WWYD re: little boy and gender roles in play? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 11-30-2007, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi! I have a 5yo little boy. We have, so far, pretty much avoided any solid gender-role stereotypes with him (let him have "girl" toys if they interest him, pink stuff when he wants, etc), but recently this is causing him a little bit of trouble with some friends of ours. Two little girls we play with, ages 5 and 8, like to pretend to be princesses. When they do, my ds likes to be a princess with them, but is told that, being a boy, he has to be a prince. (He objects to this quite strongly, and insists that if they are princesses, he, too, can be a princess.)
My first instinct would be to let him be whatever he wants to be- he is only pretending, and seems to only want to do what they're doing. But these girls are very insistant, and it has lead to fights, frustration, and him, usually, playing by himself with hurt feelings.
Should I correct him? Tell him that boys have to be princes? Or should I let him be?
He is an Aspie, and has some trouble understanding social rules in the first place, so I am kind of wavering between teaching him this social rule so that he will not be left out/made fun of vs. giving him the freedom to play as his imagination directs him.
Ideas? Anyone been through this already?
TIA!

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#2 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 12:03 AM
 
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Is there any way you can say "in our house anyone can be a princess (or whatever it is)"? Or let them know that when they play they should play inclusively ie what your son wants to be called is acceptable and they should not tell him otherwise? I have only one boy and in our house, only the player is allowed to label themselves. If he wants to be a princess, then everyone else has to play with him as a princess. I don't think there is anything wrong with giving him the freedom to play and I would say that if the girls aren't respectful then it may not be an ideal playdate situation.

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#3 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 12:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Is there any way you can say "in our house anyone can be a princess (or whatever it is)"? Or let them know that when they play they should play inclusively ie what your son wants to be called is acceptable and they should not tell him otherwise? I have only one boy and in our house, only the player is allowed to label themselves. If he wants to be a princess, then everyone else has to play with him as a princess. I don't think there is anything wrong with giving him the freedom to play and I would say that if the girls aren't respectful then it may not be an ideal playdate situation.
That's the rule at our house, too- everyone gets to be whoever they want to be. The girls are usually wonderful- they are generally very respectful of his quirks. It just seems that on this one thing is an issue.
I was just wondering if I was doing him a disservice somehow

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#4 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 08:56 AM
 
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I would absolutely not correct HIM, I would correct the girls! If he wants to pretend to be a princess, than a princess he can be.

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#5 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 10:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by blsilva View Post
He is an Aspie, and has some trouble understanding social rules in the first place
In that case I would probably tell the girls he can do what he chooses. But by age 5 if he were in a traditional kindergarten class at school then he would do more gender specific things. Why is it that you don't want him to do both? Why be so against him choosing the boy role? I just don't get that part. It's as if you're deadset against teaching him that he can do both when there is already someone else (i.e. a girl) doing the girls role. If he were playing with a group of boys and still felt this way would you be so bothered by it? Shouldn't there come a time as he gets older and older that he should be told that he needs to do both if needed or do the boy toy if someone else has already chosen the girl toy. Sometimes in life we have to do things according to society, even as adults. It sucks but we do.

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#6 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 01:01 PM
 
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In that case I would probably tell the girls he can do what he chooses. But by age 5 if he were in a traditional kindergarten class at school then he would do more gender specific things. Why is it that you don't want him to do both? Why be so against him choosing the boy role? I just don't get that part. It's as if you're deadset against teaching him that he can do both when there is already someone else (i.e. a girl) doing the girls role. If he were playing with a group of boys and still felt this way would you be so bothered by it? Shouldn't there come a time as he gets older and older that he should be told that he needs to do both if needed or do the boy toy if someone else has already chosen the girl toy. Sometimes in life we have to do things according to society, even as adults. It sucks but we do.
I think she meant, should she encourage him to play the "boy" role, even though he wants to play the "girl" role. My son has Asperger's as well. Children with Asperger's need more social cues and advice. In short, they are often clueless about what's "socially acceptable". I have pictures of my son somewhere when he was playing Princesses with my little girl. The both had on Princess dresses and tiaras. It was wonderful that they were playing together and so nicely, but at the same time, I was painfully aware that, he could get seriously picked on, resulting in even more social issues and self esteem issues, if he were to act the same way at school. Of course children shouldn't have to conform to everyone else's standards to fit in, but in my case, my son's emotional wellbeing came first and I used it as a learning esperience, explaining to him that, although it's wonderful that he plays such nice boy AND girl oriented games at home, he might want to be careful about doing it as much as school because not everybody thinks the way we do and that some people might not think it's okay to play that role. That he can if he wants, but he should be away of possible repercussions from his peers if he does. Know what I mean?

