Blue for boys. Pink for girls. Why is it so important to gender children so early in life?

Jami - posted on 08/29/2010 ( 200 moms have responded )

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Why do we as parents find it necessary to be so gender specific concerning their baby? Different toys, clothes, and even the ways in which we communicate with them. "Isn't she so sweet." "He is so strong." Do you think this could cause problems for a child later on if they don't or choose not to live out their assigned gender roles?

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Katherine - posted on 08/30/2010

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After WWI, blue was used extensively for men's uniforms. Therefore, blue became associated as more of a masculine color. From the 1940's onward, pink was pushed as a woman's color. "Think Pink" was the marketing slogan to convince women to embrace their femininity. Dressing girls in pink reinforced this role by conditioning with a set of rules that started with little girls, made of "sugar and spice and everything nice."

According to the website "Gender Specific Colors," it would seem that assigning color to gender is mostly a 20th century trait. It would also seem that at one time, the color associations were reversed when
color first came into use as a gender identifier.
In fact, this reversal of what we consider "normal" was considered conventional, even in the early 20th century. "At one point pink was considered more of a boy's color, (as a watered-down red, which is a fierce color) and blue was more for girls. The associate of pink with bold, dramatic red clearly affected
its use for boys. An American newspaper in 1914 advised mothers, "If you like the color note on the little one's garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention." [The Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.]

"There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." [Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918]
http://histclo.hispeed.com/gender/color.... - "Gender Specific Colors"

According to Jo B. Paoletti and Carol Kregloh, "The Children's Department," in Claudia Brush Kidwell and Valerie Steele, ed., Men and Women: Dressing the Part, (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989). -
In the United States: "The current pink for girls and blue for boys wasn't uniform until the 1950's.

It would also seem that Nazi Germany had something to do with the association of pink with femininity:

"Catholic traditions in Germany and neighboring countries reverse the current color coding, because of the strong association of blue with the Virgin Mary...the NAZIs in their concentration camps use a pink triangle to identify homosexuals. (The yellow star of David is the best known symbol, used of course to identify Jews. The German system was quite complicated, using various symbols an colors to identify criminals, political prisinors, an a whole range of other groups). The NAZI's choice of pink suggests that it by the 1930s was a color that
in Germany had become associate with girls." - "Gender Specific
Colors"

Here is another site backing the same color history.

"The preferred color to dress young boys in was pink! Blue was reserved for girls as it was considered the paler, more dainty of the two colors, and pink was thought to be the stronger (akin to red). It was not until WWII that the colors were reversed and pink was used for girls and blue for boys..." - Quote from Dress Maker Magazine http://www.dressmaker.com/ezine0200.shtm...

Read more: Why has pink become associated with girls and blue with boys? | Answerbag http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/706366#i...

Tammy - posted on 09/02/2010

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If you will do some research in the medical field you will find that there are real differences in the brains, emotions and behaviors of men and women--and much of it is actually physical. I think the whole color thing is funny--when my Mom was a baby (75 years ago) girls were always in blue and boys were in pink! I think that we use color to identify to others the gender of the baby--which helps others to avoid being embarrassed. (Which really is a socially nice thing to do.) Girls do play differently than boys because they are physically different from boys. Girls also problem solve and make friends differently. Remember "Tom Sawyer" How he fought with the new boy before they became friends?? I was totally disgusted by that--until I had four sons--yeah as a woman I still don't understand that--but it is there none the less.
I would not allow my boys to "fight" or "rough house" while they were growing up. Someone always got hurt and I hated it. Two of them grew up to play football--a game that their Dad despises--and now as adults when they get together the first thing that they do is "roughhouse" and arm wrestle and see if they can (by chance) actually be stronger than their Dad by now. (He admits that he is careful when and where he will take them on--because he still doesn't want to "lose". Our daughter on the other hand stands back and is as disapproving as I am--while her husband joins right in.
That gender behaviors are LEARNED and imparted by ENVIRONMENT is just plain wrong. It is in the genes and no amount of choosing toys carefully will change that.
With that said, if you offer approval for cross gender behaviors while with holding acceptance for same gender behaviors--I think that it is likely possible to guilt trip a child into behaving opposite his natural inclinations- (especially when you are watching)-because children DO have a strong desire to please.

