I have two boys and do you know what – they are ‘boysy’ boys. I’m not saying that because I think it’s right or cool. I’m saying that because it’s just the way it is.
They like climbing, smashing, grabbing, wrestling, jumping, shouting and consistently talking about poo, just like some girls and just like a lot of other boys. It’s not something I have encouraged, in fact I have always supplied them with a wide range of toys, but the dolls buggy we bought is used as a battering ram and if I were to ask them to make me some dinner at their toy kitchen I would most likely receive a wooden carrot in my eye socket. Ouch.
I remember vividly the day I took my eldest to a small zoo when he was 3 years old, as an animal lover I had hoped he would share in my passion but as we moved from enclosure to enclosure he was largely disinterested, until suddenly full of excitement I saw him run towards a fence and press his face up right against the bars. What incredible animal could have finally captured his attention I wondered?!
The mechanical, non alive ones, building a new enclosure for real animals that he would consider pointless… because they don’t have wheels. There is not much more that I can do now except hold my hands up and say…
But did I fail or was I always set to? And should failing really be a negative? If you provide your kids with a choice and they shun everything but the traditional options – can that really be wrong? Because sometimes it comes across that people think it is…
Is it sad and worrying? Are we doomed? Should I be ashamed that my sons are so bloody predictable?
I think not.
When they are in a pile on the middle of the floor, jumping on each other and making noises that sound like explosions can I no longer say ‘Boys eh!’ without being at risk of getting a strict telling off from the gender police who would have you believe there are NO differences between girls and boys?
It almost feels that we are are cheer leading those that break the mould at the expense of those who fit the traditional stereotype. For example…
Is it just me or is that insane? Has the world gone fricking mad?! Are princess dresses evil or awesome, because how can they be both? Are we going to see a whole new wave of flip reverse gender inequality brought on by over the top gender neutral parenting?
So whilst I fully get behind any campaign that says children can wear/play/do whatever they like regardless of their sex I also feel that blowing things out of proportion is leading to a lot of people missing the point.
Oi lady she’s 3 years old FFS! She likes fairies – so what?! In a few years time she’ll probably be an emo-goth who plays music that makes your ears bleed and only speaks to you in grunts. You’ll be sat with your head in your hands sobbing your heart out, saying you’d give anything to go back and play fairy sodding tea parties just one more time.
A few years after that maybe she’ll be at university studying for a degree in bio-chemistry because despite having a brief interest in pink sparkly stuff when she was at pre-school she turned out to be a determined, independent woman – YOU will have provided her with that confidence. Even though she was once a ‘girly’ girl.
And my boys might grow up to be the racing car drivers or Jedi Knights that they dream of (I doubt it) but later on if they choose to settle down and have kids I know they will treat their partners as equals. They are already learning than woman don’t play second fiddle because they are watching me NOT do that. Even though they are ‘boysy’ boys.
So whilst kids that shun stereotypes are super awesome, so are the ones that don’t. If we all give our kids the freedom to play with whatever they damn well like whilst teaching them respect, not just for the opposite sex, but for people – then perhaps that’s half the battle won.
Perhaps it really is that simple.
**************P.S. My new book The Catastrophic Friendship Fails of Lottie Brooks is out on the 3rd March 2022! It's aimed at 9-12 year olds and you can buy it here :)
Having had my niece and nephew for their first sleepover this weekend I have decided the princess dresses are totally evil, regardless of which one of them was wearing it, due to the amount of sodding glitter I am still finding everywhere! However does the fact she likes to wear ‘Hulk Hands’ with the princess dress mean it is gender neutral?
My son sleeps in a fairy dust pink room but eats mud and holds his daddy’s tools. He’s a lovely boysy boy.
Totally agree with this. My son loves cars and diggers but we bought him a kitchen and other ‘girl’ things
Hurrah for you and your boys :)
It’s all about giving our kids an informed choice, the confidence to choose, respecting the choice they make and respecting the fact that others may choose differently. As you say, you are their biggest roles models; the way they see you treating yourself and others will be the way that they do too.
