The Family Project: Choices
Q. My daughter is five and our son, three. She has never been interested in playing with dolls or “girly” things, but rather prefers the games and toys we purchase for her brother. We have even agreed to her request for a really short, boy-style haircut. She is well adjusted, bright and articulate, but we are concerned about her lack of interest in anything feminine. Should we do more to encourage her to become more “girly,” and inhibit her tomboy side?
The panelists were unanimous in saying that the parents should neither encourage nor discourage any of her interests as long as they are safe. Let her explore and learn. they urged.
Panelist Mike Daniels said that five-year-olds are five-year-olds, and it really doesn’t matter at that age. “Her job in life developmentally is to learn, to explore, to find things out. To explore might involve finding non-traditional ways of doing things.”
Daniels continued, “What stands out for me is the ‘boy-style haircut’ comment. Did the daughter ask for a boy-style haircut or for a short haircut? This could just be the parents’ perception of what is ‘girly’ and ‘boyish.’”
“Offer the girl opportunities to explore different types of toys,” panelist Erin Stalsitz said, explaining that many toys today are generic, that is, non-gender specific. “There is a whole line of Legos for girls.” She added that one should avoid being too rigid in a definition of what is “feminine.”
“What the parents should be recognizing and celebrating is their daughter’s individuality and exploration of her world, which right now is neither male nor female,” Daniels said. “It is about what is fun and interesting.”
“Uniqueness is something to celebrate,” panelist Denise Continenza added.
From what the parents say about their daughter, panelist Pam Wallace said it is pretty clear that she is doing well in her stage of life: “She’s doing her job of exploring and learning, uninhibited by social constraints, whether she’s aware of them or not.”
The panelists ended their discussion by praising the parents for reaching out and asking for help when they weren’t sure of something.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Erin Stalsitz, casework supervisor, Lehigh County Children and Youth.
Have a question? Email: email@example.com. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.