Rachel - posted on 08/31/2010

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Jami belief in God has nothing to do with practicing a religion. Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God. And whether you believe in Him or not doesn't change the fact that He is the creator of the universe and He created your son MALE for a specific reason and has a special purpose for his life. By you saying "I want him to have options, not restrictions" it sounds like you are pushing him to reject his gender. Putting aside the moral implications of that decision do you really want to encourage your son in that way? You can still raise him to be himself just by encouraging him to embrace every good quality not just the masculine ones. My husband is an amazing cook, plays trumpet, enjoys sketching and painting, loves reading and is not into sports. He certainly doesn't fit society's norm for a young man in his twenties yet he is every bit a male as any other young man that age. Best of all he loves playing with his son and comes home willing to help out with dinner and clean up and putting our son to bed. I hope our son grows up to be just like him, but if he ends up really being into sports that's great too.

Dawn - posted on 08/30/2010

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I think you are already worried to much about things you cannot change. Love, patience, compassion, freedom to make their own choices and laughter. If those things are in place, your children will be just fine.

Karen - posted on 09/09/2010

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My boys are neither cissy or gay -they are sporty, intelligent, masculine and caring. Playing with dolls does not make a child gay.

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Amy - posted on 09/10/2010

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I just saw a great play at the Chicago Fringe Festival called "Uncovering Mirrors." The writer and performer is a transgendered woman. I think, and Rebecca of "Uncovering MIrrors" would also agree that we are who we are. A child may be hetrosexual, or homosexual, or they could feel that the gender they were born to is not who they are, but this is not something that I think can be superimposed. It just is. There are gay men who can't stand Broadway and Lesbians who wear lipstick. Another transgendered female I met is in a committed relationship with a woman. My son is five. He adores stuffed animals and they are always his first choice for toys. He loves to garden and he sings and he dances...quite well actually. He lives with me and his nanny, another girl and has limited contact with his father or other male figures. He is also a womanizer. His first sentenance was "Wendy [of Peter Pan] beautiful." He has a girlfriend in every port, school, soccer, next door....it goes on...the more they look like Wendy, the harder he falls. The garden I think is so he has a regular supply of flowers to hand out to his affections. He often tells me that he wishes he was a girl like me...what does that mean? Well my son could be hetrosexual...but he could also be homosexual...he might even decide to transgender....what would I prefer? Well, you could argue that his life might be easier if he were heterosexual. But isn't it possible he will be teased for his love of flowers and dance? He is a wonderful child for all that he is, I have no intention of changing him, I want to watch how he changes. I know it's going to be an amazing process.

Julie - posted on 09/10/2010

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like i said i used to put my daughter in pink cos she looked pretty but her favourite colours were purple and silver.

Krista - posted on 09/10/2010

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Yes, I wondered about that myself. For her baby shower I asked for no pink and used or organic clothes. Unfortunately other people who had girls for daughter had tons of pink clothes. It turns out Aurora's favorite color is pink, so what can you do. They decide how to be regardless of how we treat them. That's my two cents. Of course we are all having indigo's and crystal children, so they are very opinionated and self assured.

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I like pink. I have always liked pink. Then I had a daughter and until she can decide for herself, shes going to be wearing pink. If she choses not to wear pink, I won't have anything to say about it. I think the main reason for blue and pink is that when I go to the grocery store and some old lady is admiring my baby, I dont have to answer her question of whether shes a boy or a girl. I would rather do pink clothes than pierce my child's ears.

