Dear Liz, my six-year-old son loves to dress in his sisters' dress-up clothes, carry and play with purses, (when in play), talk like a girl and even carries his hands in the girlish-dangly manner (elbows up with hands hanging down, walking and shaking his arms and hips). He even made a stuffed bear at the store the other day that was dressed like a military man but couldn't go without pink ribbons on its ears. We are always telling him, you are a boy, not a girl. Do we have a potential problem on our hands?
Hi and thanks for writing in. I have received more and more letters like yours in the past few month’s, and I hope to be able to enlighten some people to the new research out on kids and idea’s about opposite gender. Sounds like you are having a hard time with this, I am sorry. Apparently it is quite natural for children to be curious about the opposite sex beginning at age 1, and it isn’t until age 3 that they begin to have a clear understanding about which sex they are. They then begin to accept that they will be that sex throughout the course of their lives. One of the most impacting contributors to this behavior are the male and female role models in the home. How we as parents respond react and try to control the interest most definitely contributes to the child’s want and need to explore. What is really interesting is that many parents inquire after years of behavior if their male child who is showing so many effeminate behaviors could possibly be “gay”. What I’ve learned is that the behavior has nothing to do with sexuality at these young ages. When significant, like kids drawing pictures of themselves as the opposite sex, it can fall into a category of confusion about gender.
Confusion about gender is something you want to look into if you're really concerned and can’t make sense of things with your son. There is a ton of literature on the internet and in book stores that cover these experiences and can be incredibly helpful in understanding your child more clearly. Do you have a potential problem on your hands? My answer would be, I wouldn’t see this as a problem more than something you might indeed want to deal with if you want to be able to provide for your son whatever it is he needs to feel good about who he is. From all the information I’ve read by 6 years old he may in fact wish he were a girl-OR he may just like the color pink and does great impressions…his best might be that of his sister and his mom! If your need to understand him will help, I suggest you seek some help for yourselves, in an attempt to learn more about how this confusion happens and what you can do to help your son with it.
Great things for you all-