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Young child becoming aware of 'gender' differences? Getting back to Gender Neutral.

908 Views 12 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  nikirj
My child (3 in September) has taken an interest in some of the differences in gender. She is very interested in knowing if people are 'girls' or 'boys', she's obsessed with the fact that we have separated public bathrooms, she talks about what girls wear and what boys wear. And, she's also very interested in the color pink.

I'm concerned about this. I don't see myself as a person who is overly influenced by gender roles but there are definitely ways that we fit the social norm in this way.

I guess I'd love to hear that this is 'normal' ~ therefore not our fault, not a result of our lifestyle/parenting. Regardless, I would really appreciate some advice on how to handle this. I'm at a loss about how to talk about this with a young child.

Don't worry about offending me or anything. If you have more questions about what we do at home that may influence this, please ask.

Oh, and feel free to correct my language about gender and stuff. It's been a while since I've used any of those words.
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It's normal. Has nothing to do with your parenting. Offer/encourage variety, but let her choose what she likes. They tend to seem a bit extreme as they are figuring out gender, then get interested in other things.

DD (4 in March) has always said her favorite color was blue... until recently. The other day someone asked and she said "blue and pink".

Then yesterday we were looking at some bedding in a catalog and she pointed to a bedspread and said "that's for a boy" It was actually quite gender neutral (I thought) so I asked why it looked like a boy's quilt. she said (pointing to the blue one) "that is a boy's" and then pointing to the identical except for color yellow one and said "that is a girl's".

Sorry I'm at a loss too; it does make me a little uncomfortable; I think a lot of it has to do with her surprise to discover that her baby brother did not have a "bagina" but a penis. She has always had boys and girls for friends, but the boys were as likely to initiate playing tea party as the girls were to playing trucks. Gender awareness: I'm sure there are plenty of chapters in plenty of books
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I think it has to do with their attempts to categorize things... when they notice that people seem to come in two basic flavors, male and female, they aren't really mentally equipped to deal in subtleties yet, yk? At that age they need to be able to organize things into straightforward categories. The really dualistic, black/white, boy/girl thinking fits into this. It's kind of the same way they tend to think of story characters as good/bad.

I think the really stereotyped gender concepts are very normal at a certain age. It seems like they tend to see more complexities after about age 6 or so.
Thanks everyone. I really don't have anyone IRL to talk about this with and I don't know much from books and stuff. Your perspective is comforting to hear.

Any more ideas about how to discuss this with her?
I agree with the previous poster who said it is categorizing things and learning how the world is set up. My daughter will be 3 in December, and she too is obsessed with "boy" things and "girl" things. (And announces to everyone we meet that they have either a penis or a vagina, depending on if they are male or female)

She identifies dolls as girl toys and trucks as boy toys when we are in the store, even though I have never ever ever said to her "that's for boys" or "that's for girls."
Typical conversation:
"Mommy, that is for boys."
"Umm, that's a boat. Anyone can play with those. You can have one if you want it."
"But I'm not a boy."
"It doesn't matter. Anyone can play with those."
And then she either plays with it or not.
But I have never ever ever said to her "that's for boys" or "that's for girls." So I feel quite sure that it is just a stage they are going through, and that it will eventually pass.
Not sure if I helped, but at least you know you're not alone. And I don't think it's anything you did or didn't do. It's just something they have to figure out for themselves.
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Yea, that's were we are. DC has said some things like "skirts are for girls, shorts are for boys." And, I think the toy issue is coming soon. Plus, she definitely seems to prefer, um, "girls" toys. We have also been open and encouraged gender neutral things but I was worrying if we should have been or should do more.

I guess the reality is that we separate things by gender. Part of me wishes that we didn't nearly so much. We aren't nearly as gender neutral as I had planned, which is why I was concerned that this is 'our fault'.

Any advice on getting back to gender neutral clothes/toys/roles? The problem is that DC is old enough to have a say in the toys she has and the clothes she wears. How can I gently guide her?
I honestly think boys and girls *are* different. I know many moms of boys who tell me how they tried and tried to prevent stereotyping and their boys still prefer "boy" toys and rough play. I was a tomboy as a child, and have gone out of my way to keep my DD from being frou-frou, but she's a girly girl regardless. She started preferring girly toys long before she was aware of the differences between boys and girls.