Julie - posted on 09/10/2010

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well i put my son in blue and my daughter in pink cos pink looks pretty for a girl and if there are no blue or pink colours little old ladies choose to call our children the wrong gender but thats not it individual people have individual thoughts and tastes. my daughter looked lovely in lemon but not so good in lime where as my son looked lovely in lime. they both looked good in red so all colours are used its just babies that people seem to stick to blue and pink for. as for making things difficult when they choose not to conform to those stereo typical things i presume you mean if one is gay. well my kids have been brought up to know that a person is a person and deserves the same respect whether they are green black blue yellow a martian catholic or hindu gay or straight and i would not be ashamed of wither one if they happened to be one. i love my kids regardless. as for toys i bought my son a tea set and he loved making the little wagon drivers cups of tea when they stopped at his service station for refreshments on the way up the lego road he made. my daughter got water pistols and cars and even a garage. so long as we love and respect our kids it shouldnt matter what colour they wear or what toy they play with

Princess Monica - posted on 09/10/2010

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i don't think any colour should be chosen both boys and girls can use pink or blue even men wear pink shirt or pink ties is lovely

Cynthia - posted on 09/10/2010

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My girls were taken for boys, even in pink and my boys were taken for girls, even in grey cords an grey sweaters. Now looking back at their baby pictures they all look remarkably similiar, no hair, bright beaming smiles, my sons can identify their sisters despite their being so much older, but the girls have a tough time identifying any one but themselves as babies.
As babies my girls beamed more at males any age, and my boys beamed at females, any age.
My girls played with the full range of toys both male and female directed. While my boys showed a definite preference for tonka trunks and made guns out of the plainest stick. My daughters also dressed their little brothers in dresses when I wasn't watching. I can't say either of them has been affected.

The most important thing for any child to live to his or her fullest capablities is to know they are loved and appreciated because they are our children, The need to know they all have individual and shared gifts, that each of those gifts is needed in life. It is this love and confidance in our children which helps them to maintain confidence in themselves and who they are, including their sexual identy. WE NEED male males as much as we need quieter, less overtly male males.

Human experience, and genetics provides for all kinds of humans being, because life provides opportunities, and ways of being for every expression of human experience.

Pamela - posted on 09/10/2010

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I have two boys 18 motnhs and 2.5 years

I didn't with clothes we went with oranges, limes and teal, toys were not gender specific until they could pick and they picked trains or musical instruments. We also have a great collection of trains cars dinosaurs, dress up stuff, a fairy princess castle set, necklaces, tiaras and my boys love to cook with me, play with dolls houses and play toolshop heeheh. they still wear bright colours they don't often wear blue or pink. I call them gorgeous and squishy ( Im not sure thats gender specific) for my sons 3rd birthday coming up Im letting him pick the cake so far he seems to have his eye on a mushroom cake with a fairy door on it and a butterfly if thats what he wants that's what he gets .. does he prefer trains, Animals and boys things.. yes I guess he does. but he loves the colour pink . I don't think these lead to problems unless parents are forcing there children to only play with toys they don't want to play with and only dressing them like ( young hookers .. heehee sorry but I seen so many little girls dressed to the nines in stuff a 20 something would wear out clubbing if her whole intention was getting boned in the bathroom). telling a child off for playing with something a father sees as sissy well yes thats going to affect them or not letting a girl get mudding and collecting bugs sure.. but I have two nieces and my two sons and they are all pretty great at playing with all sorts of toys the girls do tend to prefer things a bit girlier and the boys to like the trains and cars as I said. they are all very well balanced and I expect them to continue to be so. weather they are heterosexual, metrosexual, bisexual, gay, asexual or confused we will love them just as we do now. =) Im quite excited to see what they grow up to become.

