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Question
Posted by: Anon | 2010-03-04

When a boy likes girlish things

What should parents do when small boys (in this case a 3-year-old and 6-year-old that come from completely different families) show a tendency to dress like a girl and want hair clips and nail polish etc? I believe people are free to be whoever they are, but should parents let their kids make this kind of decision at such an early age or somehow convince the child to do boyish things until they are big enough to decide? The problem here is that I don''t know if boys who like to behave like a girl are likely to always behave so, in which case parents would just be doing the right thing in letting them be themselves. Or... if they could turn to their parents one day when they are older and ask them why they had allowed them to be " different" , when they in fact weren''t. I have a friend who went this path. He never saw his dad and grew up surrounded by women only, so he got some girlish features that ended up making it very hard for other boys to become friends with him, so he was left with the girls'' group. In high school, everyone thought he was gay, so girls never showed any interest in dating him. Only later did he tell me his story and how he wished he had had a typical boyish childhood and that he had had the same chances to have a girlfriend as the other boys. He blames his mother and sisters (and his dad, for leaving them). He''s grown to be a suicidal person even. Always sad and solitary. So I wonder what position parents should take when it comes to such a situation where children prefer things that are typical of the opposite sex or don''t have a same-sex model they could follow.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

This is an extremely complex question, actually, and there is very little good research or broad experience as a basis for answering it. I have seen some studies showing that many boys who were effeminate in interests and behaviours when young, still grow into ordinary heterosexual males ; and on the other hand, many kids who grow up to be homosexual are not noticeably different as kids, though some are.
Many ordinary kids experiment with cross-dressing , and boys may temporarily find it intriguing, because girls get the opportunity to wear fancy clothes, makeup, and other paraphenalia, whereas boys get few if an chances to "dress up" and play fantasy roles as boys. When I was younger, it was more usual for boys to have more options, like dressing up as cowboys or indians, or other forms of more masculine fancy-dress, but this seems to have faded out. Similarly, some otherwise entirelyordinary boys might play with dolls, but the availability of Action Figures and more masculine dolls has made this a better alternative for them.
3 is a bit young to start this individually, and I'd guess that the kid of 3 is imitating and going along with the more dominant older kid of 6
Have you discussed this with them ? Maybe best to do this individually rather than together ?
Have you asked them whether they recognize that this isn't usual ( a more useful term here than "normal" ) and that other people might think it odd ? It's not that one wants to force society's expectations on them, but if any child feels they want to be significantly different from others, its as well for them to recognize that others may respond unpleasantly, and at least may tease them.

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Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010-03-04

This is an extremely complex question, actually, and there is very little good research or broad experience as a basis for answering it. I have seen some studies showing that many boys who were effeminate in interests and behaviours when young, still grow into ordinary heterosexual males ; and on the other hand, many kids who grow up to be homosexual are not noticeably different as kids, though some are.
Many ordinary kids experiment with cross-dressing , and boys may temporarily find it intriguing, because girls get the opportunity to wear fancy clothes, makeup, and other paraphenalia, whereas boys get few if an chances to "dress up" and play fantasy roles as boys. When I was younger, it was more usual for boys to have more options, like dressing up as cowboys or indians, or other forms of more masculine fancy-dress, but this seems to have faded out. Similarly, some otherwise entirelyordinary boys might play with dolls, but the availability of Action Figures and more masculine dolls has made this a better alternative for them.
3 is a bit young to start this individually, and I'd guess that the kid of 3 is imitating and going along with the more dominant older kid of 6
Have you discussed this with them ? Maybe best to do this individually rather than together ?
Have you asked them whether they recognize that this isn't usual ( a more useful term here than "normal" ) and that other people might think it odd ? It's not that one wants to force society's expectations on them, but if any child feels they want to be significantly different from others, its as well for them to recognize that others may respond unpleasantly, and at least may tease them.

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