Men and women are different. There's no denying it. And I don't think society is to blame. I don't think there is anything wrong with it, either.
The problem arises when people believe that our differences make one gender better than the other. No, we are not equal. Equal implies sameness. We are different, and I for one embrace those differences!
We tried very hard not to give our kids any weird ideas about gender. I am a tomboy and DH is a bit of a "softie" so it wasn't tough for us, really - we don't model standard man/woman behaviors or interactions at all. DD and DS have the same toys, the same clothes (we went very gender neutral for the most part and didn't buy DD any dresses until she started asking for them around age 2), and yet they choose different, mostly stereotypical things. Sure there are many things that they play with that cross the lines (DS likes to play with our set of fairies, DD likes the RC cars) but for the most part, they go for the predictably boy or girl things. We haven't done anything to encourage this, really. We don't discourage it either, though, which is just as important.

They do notice. It is normal and natural. DD started at about 3 to pick up that there were girls who were "the same as me!" and boys who weren't. We tried explaining that everybody is different and that just because someone was a girl, doesn't mean that they are really the same as you - they might have very different ideas, and they certainly look different even though you are both girls. It still hasn't entirely sunk in. DS, who is 2.5, will invariably try to find another boy to play with at the park, but we've never encouraged this. Although other parents seem to encourage their daughters to NOT play with little boys in some instances, so that might have something to do with it...

Point is, we tried to parent the two the same, and they came out very different and fitting in quite closely with the normal stereotypes. I'm actually kind of bummed because it is hard for me as a tomboy to have such a girly-girl daughter, but I'm pretty sure it isn't anything I did.
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My third child does this. The other two never did!
It has left me scratching my head. She will get stuck on the girl/boy issue. This toy is a girl toy this one a boy toy. What is funny in the same breath of this toy is for boys she will tell you I (mom) is going to buy her Legos for girls. She found "pink" girly Legos in her brother's catalog. That is all she wants for her birthday girl Legos.

I think there is more to gender and gender type behaviors than just male and female. I think it is spectrum. We all have areas that are more male and the other female.

I think some of the problem is that when we were growing up people believed and tought us that girls and boys are just alike and only society creates different. If you look into brain and hormonal science it is not that clear. We don't come out as "blank" slates. Scientist notice differences in the womb. They notice difference (like eye contact and leg movements) with in momments and hours after birth. A girl baby will more often than not look at faces and eyes longer than boys right out of the womb. After you account for nature you have to look at what is nurtured.

Men and women are vary different but that does not mean we should have different rights.
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I think it is a phase. At this age they are starting to be influenced by outside forces, so that plays into it. I try to be low-key about it. Of course, dd hasn't really become obsessed about it yet.

As an aside, a neighbor boy (he's the only boy in the neighborhood) was over playing the other day. He's about 5, so is very concerned with boy vs. girl things (magnified because there are so many girls around). He wanted to push dd's stroller around, but didn't want to seem to "girlie", so he took the doll out and put a rubber ball in to push around. It was very cute.

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I also think it's important to make sure we aren't promoting "boy" behavior/toys/stereotyping and denigrating "girl" things. Just because pink is a "girl" color doesn't make it a bad thing to wear. Too often I see parents of girls striving to be gender neutral, but that ends up translating into "more boyish." It's just another way we show how we value boys over girls (societally). I see parents of girls say they can't wear pink frilly things and they dress them in overalls and cut offs, but have never seen a parent of a boy, in an effort to be gender neutral, say he can't wear shirts with trucks or balls on it. Is this making any sense? I am a bit rambly sometimes.
I personally just had a ton of gender-neutral stuff. When DD started showing a real preference for frilly pink things I bought her some. When DS started showing a real preference for balls, alligators, and Spiderman, I bought him some of that stuff. Until then, they wore mostly either-gender colors, and sometimes more gendered colors.
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