Punzelina - posted on 09/10/2010

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they absolutely are instinctive! and I also agree that society does play a role, but not in the way of deciding what they are and are not. My son plays with dolls and uses hair barrettes, but he also loves dirt and cars and puzzles and playing rough around the house and I have not tried to sway him either way. All of the books and studies that I have read have shown that our postmodern thinking is what does most damage to kids in "assigning" gender roles. When fathers reject their sons, we get more sons who feel rejected and want to be anything BUT what their father rejected. Their instinct might be to love auto mechanics, but if society pushes them, and their life experience disuade them, they might feel insecure about that and try to do something that isn't them.

Talents and abilities are just that, talents and abilities. The bigotry comes in when people force the situation instead of facing the fact that kids just might have a natural bent towards something. What is so wrong with having gender instincts? I don't understand why people get in such an uproar about this. yes we do learn from our environments and many times that environment does damage, but the damage would be in reversing the natural order of things, not in reinforcing what is already within the child. Why not just go with the flow and encourage the strengths that are showing up within the child?

my last post on this topic

Denise - posted on 09/10/2010

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there really is nothing *instinctive* about gender roles - they are absolutely learned and society will be better if we stop making value judgements based on these roles.

Grace - posted on 09/10/2010

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Most children pick up on our attitudes and facial expressions. If you've ever made a face at a particular "pretty" item for him, he decides it's not for him. If you've ever said, "No, boys don't play with those kinds of toys", he decides what "those kinds of toys are" and stays away from them. Don't think that your child is simply applying gender related rules to himself. He is learning them from tv, other adults, other children, grandparents/other relatives and parents. That is a fact. Yes, each child will have preferences, but how can they obtain those opinions unless we put things in front of them to prefer? Just as bigotry is learned, so is "assigned" colors/toys/etc

Punzelina - posted on 09/10/2010

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I think kids instinctively know their gender roles no matter what we try to do, and any confusion that kids experience is as a result of parental misdirection. My son is only 2 and we have just let him be him. He has learned what pretty is and walks around telling me and other people what he thinks is pretty, usually assigning it to a feminine item that truly is "pretty". Well, last week I tried to put a Hawaiian shirt on him (that he has worn before), brown base with blue and yellow flowers with bright orange tigers... content with what he was doing, he let me put it on him, then he looked down and said "pretty", gave me a scowl, then proceeded to take it off! How in the world does a 2 year old know these things? They choose for themselves - and they know what is right and what is wrong. BTW, he loves to wear my hair barrettes and other small things that mommy has, it's just innocent curiosity and doesn't mean that he is "bent" toward femininity.

Sticking to fundamental values with kids is important. Don't try to push our postmodern PC thinking onto them. The damage comes when they aren't given proper attention or aren't accepted for who they truly are, good at math or quieter than others, etc. If there are two siblings and one gets more attention than the other, then the one getting less attention/affection will try to do whatever it takes to get more of what they aren't getting. Meaning, if the little girl is getting more attention than the boy, then the boy will try to be like the girl in order to gain his parents attention and in his mind, their approval. Whether or not they paint or like to dance has nothing to do with anything but their talents and abilities.

Most people should just let their kids be kids and back off of all of the pc paranoia. It won't matter what you dress them in, it matters how you care for them and how you treat them. And Boys will be boys, Girls will be Girls - it's a phenomenon of nature... and God.

Grace - posted on 09/10/2010

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I believe our children go for the toys we set out and encourage them to play with. After they go to school (daycare) they will be more influenced by other kids. I read an article that stated the boy-blue/girl-pink thing is very recent. It used to be the other way around. It's societal. I will support my kids with whatever they choose & raise them to be proud of their individuality. My daughter will play with dolls, cars, kitchen toys, etc. Whatever toy I am excited for her to have, she usually likes.

Amber - posted on 09/10/2010

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I have no idea why "They" say certain things are for girls and certain things are for boys. I have a son who will be 3 in Nov and he is all boy but that is his personality. I also don't baby him and he has no fear and does things that would make most kids scream and he gets up and is like "Did ya see that?!!!" I also hate the color pink myself and was a tomboy my whole life. I was never a girly-girl and am almost 30 now and still don't wear make up or have my nails done like my sisters do. But I like the color pink on my son. I bought him a pink polo shirt with a car on it and he was so gosh darn cute in it. I believe men can wear any color just like girls can. And as he grows up I feel he will be more confident with who he is by being and liking what he does. My son also likes putting on my shoes and brushing my hair but that doesn't make him any less of a boy. Kids will be who they are and will like or not like what they will, colors and toys will not change that.