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#7 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 01:24 PM
 
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The little girl friends don't get to make the rules in your house. You do. So, if in your house, anyone can play any role they want, I would just tell the girls this.
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#8 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 02:07 PM
 
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I've got a 4 1/2 yr old Aspie son as well, and he loves playing princess and dressup in pretty clothes. Since most if his friends are girls, we've played this way for a while. The girls are starting to get more harsh about the rules of play with regards to gender. They are still young enough though that a kind word from an adult that anyone can play anything- and it's OK. If anything, they just ignore him.
However, we've had some experiences lately where he has been exposed to more "traditional" boy roles. There was a dressup birthday party, and another boy was playing knights with swords. While my son definitely started with the high heels and pretty gloves, he ended up being fascinated by the idea of the strong knight protecting the castle with the sword. I think that even with our kids, who have a harder time pickingup on social cues, the boy gene is pretty strong, and I am starting to think that my son will make the transition himself into "boyish" play by himself. In the meantime, he is happy being a princess doctor- as he was last week.
I think in our case, a lot of it has to do with exposure too. We watch some TV, but not tons. And, it's always playhouse disney when we do...mickey mouse clubhouse, etc. My son hasn't been exposed to ninja turtles, superheroes, and all of those types of roles. Since he has Asperger's, he isn't picking up on those options from outside influences. And, I think that lack of exposure has made a difference in what he takes on as roles in his play.
Anyway...there's a bunch of random thoughts for you!
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#9 of 17 Old 12-01-2007, 03:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by harleyhalfmoon View Post
I think she meant, should she encourage him to play the "boy" role, even though he wants to play the "girl" role. My son has Asperger's as well. Children with Asperger's need more social cues and advice. In short, they are often clueless about what's "socially acceptable". I have pictures of my son somewhere when he was playing Princesses with my little girl. The both had on Princess dresses and tiaras. It was wonderful that they were playing together and so nicely, but at the same time, I was painfully aware that, he could get seriously picked on, resulting in even more social issues and self esteem issues, if he were to act the same way at school. Of course children shouldn't have to conform to everyone else's standards to fit in, but in my case, my son's emotional wellbeing came first and I used it as a learning esperience, explaining to him that, although it's wonderful that he plays such nice boy AND girl oriented games at home, he might want to be careful about doing it as much as school because not everybody thinks the way we do and that some people might not think it's okay to play that role. That he can if he wants, but he should be away of possible repercussions from his peers if he does. Know what I mean?
This pretty much sums up my situation (better than I could ) I am not against him playing the boy role- he has plenty of boy toys, and plays boy games/roles as well. But, when everyone else is being a princess, he sees no reason why he cannot be a princess as well. I have a hard time telling him that he cannot be who he wants to be, but I also do not want him to be teased later on over something he does not fully understand.
Though, being homeschooled, his exposure to kids who would tease him is very limited, I still want him to feel comfortable around kids he meets, say, at the park, kwim?

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Originally Posted by splotchy1 View Post
I think in our case, a lot of it has to do with exposure too. We watch some TV, but not tons. And, it's always playhouse disney when we do...mickey mouse clubhouse, etc. My son hasn't been exposed to ninja turtles, superheroes, and all of those types of roles. Since he has Asperger's, he isn't picking up on those options from outside influences. And, I think that lack of exposure has made a difference in what he takes on as roles in his play.
We, also, watch mostly preschool programming, so he is not getting the exposure to superheros, pirates, etc that others might.

