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Feminine behavior in a little boy

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

My son is almost three and has always been very feminine.  It's not just that he plays with dolls and wants to wear princess dresses.  He has always been more social than spacial.  When he builds a tower out of Duplos, he puts a head, arms and legs on it.  He sometimes plays with toy cars, but they have conversations with each other and he wraps them in blankets and rocks them to sleep.  Someone suggested that he has more feminine behavior because he's the only child of a single mom, but I'm a lesbian and not terribly feminine myself.  For example, my son is obsessed with wearing "beautiful dresses" but I haven't worn a dress since before he was born.  I fix things around the house, and while he's interested in my tool box, he just enjoys sorting the nails or making families out of the screwdrivers.  He doesn't pretend to build or fix things.  You would think that being a lesbian, I would be a very supportive parent, but in fact, his behavior really terrifies me.  I'm afraid he'll be teased or worse.  And I'm ashamed to admit it, but I feel embarrassed and afraid of other people's censure.  So I'm asking if there are other parents who have feminine boys and if so, how do you handle it?  

post #2 of 23

I personally don't think those behaviours are feminine. He sounds a lovely nurturing and caring wee boy (I figured my son was like that because he has a daddy who has been a good role model on caring for children). My son isn't the rough type. At almost 8 he'll play role-play games with his younger sister and they feed and dress the dolls (less so as he gets older). He's certainly all "boy" though and will play "boy" games too, climb trees, hoon around on his bike, build huts, fits in with boys of all types (although prefers non-aggressive kids to play with) etc. He's just got a more in tune and caring nature than some boys (I wouldn't even say most, because out of my friends with similar age boys, he's not too dissimilar). At school he thinks of others, shares, helps the girls sort out their cattyness (asks them if they want to apologise to their friends etc lol). I just put it down to his personality type rather than a gender thing.

post #3 of 23

I also don't think that sounds very feminine.  DD is all girl (princess dresses, loves pink etc) but is very visual spatial.  She's great a puzzles, likes legos etc.  She also thinks airplanes, firetrucks, and busses are really cool.  She's a big soccer fan and loved to scream "goooaaaalll!!" at the last world cup.  We've never designated anything as "girl" interests or "boy" interests and just follow her lead on everything.  I really doubt that at the preschool level it's going to be a big issue.  I spent a few days at her preschool and I never once noticed the boys and girls being attracted to certain toys/activities due to their gender.  They all fought over the same purple balloon. lol.gif

 

I'm trying to say this as gently as possible.. but it honestly sounds like you might be projecting some of your own issues on your son?  DD and I both share sleep issues and it's hard some times to remind myself to go about things differently than what I needed as a kid because she is her own person and has different needs in that regard than I did. 

 

FWIW, I have a couple of family members who are gay/lesbian.  One of them relates more to the opposite gender but that person's sons, who are already grown, are all boys (one is even a construction worker!).  The other member of my family grew up and identified very much with their own gender (almost to the extreme) so it's really hard to predict such things. 

 

I'd just follow his lead and try not to pressure him into certain activities.  If he does end up being more feminine he's going to need your support in the long run so try to reassure him that his feelings are ok. 

 

post #4 of 23

what scares you about his behavior is that you're afraid of censure..  how are you able to weather this yourself?  it's hard to imagine your child being judged by other people, maybe think about what you tell yourself when others judge you?  i say this gently, but as a lesbian, surely you realize that gender is socially constructed and this notion of 'femininity' is pretty silly, especially when as a woman you embrace roles, a look, etc. that typically are considered 'masculine' in our society?

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #5 of 23

He sounds just like my son.  DS just turned 2 - his favorite colors are pink and purple, he plays with dolls, doll houses, stuffed animals, but rarely plays with cars or any of those stereotypical boy things.  He's extremely social and verbal and prefers to play with older girls (like 7 to 10 year olds).  I let him choose a step stool last week - pink dora stool or blue toy story.  Why did I even bother asking?  It was pink Dora for sure ;) 

 

His other mother and I try to keep things non-gender based.  We let him do what he is interested in.  We will support him in whatever choices he makes or preferences he has.  Yes, he may face some teasing when he gets older, but not now.  Pre-schoolers don't care so much.  If he continues to choose thing people view as feminine, he will likely end up a stronger man for it.  We'll handle any teasing as it comes, and encourage him to be an individual and true to himself.