Plus, for kids, these choices aren’t a big deal! So what if they say pink is their most bestest colour ever? Tomorrow it will be blue and you’ll have to send back the lush trainers you thought they’d love…it’s only us parents who worry about what it all means!
Love your blog, it’s like my life (but I have a girly version with two daughters…) keep it up xxx
I completely agree. *Some* individuals out there seem to take the gener neutrality thing a bit too far the other way. Children should be free to be themselves, and there is nothing wrong with boys that like trains and cars and girls that like dolls and dressing up, so long as they haven’t been coerced in to liking those things or actively diverted from other things in their favour – which is why stuff labella specifically “for boys” or “for girls” irks me. At the end of the day happy children who are free to be children is what matters most of all!
For me, gender-neutral parenting isn’t about bringing boys up to be more “girly” or girls to be more “boyish”. It’s about recognising that each child is an individual and that their preferences in play have bugger all to do with which genitals they have. It’s not about princess dresses being evil (although I agree with the previous commenter about the glitter!).
Gender-neutral parenting, for me, is about encouraging your child to pursue their interests regardless of whether society thinks they’re suitable for whichever gender they happen to be. It’s encouraging your son to play with dolls if he wants to, instead of banning them because you think they’re for girls; equally it’s encouraging him to play with trucks and cars if he wants to. My children (I have one girl and one boy) can be, and play with, whatever they like – as long as it’s not because some nitwit has told them that’s what they’re supposed to be/play with.
I hope that makes sense…!
THIS Katie, just everything you’ve said is SPOT ON! I’m all for not having certain toys in just pink or blue (mainly because it makes my eyes bleed to so much of one colour in our house), but just let kids do whatever they want! I have ‘one of each’, and they have a great mix of toys and do play with things that aren’t ‘typical’ to their gender, but F is obsessed with trains and always has been, and S has loved dollies/babies even before she had one of her own to play with, and adores pink and purple without much help from me. And it’s FINE. Lately I have been worried buying stuff, especially for S that might be deemed ‘too girly’ and then I tell myself to get a grip and buy it anyway if she’d love it. The only thing I think hinders girls is being trussed up in over-the-top dresses for the park/soft play, but other then that, princess away! For what it’s worth, I wasn’t a particularly ‘girly’ little girl (hated dresses, dolls and barbies, loved lego, sports and horse riding), but as soon as I hit my teens I became a make-up wearing, fashion-coverting, Lambrini-drinking, boy shagging pile of hormones! I’ve toned the latter phase down a notch, but have totally rediscovered a love of Lego ;-) Great post xx
How very refreshing.
I don’t think for a moment you should forbid your son from playing with dolls or your daughter from playing with cars, but I have read some very insane articles recently about ‘gender neutral parenting’ – it’s just so extreme! I agree, it’s gone too far!
I also have two very ‘boys’ boys. They have had access to a range of toys, but they always choose cars, or sticks, or fighting. They are just boys! I don’t buy them dolls because they don’t play with them, it’s simple as that. I am enjoying them now while they are little and they actually want to play with me.
Brilliant post, I really couldn’t agree more. When my little boy was little, we did a music class led by a rather over-enthusiastic member of the gender-neutral police. Noticing that myself and other parents of boys gravitated towards the ‘blue mats’ and chose ‘blue shakers’ She deliberately set the mats up so the blue ones had pink shakers and the pink ones had blue shakers… too much time on her hands, I think so!
My little boy likes diggers, he likes trucks, he likes tractors and hitting stuff with toy hammers- am I worried he will grow up to be a sexist pig? Not one bit. He idolises his Dad, who works in construction, and this is what he sees him do. But he also sees his ‘boysy boy’ Dad being a loving, caring husband who does his fair share of housework and nappies!
I was nodding along with this post because my children refuse to be gender neutral. Both have had the same toys. Both have dolls and cars and dolls house and garage etc. My now 7 year old daughter is very pink and sparkly. She’s never touched the cars and can’t stand tractors. She plays with Barbie and Shopkins and endless soft toys. My nearly 3 year old boy discovered tractors and diggers around 18 months and has never looked back. He jumps over everything and is always filthy. He’s 100mph all the time and loves all things boy. He has a Blue Bear (well 5 of them now as he loves them so much – all identical). Blue Bear would go everywhere if I let him.