Kim - posted on 09/10/2010

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When they are small, color helps other people from making verbal blunders concerning the baby's gender, they make enough already when it comes to new moms! If you do the gender toy clothing thing so that it is exclusive, then you are definitely not doing them any favours, but confining them. My son had a kitchen set, my daughter looked her cutest in her brother's old clothes, esp with a bow or bonnet. When I was younger and growing up I was more comfortable in boy style clothes and played with mostly boys, but loved to draw fashions and play with Barbie. We all want well-rounded, happy and healthy kids - part of that is allowing them to test out both sides of the gender spectrum. My son was always very much a rough and tumble boy, but sensitive too. He thought I should have a penis to be more like him. Yesterday, at 16 now, he asked me something I never thought I would hear him say "Mom? Are my skinny jeans clean?" My daughter was a princess, would go out in the dress-up clothes and wanted to have breast since 2. Now she likes to wear the boy style clothes, but has to have her long hair - nothing in it - but also loves nail polish, and is testing out "Goth" looks without the make-up, which is better than the sleazy styles some are wearing at 11. My advice is not to worry too much about gender-appropriate and let your kids figure themselves out, but still make them aware of the social norms, whether you agree with them or not, and talk to them about why you feel that way and why they are that way in society - appropriate to their age of course. No need to get into the social repression of women through fashion for example with a 6 year old.
That's just my take, sorry so long!
Kim

Karen - posted on 09/10/2010

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Keep in mind, too that oftentimes colors mean different things in different cultures. For example, wedding dresses. Asian (I think Chinese specifically) brides wear red because it is a good luck color (and has other symbolism that I don't remember off-hand), while "Western" brides wear white. The wearing of white was a fashion started after Queen Victoria wore it at her wedding. Prior to that, white was not worn and did not carry the symbolic value that has since become attached to it. So, colors and their messages are what the receiver's culture and time in history take from them. Remember pink being cool for guys during "preppy" times? Again, I think it's the adults who have the hangups, not the kids.

Becky - posted on 09/10/2010

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Are you kidding me?? Psychological choices?? For goodness sakes, love your children. Teach them manners and discipline. Read to them, and teach them the fundamentals before starting school. But back off and allow your children to be children. Quit trying to be so 'politically correct' all the time.

Rachel - posted on 09/10/2010

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I have 3yr old identical twin girls. One of them LOVES the colour BLUE and often refuses to wear any other colour, the other isn't particularly fussy and will wear any colour other than blue (she knows that all the blue clothes belong to her sister). I'm not at all concerned that she likes the colour blue and don't think it means she's masculine. You can quite easily buy girls clothes in all sorts of colours these days - there is a large variety in blues and other 'male' colours, in Australia anyway.

Linda - posted on 09/09/2010

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I think it just helps others know what sex your baby or child is. many have said oh your son is so cute and its not a boy but a daughter and your baby girl is so cute, but its just because your son has long hair. So it just helps others sometimes. With our names now a days and liking long or curly hair on our boys it is hard to tell sometimes.thanks, just a thought.

Karen - posted on 09/09/2010

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Michelle MacKay - my 3 brothers all learned to sing and dance in High School. Not only are / were 2 of the 3 married for at least 20 years with kids (one met his wife doing theatre), but they had waaay more of an active social life in H.S. See, they figured out that if they could do the plays at the local girls HS's, they instantly moved up on the popularity chart because they could sing and dance. My Mom even had to limit the number of Proms they could go to because she could only afford so much! They had more dates than the quarterback. In fact, one of the kids that I went to HS with ha put together quite a nice career for himself, his wife, and his child - and to think it started in "South Pacific" in HS! So yay for your son on pursuing what he loves - my brothers would approve.