 

Try not to feel embarrased by your sons actions.  He will need you to be an example of how it isn't important what others think of him.  I understand the fear of him being teased "or worse", so teach him to be confident in himself.  I think confident people are more likely to make friends and less likely to be teased than the kids that hide in the shadows ashamed of themselves. 

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjames View Post

My son is almost three and has always been very feminine.  It's not just that he plays with dolls and wants to wear princess dresses.  He has always been more social than spacial.  When he builds a tower out of Duplos, he puts a head, arms and legs on it.  He sometimes plays with toy cars, but they have conversations with each other and he wraps them in blankets and rocks them to sleep.  Someone suggested that he has more feminine behavior because he's the only child of a single mom, but I'm a lesbian and not terribly feminine myself.  For example, my son is obsessed with wearing "beautiful dresses" but I haven't worn a dress since before he was born.  I fix things around the house, and while he's interested in my tool box, he just enjoys sorting the nails or making families out of the screwdrivers.  He doesn't pretend to build or fix things.  You would think that being a lesbian, I would be a very supportive parent, but in fact, his behavior really terrifies me.  I'm afraid he'll be teased or worse.  And I'm ashamed to admit it, but I feel embarrassed and afraid of other people's censure.  So I'm asking if there are other parents who have feminine boys and if so, how do you handle it?  


I don't really know if my input qualifies as I'm not the mother of any boys at this time.  However, since you posted for advice I thought I would respond; you can take it or leave it as you find it helpful.

 

Just to be upfront my lifestyle and situation are totally different from where you find yourself, and I don't mean to be judgmental in any way, but looking at a situation from different perspectives can sometimes be helpful in solving the problem.  So with that disclaimer in place...

 

I would first say that even though you do not portray yourself to your ds in a feminine way, the single parenthood still could be part of the reason why his behavior is more feminine.  You may not be feminine, but you are still female and even children can tell the difference between a man and a woman.  This may be stemming from a lack of a father figure in his life.  Regardless of your family values or lifestyle, boys need some sort of father figure that is constantly available to them so that they can learn what it is to be a man.  Without a father figure he has no guide or rule to help him learn what being a boy is all about.  Another reason might be because you are not very feminine perhaps he is craving that feminine presence on a deeper level.  It could be the former, latter, both or none of the above reasons.  You know your son better than anyone else.

 

One more thing I wanted to say, and again I don't mean this to be judgmental in any way, but the fact that you are uncomfortable with your son's behavior may not be stemming just from your concern for him socially, although that certainly is a factor.  I encourage you to take a serious inventory of your feelings, not only with regards to your son but also with your views on gender roles as a whole.  There may be some deeper meaning to your discomfort that you have not yet explored.

 

It is very possible that your concern for his social welfare may just be a subconscious masking of a deeper dissonance about your own views on gender roles.  The PP suggested that gender roles are totally societally constructed and the idea of femininity is "silly".  However, I would have to disagree with this purely on the basis of nature itself.  If people were born into this world "gender neutral" there would be no biological distinction between boys and girls, but there is.  The role of gender had always been decided by biological factors before any sort of societal pressure developed concerning appropriate gender role behavior.  The only choice we really have in this life is whether or not to embrace the role that God (in nature) has given to us, or to reject it and take on the behaviors and appearances of a role we were not made for.

 

Just to be clear... I'm not judging, just offering a different point of view.

 

post #7 of 23

From a public school teacher's perspective, I understand your fear of teasing and bullying.  The truth of the matter is that school can be a harsh place and it is up to the teachers and parents to make sure all children are respected and provided a safe environment to learn in.  In my years teaching, I have often had male students who have exhibited more nurturing, creative and/or expressive characteristics that have been labeled as feminine.  They have often been teased by other students and it has been my job to advocate and create a classroom climate where students support each other rather than criticize each other. 