I’ve given them the freedom to make their own choices and that is what equality is all about in my view. My son does like dressing up in his sister’s dresses though and he looks so cute.
I am so sorry but…
… I think you have MY boys.
Haha. We have a pink pram that was gifted to us and it is used for slamming down Sen walls. At a safari park the best park at the end was “the T-Rex” which was a fibreglass model in the park near the shop.
My lads are not allowed toy guns so the shoot each other with guns they make out of Lego. I will not let them have foam swords so they make wooden ones out of sticks.
Got to love that they prove “boys will be boys”.
Keep writing my darling. You are owner of lovely lads and a cracking blog!
Apologies for the typos but I like gun too.
Not gun. gin! Ffs
This. All of it. Thank you!
The big one runs screaming from anything pink. He is however a massive one direction fan. My mother in law has a huge problem with this because they are a boy band worshiped by girls, and thinks we shouldn’t let him listen to their music. From my sons point of view “they are awesome because they are all boys and there’s no girls allowed”. He is 5. My mother in law needs to get a grip. Spot on post. I can think of lots of other reasons for him not to listen to one direction, none of which have anything to do with gender!
This post had made me muchly pleased. I was very eager to expose my son to traditionally feminine activities, so much so I think I may have propelled him towards the alternative and if it doesn’t have wheels he’s not interested. He has recently taken an interest in the toy kitchen but only repeatedly slamming the doors :/
I like to think we thought of this post together :) I love it and agree completely. A is a Princess girly girly pink obsessed very nearly 4 year old and nothing I could have done would have changed that. It’s just the way it’s meant to be. And T? He loves cars, diggers, trains and anything else that has motor noises. As well as dinosaurs. That boy loves dinosaurs! x
I have two little boys. They LOVE everything boys. But, recently, my oldest started watching something about elves and fairies on YouTube. He loves them. Yesterday, we played on the trampoline. He wanted to play knights and dragons. “Who will be the princess?”, I asked.
“Me”, he replied. And promptly laid down, and covered up and pretend to be Sleeping Beauty whilst I was the dragon.
I loved it. I am just enjoying these last few moments of pure innocence and no inhibitions. He starts school next week and I am sure they will disappear quickly.
I am a big fan of gender neutral parenting. I don’t think ‘neutral’ is really the right word though – it’s not about stripping children of their individuality and making everyone the same, it’s about not pushing children in one direction or the other. I have a girl who loves dragons and shouting and a boy who, though very small, is so far much more placid and sensitive than his sister. I haven’t forbidden my daughter from wearing dresses and I won’t hide the tonka trucks from my son – that is just who they are, and who they are free to be, because we’ve tried our hardest to avoid squashing them into little gender-normative boxes.
On the flip side, you can have boys or girls who fit the traditional gender roles and still be a gender neutral parent. It’s not about one desired result, it’s about providing opportunities :)
Spot on Meyrl! x
Hi, I’m with Meryl.
I am the mum of a princess dress wearing, bow and arrow shooting, digger loving, gotta have your makeup on (no idea where she got that from, it wasn’t me!), mud pie making 6 year old daughter. She’s probably a gender-neutral poster child haha. But I get what you’re saying it’s gotten to the point where there are some that think I should take away the princess dresses and anything ‘girly’. Yeah thats not going to happen!
Isn’t our job as parents to give our kids as many opportunities and choices as possible? I’m not going to push her into Barbie and fairies because she’s a girl. But I’m not going to withhold those things either if thats what she wants. We’ve definitely let her preferences drive the types of toys and activities we have in our home. And as far as I’m concerned as long as she’s not going to damage herself (or us) with whatever then thats the way it will continue.
Thank you for this….so so true. Sometimes I have felt guilty for having such a boysy boy, who thinks farting, burping and all poo words are the best thing ever. He is rough and tumble all the way and yes surely this should be celebrated too!