Denise - posted on 09/09/2010

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When I go to the shop with daughter 9 and son 5 and they want a cupcake he wants the pink one and she the blue. He plays with her dolls and she plays with his cars, which se looks so funny doing all dressed up girlie style with makeup and jewellery. And they both like to cook. So you never really can say what colour or toy for what sex.

Christine - posted on 09/09/2010

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I have to say I think there is a pretty healthy group here. I smiled lots at most of the responses. :) There were some very practical down to earth answers. Yea! I, too though, would like to have Jennifer elaborate a bit.

Jennifer - posted on 09/09/2010

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psychological development is vital during early years of development...it might help to introduce right choices...

Karen - posted on 09/09/2010

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No matter what colors you dress them in or what toys you give them, kids will be who they are. My daughter LOVES the color pink now - when she was little I bought whatever was cute, however she looks better in stronger colors so sometimes she was in pink but not pastels. However, she picks mostly pink when she gets dressed (she's 7), except for anything with monkeys. We give her all kinds of experiences, toys, etc., nothing is off-limits for her. So...she takes ballet (she likes the costumes!), plays softball, swims, plays with Barbies (they are "Zombie Barbies" in our house), LPS, Ponies, mothers her dolls, plays Pokemon, loves "Wipeout", and wields a mean shop vac and is learning to fix things and build things courtesy of her Dad. Kids will gravitate to whatever they are interested in, but it seems like the boys that I have seen tend to gravitate towards things that make noise, build things, blow things up, and/or have wheels, while the girls will tend to go towards dolls. Now, when the games are combined sometimes the Barbies are in the things that get blown up and sometimes the cars get washed... I personally think it's the adults who have the hangups, not the kids. And I don't have an issue with teaching girls (and boys) household chores, and if my DD (after she gets her College Degree!) chooses to be a SAHM becasue that is the best for her family (or her DH chooses to be a SAHD), that's fine with me. That's the equality that women fought for for many, many years.

Becky - posted on 09/09/2010

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I think it's absolutely hogwash! I have a son and a daughter. He's a grown man now, but he was always my artist and his passion is cooking. Never cared to participate in sports. Let me tell you there is NOTHING girly about my son. He is 6'5" and every bit the man - very happily married. My daughter on the other hand, also grown, is small and petite, has always been our athlete. Very competitive, always has and still does, HATES wearing dresses. Her hobby is Lionel trains which she has constructed a city in her spare bedroom. She is engaged to a wonderful young man, very successful in the work she does and both she and her brother are extremely happy and healthy in the lives.
I have always said 'show me where it is written boys have to play with trains and trucks and girls with dolls'

Camber - posted on 09/09/2010

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My son loves cars and trucks and all sorts of little boy stuff but when I go to my sisters house he likes to play with the little dolls. I think he thinks their babies though because he absolutely loves babies. I just let him play with whatever he likes.

Ioana - posted on 09/09/2010

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My (almost )3 months old boy has a pink blanket he got from his grandma, he got from a friend a pink toy piglet (she thinks that pink is an optimistic color), I dress him mostly in green, blue, yellow, red so we don't make a big deal out of the colors he wears.... important thing is that he is happy, healthy and loved

Sherri - posted on 09/09/2010

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Have to say I live the stereotypical 50's woman life. I am a SAHM mom w/three kids and my job is to raise them, take care of the inside of the house, cook and clean.
However, I do have a college degree and worked outside of the home until my kids were born and decided more than anything what I wanted to do was raise them and stay home. Not because of what anyone said or did. My mom has actually owned two different businesses was a single mom and advocated my education and getting a job. However, this is what I have choosen to do.