 

I have also seen the benefit of parents who whole heartedly support their children no matter what types of characteristics they exhibit.  If he continue to exhibit behaviors that are different from the "norm" it will be really important that he can count on your acceptance and support! I am sure you will do that and as long as he has a loving family who will stick up for him if things get tough... he'll not only be just fine, but probably an even stronger individual.  My son is just less than a year old but I would be thrilled if he turns out as caring and nurturing as your little guy!

post #8 of 23

He sounds a lot like my 3 year old boy, and I think it is normal. We have a mother-father family. He is also very gentle and caring with my youngest, almost 11 month old girl, more than my 5 year old DD. He is always the one playing with the new child in the class, is always caring for his babydoll, etc. I believe he is just a very gentle caring boy, just like yours seem to be.

 

Carma

post #9 of 23

Sounds like normal behavior for a three year old child. I don't think those are feminine but I don't think of play in terms of gender much. (Or probably more truthfull, I am ruthless about buying a wide range of gender netral toys and non-licensed stuff because I don't want someone else's lousy ideas about gender shoved down our throats.) My son has always been really into playing games with figures and animals either Schliech or Duplo or stuffed animals. We use all colors. We are dying underpants this weekend pink and purple because I couldn't find any at the store. (No surprise there but they were requested)  At almost four, he is more rough and tumble then in the past but at 2 and 3 he was not at all.

 

My son sees a lot of positive parenting from pink-shirt-wearing DH so that sort of play just reflects his life. If he wants "to be a girl today" or whatever that is okay.

 

 

post #10 of 23

I can't seem to edit my early comments. I just reread your post.

 

I understand, or at least I think I understand, that gender and gender expression can be a complicated issue in the lesbian community. I think one of the previous posters was expressing this as well from a different perspective. This may be the source of your fears and concern. But really, really, really it sounds like normal three year old behavior. Lots of boys act this way and it is totally normal. I really think the only difference is that I as a parent and perhaps are not constantly trying to make him more agressive or steering him away from the toys he likes or forcing sports or whatever. I see this all the time. I see this at the park all the time. 

 

DS doesn't get teased at preschool. He is pretty middle of the road. There are some more agressive purely physical kids and then the boys who play make believe and dolls almost exclusively.

 

 

 

 

post #11 of 23

I don't think your son sounds particularly "feminine". I think he sounds like a fun lovely confident little boy.

 

I am a queer woman myself, married to a trans guy didn't transition until after we married. From a queer perspective, I totally get some of your discomfort around gender expression in your children. If you've ever experienced discrimination, harassment or violence based on your own gender expression at any point in your life, I totally understand being fearful for your son possibly experiencing the same in his life. As parents we want to protect our kids and when we know the world to not be a safe place for those who express their gender in ways that may not "fit" with how they're "supposed to", it can be frightening to think of what might happen to them.

 

My DH is a very confident out transman and not ashamed at all of who he is. However, I know he is scared about the possibility of our children being trans as well and I know that he doesn't want them to be trans. Not to say that I think your son is transgendered himself - I definitely don't based on how you described him here - but just to let you know that I do *get* it.

 

It is likely that you are projecting your own fears and insecurities and anxieties on him. Do you have a lot of queer community in your life? If not, I would perhaps try and find some and talk to other queer folk about your feelings. There's a Queer Parenting subforum on MDC that might be a good place to start talking about some of this as well. Also, if you've had some experiences in the past with being "censured" for your own gender expression, you might want to start exploring that and healing from it yourself as a way to figure out how to accept your son in all of who he is.