Your blog rocks x
Great post! I say let the kids be kids. They are only children for such a short time.
I love this post isn’t the hole point of gender neutral about letting a child play with what ever they want to play with weather it be a boy playing with babies and barbies or girl acting with trucks and mud. One thing that annoys me about this hole thing is the people who hate the colour pink and blue I mean it’s a colour for god sake stop been pathetic. My little girl loves princesses and barbies and girly things but on the flip side I have just been out and bought her a Thor figure she has cars and Spider-Man outfits and if you take her to a park she would much rather dig in the mud than play on the slide. Instead of having the war against gender neutral and stereotypical how about we just let are kids be kids let the play dress like what ever the like because in the long run when they get that little bit older there going to do what they want to do anyway I was a massive tomboy when a child and would scream if my mum tried putting me in a dress now I’m 25 and I will wear dresses and makeup and high heels my patently let me be me and I turned out just fine I think so instead of forcing are kids to not like the steriotypical things for there gender then them be who they want to be.
Sorry rant over x
Of course you shouldn’t be ashamed, and nor should I for not relying on market driven gender stereotypes directed at my daughter. I don’t need to push fairies and princesses on her as shops, peers, society does that all the time. I offer her alternatives – or is that “over the top gender neutral parenting”?
No of course not! That’s exactly what I was saying – no one should push anything, just offer lots of alternatives and let your kids choose :)
This whole thing of telling us how to parent is just tiresome quite frankly. After three of the blighters, I’ve finally realised that no two children are the same even if they do come from the same set of genes. Let them be/do/like whatever the hell they want! Great post as always. x
Our boy is very boyish in many ways – always been active, recently developed an obsession with caaarrrrs even though we don’t own one and haven’t encouraged this. HOWEVER he also likes reading books about a hamster who runs a cafe. You dont see that in Loaded Magazine do you? Or maybe you do. It might be a weird fetish. Anyway, no it doesnt matter, just let the children be into whatever they are into as long as it’s not actual loaded firearms or explosives whether they are girls or boys THAT is a VERY BAD IDEA.
A post I wrote today on a similar subject led to me finding this. I’m not ashamed or bothered, or embarrassed, or whatever, about the fact my kid prefers pretty dresses to jeans. All I care about is how she comes by those preferences. If it’s natural, or shaped by being around her parents preferences, cool. If other people start telling her things are for boys, not girls, not cool.
Isn’t it missing the point a little bit? Gender neutral can’t “go too far” as it is neutral, it’s not supposed to go anywhere. It doesn’t mean girly boy = good and boysy boy = bad, it’s supposed to mean child making choices because they have been pressurised to do so = bad and child choosing freely = good. I agree some parents are going too far in the other direction but then they’re not gender neutral any more are they? So essentially I agree with the sentiment but you are bashing the wrong end of the stick.
I don’t know why people can’t just let kids be kids and like what they like. Baby loves princesses pink and glitter but also likes getting muddy, death slides and well, anything she fancies. They don’t put restrictions on what they like, so adults shouldn’t either. Great post x
YES, this!!! I have 2 boysy boys and 1 girly goddaughter and somehow am made to feel ashamed if I point it out?? It’s like people are so keen to be PC they forget what equality really is…being you no matter what you is!
N is exactly the same. A total boy (although along with 2 boy friends at nursery, he could quite often be found wearing the princess dressing up dresses on a Friday – obviously ‘dress down’ or ‘up’ day!). He didn’t really have much choice but to be obsessed with farms courtesy of living on one and having a farmer dad, but apart from cooking and cleaning (general role play imo), he’s all about tractors, rough and tumble, being outside, riding anything with wheels. He has my old toy buggy – it’s used to sit in or to transport items, and occasionally for his teddies. But definitely no dolls.
Now as he approaches school though, he has all of a sudden decided that princesses are scary, that dress fancy dress costumes are only for girls, and that girls can’t come round and drive his John Deere gator. I guess it’s the start of the ‘boys are best’ phase, and I’m hoping it doesn’t last long…mainly because I can put him right on virtually every aspect apart from the physical if I point out what I can do/have achieved over his dad!