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Every being has both male and female energy. Male energy is focused , linear, protective and forward moving. Female energy is encompassing, nurturing, chaotic and circlular. It is healthy for a female to have more female energy and use their gift of femaninity. Also the same for males. But it is aso useful for anyone to be able to call upon their opposite gender skills when necessary. Many little boys will naturally be drawn to mehanical toys because that is how they function. Likewise girls will nuture and organise in a game. If the opposite happens then so be it. Let the nature of your child take its course ultimately they will do that anyway despite your efforts.

Christine - posted on 09/09/2010

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I agree. Parents shouldn't try to "push " one way or the other but I think it happens far too often and for a variety of reason. Unfortunately the steroetypes of the 50's "idealic" lifestyle still prevail to some, others are homophobic and fearful. Whatever the reasons I do agree that it is wrong. One would have to ask any given parent that pushes what their reasoning is. It is sad for those kids to be so unhappy before they even have a chance to live any life.

Genevieve - posted on 09/09/2010

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A boy is special because that is what they are. Whatever gender you are you should be proud of. I never said I believe there is only one way to raise a boy vs. a girl, or that girls should only do "girl" things and boys should only do "boy" things. Who said that gardening, hiking, putting up shelves, or doing car work were boy things anyway? I enjoy doing many of those things.My concern was that I saw someone say that they don't even discuss their child's gender because they don't want to push them in any certain direction. I think that just causes confusion. I have heard stories of children who want to have surgery to change what they are and it makes me wonder what the parents have said or done in these situations to cause the child to be so unhappy with their gender.

Christine - posted on 09/09/2010

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I don't believe it is necessary. Every child is an individual right from the start. They will tell you who they are, what they like, etc. I chose yellow for my sons room then later changed as he grew, my daughter had multicolored paint splashes in hers, it suited her. My son enjoyed building things...for hours. My daughter played cars more than dolls and was constantly on the go. I think as parents, in order to raise healthy children, need to encourage our children to be individuals and not miniatures of our ideals for them.

Jennifer - posted on 09/09/2010

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Genevieve, no disrespect, but why is a boy special for being a boy? That makes no sense to me. I think kids should be special for being themselves, and that requires FINDING OUT what they like, rather than telling them what to like.

I, for instance, like to dress up in feminine clothes and go dancing. I also like to wear, comfy, practical clothes and garden, hike, or work on the car. Should I not feel confident and special when I am putting up new shelves or changing my alternator?

It sounds like you are comfortable following standard gender roles, but why shouldn't everyone be comfortable whether or not everything they like is approved of by mainstream society?

Kristy - posted on 09/09/2010

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When my daughter was born I tried to get colors that would work for either a boy or a girl. As for toys I let her decide. She like dolls and cars.

Genevieve - posted on 09/09/2010

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Before a child is even born, they have a gender. It is completely up to the parents how they want to dress or talk to their baby, but the fact is, the child has a gender. So what is the purpose in pretending they don't? Why don't we just focus on making our boys feel confident and special because they are boys and making our girls feel confident and special because they are girls.

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I haven't felt the need. I dress my daughter in cute outfits, regardless of their gender-specificity. Consequently people tell me how handsome my boy is. She does get a lot of pink from hand-me-downs though. It's sad that everything is so gender specific. Even down to the same toys in different colors. But then I don't like all the licensed things either. I don't need a Toy Story rattle or a pastel ring stack toy. It's just a marketing ploy to get cash-strapped parents to spend more money buying the same things over and over.
As far as dolls for girls and cars for boys, scientific studies have shown that, in general, children gravitate toward traditional toys for their "gender." Even with no outside encouragement. Some children don't fit the pattern, apparently I was crazy about blocks and Hot Wheel size cars, but I did also play with my dolls. I think it would be a mistake to push a child one way or another in what to play with. The last thing children need is to feel that something is wrong with them. If they feel defective, there is a strong possibility that they will act that way. Children are very impressionable and very often fulfill the expectations parents have for them. Whether good or bad.