 

You sound like a great mom. Good luck.

post #12 of 23


At that young of an age it is just your son being himself! I think it's awesome. My son (now age 15) used to love to play with dolls, feed them, hold them and cuddle them, sleep with them, had a kitchen set with stove/fridge/sink and food and other stuff as well as the usual boy toys. But I loved how he could be himself and had varied interests and we never expected him to be a "boy" as the world sees a boy should be. I think it's wonderful the behavior your son is showing! :-)  He is being himself. This is why I loved homeschooling the earlier years. Children can still be their true selves for many years. It's when they go to daycare, preschool or school and see what others their gender are doing and they feel pressured to follow what tends to be called "the norm" in our society.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tjames View Post

My son is almost three and has always been very feminine.  It's not just that he plays with dolls and wants to wear princess dresses.  He has always been more social than spacial.  When he builds a tower out of Duplos, he puts a head, arms and legs on it.  He sometimes plays with toy cars, but they have conversations with each other and he wraps them in blankets and rocks them to sleep.  Someone suggested that he has more feminine behavior because he's the only child of a single mom, but I'm a lesbian and not terribly feminine myself.  For example, my son is obsessed with wearing "beautiful dresses" but I haven't worn a dress since before he was born.  I fix things around the house, and while he's interested in my tool box, he just enjoys sorting the nails or making families out of the screwdrivers.  He doesn't pretend to build or fix things.  You would think that being a lesbian, I would be a very supportive parent, but in fact, his behavior really terrifies me.  I'm afraid he'll be teased or worse.  And I'm ashamed to admit it, but I feel embarrassed and afraid of other people's censure.  So I'm asking if there are other parents who have feminine boys and if so, how do you handle it?  



 

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

But I'm also a developmental psychologist and have studied gender and sexuality.  Gender is a social construct, but it is based on sex, which is not.  The research shows that there are biological differences between the sexes, whether we want to admit it or not.  Even baby boy monkeys prefer playing with cars and baby girl monkeys prefer baby dolls. Boys who have had their sex changed to female at birth still play in a masculine way and prefer "boy" toys. 

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 

I don't actually embrace roles or a look that are traditionally masculine.  My work and interests are stereotypically female and my clothing is similar to that of other women I work with.  I'm not advocating gender roles, I'm just saying that being a lesbian doesn't mean I'm masculine.  And my fear isn't so much that my son is gay, as that he'll be (and to some extent has been) harassed or teased by adults who think he should be more masculine.  I knew a young man who was murdered for being gay and he wasn't even gay; just acted feminine.

post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  That's really helpful.

post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by tjames View Post

I don't actually embrace roles or a look that are traditionally masculine.  My work and interests are stereotypically female and my clothing is similar to that of other women I work with.  I'm not advocating gender roles, I'm just saying that being a lesbian doesn't mean I'm masculine.  And my fear isn't so much that my son is gay, as that he'll be (and to some extent has been) harassed or teased by adults who think he should be more masculine.  I knew a young man who was murdered for being gay and he wasn't even gay; just acted feminine.


ah.. if that is in response to my post, i apologize if i read more into the part of your post where you described yourself as 'not terribly feminine' and not having worn a dress etc. 

 

and fwif, i've looked at the alexander article you mentioned, just not sure if i buy it. and one study on fewer than 50 monkeys certainly doesn't prove anything even if i did agree. 

 

i wonder if there's a way to maybe role play or use dolls or animals to demonstrate responses to teasing like that?  that's all i got...  are there maybe environments that you could seek out in which behaviors like you describe aren't out of the ordinary so you can lessen your fears and/or show your ds that there's a wide range of possibilities for boys?  or maybe try to suggest things to improve that situation-- like if he's in a school or a daycare, try to observe and see if there are neutral and householding activity spaces, etc.  and if all children are encouraged to use them?  and if not, see if you can prod that into reality a little? 

 


Edited by hildare - 4/2/11 at 9:41am
post #17 of 23

Your son sounds a lot like mine.  He had a stay at home dad who is very into manly-men boys and would himself try to urge masculine behavior on DS...DS would have none of it.  He is dead into trains, and tracks, though.  But sports...not at all.  Violence?  Scares the day light out of him.  I don't think it's your influence.  Kids like what they like and are drawn to their preferences for any number of reasons.  But who their parents are isn't one of them if you ask me.  