Great post. I hate the whole gender neutral thing. It’s basically just giving a label to something that people have been doing for years – letting kids choose – much of which probably hasn’t been helped by the proliferation of pink clothes and ‘girls’ versions of toys.
What a refreshing post. I agree we need to chill out. I read a great post recently about stopping obsessing about pink. I have to admit I do cringe when my daughter flounces about in her nylon princess dress but me getting in a lather about it will only make her want it more. Love that we can rely on you to cut through the bull and speak the truth, Gin x
How are kids supposed to explore what they want to be, if they aren’t allowed to explore?
Stupid stereotyping, it’s all a bit silly.
Love this, spot on. My five-year-old girl loves Disney princesses, fairies, animals, and only wants to read Rainbow Magic books. Also loves dinosaurs, insects, football and learning about space. I encourage it all. I’m expecting a boy and will be interested to see what he’s into!
Another thought-provoking post. Thanks. I don’t know what’s in the gin you’re drinking, but I think I need to get on it myself, get my brain working again.
My wife and myself are definitely going for the gender-neutral approach with our little lad, or maybe it would be more accurate to say that we are trying to offer some ballast in the face of all the dubious information about gender that surrounds us. It feels like an uphill battle, and not really much like policing, more like trying to figure out a path through a minefield.
I believe that it is definitely about helping J feel good about his interests and choices – he loves taking his pink pram for a walk in the park; he loves bashing and often says he loves ‘being a naughty boy’. He also says he has a baby in his belly (inspired by his auntie just having a baby) and that it will come out through his ‘boobies’ – you can’t fault his grasp of anatomy, eh? But it’s also about trying to show him to question the kind of assumptions about boys being the standards and girls being different that his Mum and me see everywhere. He’s not three until October, but we just want him to hear the alternative message as soon and as often as possible.
I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that it’s the right way to approach the matter the issue with J, but it’s the one that makes most sense to me as it feels such a big issue. I can easily imagine him rejecting the whole premise and rebelling against our ideas, but we’ve got to give it a go.
Great post. My children are pretty much diggers,cars trains, mess, poop, bogies and dresses, dolls, make up, sparkly one direction fan They both have always been free like yours to choose what they want with a variety of toys and what not at their finger tips they just go with what they feel more attracted to I guess! That’s neutral parenting the choice being given. I wish my boy wasn’t all about the poop and wrestling though it’s quite embarrassing!
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Great post lovely and I completely agree. Just them be little. I have a princess loving, pink loving girly girl and a climbing, smashing, grabbing, wrestling, jumping, shouting and consistently talking about poo girl. They are fab just the way they are. x
Yes yes yes! I saw this post shared lots when you wrote it and I kept meaning to read it, as I KNEW I would agree. And I do. You are totally spot on here. I am a MASSIVE BLOODY feminist and I am so passionate about gender equality and raising kids to choose how they want to play rather than forcing a stereotype on on them. But discouraging a child to play with certain toys is no better than encouraging them to play with others. TOYS ARE TOYS. And if your children make a choice that they love trains or cars or fairies or princesses then that’s cool and let’s support them. My 4yo loves princesses but she also loves trains. She watches Care Bears but is also obsessed with Power Rangers. I don’t freak out when she says she wants another princess dress for her birthday or tells me her fave colour is pink. That’s cool with me! Great post. You lady Katie rock xxx
Rah! You put it so well. Why can’t a girl who loves playing with dolls (until she’s bored for the day and tosses them head first wherever the nearest place to dump them is) go on to be a major success in whatever path in life she chooses to take? The most important thing is not limiting our children’s imaginations, but instead to let them flourish and support their dreams.
My 2.5 year old son enjoys throwing things and hitting people while wearing his older sister’s old, bright pink, fairy princes ‘high’ heels. Which are the only shoes he will wear, no matter the weather. Because they match with the pink outfit of his sister’s which is the only thing he wears willingly. I take pleasure in assuming I am only half as confused as he must be. Whatever: there’s always gin!