.

*Anecdata time - as a girl with a horrible relationship with my father from day one - a father who never made a secret of his bitter disappointment over not having sons - I watched the girls in my cohort with their fathers carefully. I'm convinced more than one talked herself into an overblown hatred of "girl toys" in an attempt to please a father like mine. (I learned early on there was no pleasing mine and stopped trying.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:34 AM on October 3, 2013


I'm convinced more than one talked herself into an overblown hatred of "girl toys" in an attempt to please a father like mine.

N.B. I'm not saying none of them had a genuine distaste. But some of them did protest too much, methinks.

posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 AM on October 3, 2013


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