 

He used to go into my closet and try on my high heels at about 15 months.  DH was freaked.  But it was all for nothing. 

 

Not to worry, for better or worse he will be taught the ways of kids when he gets to kindergarten and they have Boy toys and girls toys (okay, maybe that is just here in latin america where my son was actually not allowed to play with Barbie by the school because those were "for girls" and was told he could only play with the cars and trucks or the paints...he chose the playdoh and paints. (Oh did we ever have a firey parents-teacher day over THAT one!)  he learned that pink and purple and butterflies and flowers were symbols for girls and blue and green and primary colors and transport were symbols for boys.  They taught him everything he'd ever need to know.

 

He has learned not to tell people at school that he likes to watch Angelina Ballerina.

 

The thruth is as it seems you may have guessed, the kids are not really the ones you have to worry about. It is the grown ups who will be the biggest bullies about it. The only thing you can really do is tell them in the most polite terms possible to piss off. I had to really lay into a few people publically and in front of my son to shut the F up, go read and book and stop being so flipping ignorant, especially teachers and adminstrators at school.  It was mind boggling how close minded and cruel they could be "for the child's own good."  (gag me!)  They seemed to think it was their job to train my child how to be a boy rather than how to function as PERSON in society.  It made me absolutely terrified to have a girl at school age.  At least boys are trained to be dominant and powerful and cunning whereas the girls are trained to be submissive and delicate and even in kindergarten are trained to use their bodies and girlish good looks to get ahead.  You will have to advocate for him, but do not be surprised if he goes through phases of being simply the opposite of himself or of rejecting things he loved before.  It is part of their growing up to discover what they like, what they "should" like and eventually what they really like.  As long as he can trust in you to be his champion and advocate for his right to be whatever version of himself he feels like being that day you are doing the best thing for him.

 

It's scary having a kid who marches to their own drummer, but these are the people in the world who have changed history.  They may suffer in childhood in terms of not being liked by everyone, but as long as they like themselves and know how much you love them and are proud of them they will never be alone and they will turn out to be awesome people. 


Edited by hakeber - 4/2/11 at 2:07pm
post #18 of 23

I hear your fears Mama, and if your kid is gay, he will need a fierce mama bear and an advocate. The best you can do for your kid is no matter who he is, is love him, support him and be there for him.  Its a scary world out there and discrimination is a terrible, life shattering thing, but him knowing their will always be someone on his side is the most amazing gift.

post #19 of 23

One of the things we started doing at around 4.5 was to remind DS that if a another child  was being rude to him (he had a bad few weeks in school of being teased for a lot of different things and was very sad over it all -- he's not got a mean streak to him at all and he was really confused by this sort of ganging up and meanness) he was entitled to say to them "I do not want to be around you right now.  I'm going over there to play." and that he had every right to remove himself and find a new place to play and if they followed him to seek the company of a protective adult.  He didn't have to change himself to fit with them if they were being creeps.  He was also entitled to inform adults of their unacceptable behavior as politely as can be. He once said to a co-worker of mine: "That's pretty rude, Ben. I think I'm going to go to my room until you feel like apologizing to me."  I was floored, but I had to agree with him.  Ben had been very rude to him making fun of his drawing which he had been quietly working on quite hard.

 

Most people think he is very precocious and a little bit precious, but I'm really proud that he has the confidence to stand up for himself, take care of his own needs and not let people push him around.  I was never so brave as a kid and I suffered through most of my childhood being bullied by others and trying to prove to them that I could fit in, that I was worthy of their friendship...I really wish I'd been as brave as he is. 

post #20 of 23

We handle it by letting our son be himself and calling people who take issue with him out. Well we call the adults out, we explain to other children that everyone has things they like and don't like and that is not as connected to biological sex as many would have you believe.

 

And for the record, research show a generalization. It does not apply to everyone all the time. I know plenty of boys who couldn't care less about cars or tools or rough play and plenty of girls who spend their childhood wrestling and getting dirty and pushing little cars around since they were teeny tiny little people.

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