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#10 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 11:54 AM
 
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First of all, I don't think she is "deadset" against him playing the boys role. It sounds more like she wants to allow him the freedom of choosing what role he wants to play. And I think that allowing children to make their own choices is a good thing.
That said, my opinion is that in this day and age, where girls are played up to be the best and boys are so criticized ("girls rule, boys drool" and so forth, on t-shirts, etc.), I would find a way to make the boys role more appealing. Perhaps during the course of the day, just saying something about how cool it is to be a boy, how daring a prince is, daddy (or grandpa, or a favorite uncle) likes to be the prince, something like that. Let him think about that at a time when not playing these games. Then when this situation arises again, maybe he'll remember what you said and WANT to be the prince.

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#11 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 12:30 PM
 
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I consider not being so restrained by gender roles to be a GIFT of Asperger's and I think it is a mistake to tell him he has to conform in play with a gender stereotype. I have zero problem with saying that there are areas of manners, hygiene, reading social cues where he may need more specific limits than some kids might, but I don't think this is one of them.

I think it is fine to explain to him that some people think girls can only do somethings and boys can only do somethings. Some kids have really rigid rules about this and may be bothered if a kid chooses something that as atypical for their gender. You can explain that is why the girls are getting upset. Sometimes in play kids need to be flexible and willing to accommodate the ideas of others, that's what good friends do. But, it doesn't have to be ALL of the time. If the girls are going to expect him to be a prince sometimes then they should be prepared to take on a role they don't want to as well.

So, as a parent I would share the general information with him by way of explaining the conflict with the girls. Then, when the girls come over I would take the lead to explain that at your house everyone gets to make their own choices in play.
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#12 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 06:52 PM
 
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Is this really about the role, behavior, and/or clothes he can choose, or is it just about the WORD? My first response would be to say, "Boy princesses are called princes." If there was any "the prince can't wear the pink tiara" stuff, I'd say, "A prince gets to choose his own crown."

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#13 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 09:13 PM
 
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Is this really about the role, behavior, and/or clothes he can choose, or is it just about the WORD? My first response would be to say, "Boy princesses are called princes." If there was any "the prince can't wear the pink tiara" stuff, I'd say, "A prince gets to choose his own crown."

Well said!

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#14 of 17 Old 12-03-2007, 11:33 PM
 
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Just wanted to chime in and say my 3 yr old ds loves to play princess dress up with his girl friends. So far, though, his friends are mostly in the 3 to 4 yr old range and they are thrilled to have someone with whom to play dress-up. It's pretty cute.

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#15 of 17 Old 12-04-2007, 09:41 AM
 
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Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post
Is this really about the role, behavior, and/or clothes he can choose, or is it just about the WORD? My first response would be to say, "Boy princesses are called princes." If there was any "the prince can't wear the pink tiara" stuff, I'd say, "A prince gets to choose his own crown."
Good answer.

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#16 of 17 Old 12-04-2007, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is this really about the role, behavior, and/or clothes he can choose, or is it just about the WORD? My first response would be to say, "Boy princesses are called princes." If there was any "the prince can't wear the pink tiara" stuff, I'd say, "A prince gets to choose his own crown."
I tried to do this today, and he told me that he didn't care if boy princesses were actually called princes- he wants to be a princess.
I'm not sure why he gets so stuck on this, but when he digs in his heels, he really can't be budged- which I alternately like and lament. I like that he's not so likely to do things other kids tell him to, but sometimes it would be a little easier if I could reason with him, kwim?
I like the idea of trying to build up the boy roles- he's a boy, and that's something he should be proud of. But otherwise, I think I'll just stick to the "everyone gets to choose their own playrole" idea.
You know, the sad thing is that if it were my 3yo neurotypical child doing this, I probably wouldn't stress it so much, but when my Aspie has trouble, I second-guess everything I do, trying to find the perfect way to handle it.
Which probably belongs in the Special Needs forum...:

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#17 of 17 Old 12-05-2007, 03:09 PM
 
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Why not have the girls dress up as princes some times. Sort of suggesting "Why not have all of you be princesses today and tomorrow (or whatever time frame) you all get to dress as princes."
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