Callie - posted on 09/09/2010

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@ Dawn Dinnes- it really bothers me as well that toys have to be gender stereotyped by color as well. Have you looked at real umbrella strollers, they come in all colors. Sometimes you can find some that are pretty small and could be used for a doll. For a crib or highchair, if you or someone you know have some building skills you could always make one from wood and paint it what ever color you want. I'm sure you can find patterns online. My dad made my sister and I a cradle (it was blue) for our dolls when we were little.

Becky - posted on 09/09/2010

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I read an article recently that talked about how male babies tend to develop physically first and verbally later; female babies are the opposite. This is due largely in part to the subconscious emphasis parents place on their gender-specific children - talking for girls, being "strong" for boys. It's ingrained in us so much that we even do it without thinking. Since everyone does it, I don't think it's a problem.

However, as far as gender specific toys and clothes go, I have chosen "neutral" colours as often as possible. Toys I buy for the educational and developmental value (books, building blocks, etc.) rather than their attractiveness. So most of my daughter's toys are wooden or brightly coloured in various hues - pink, green, blue, yellow, purple, red, etc. They are toys a boy can use and not have people assume he's a girl, if you get what I'm saying. Clothes of course are rather gender specific as far as dresses vs. suits and ties (even for babies), but I had a pair of boys overalls for my daughter when she was younger, and I have no problem dressing her in browns, greens or blues. (Boys of course would look silly in pink frilly leggings, but white, green and yellow clothes work fine.)

Even though my husband and I knew we were having a girl, we painted the nursery yellow and accented with green. The theme was teddy bears. Very neutral and cute for both a boy or a girl. In fact, I purposely tried to stay away from gender-specific anything for her room. She even has a baseball bear!

My point is that it's up to you how gender specific you are with toys, decorations, expectations, etc. Your child will grow up to be who he/she wants to be, and THAT is what you should emphasize.

Jennifer - posted on 09/09/2010

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My children are themselves, and I encourage them to play with whatever they want and dress however they want- which has resulted in having to walk around town with a fake poker face while accompanied by people dressed like clowns or homeless people.

The only times my daughter played with dolls, she carried them around by their hair and punched one in the stomach to make it cry. (And I left her alone, because it was none of my business. Kids don't need to have adults judge their creative play). Then she cut it open to see what made the crying noise. She had no interest in cars, but loved Thomas the Tank Engine. She is beautiful and feminine looking, doesn't wear makeup much, and can skateboard. Why should I grade and judge each of her behaviours? She works, pays her own bills and I think she is very intelligent, interesting, funny and ethical. I am very proud of her.

My son is only 3, is 'typical' in that he loves cars, tools, machines. He is athletic and daring, just like his sister was, and I respond the same way I did with her- let him do anything that doesn't seem suicidal and hope I can catch him. He seems masculine to me, has the hang down and would make a pretty plain girl! He is also much sweeter than my daughter ever was, very empathetic, cries if I raise my voice. Am I falling down on the job when I tell him that little boys are made of sugar and spice and everything nice?

I don't put my son in dresses, because our society is what it is, but when they were young they just wore whatever was available, many times my daughter wore boys sweat pants and T's. When they start caring, they pick their own clothes. I do have the same rules and expectations for all children regardless of gender. I expect my kids to be self-suffficient, thoughtful people. The rest is up to them.

Gabrielle - posted on 09/09/2010

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I'm so with you, Jami. I always hated the limiting gender roles when I was growing up, and I refuse to force them on my daughter. I hate to cook, sew, clean, etc, I don't wear dresses or skirts unless I have to, I hate pink, lace, and frilly things - the works. I am NOT a girly girl. My husband is very well-rounded - he's very handy with tools as well as in the kitchen and with a sewing machine. So, my daughter gets exposed to everything. She wear pink and blue, she plays with dolls and tools, her best friends include boys and girls, she climbs high and helps daddy bake brownies. Why on earth would I want to tell my child that, "you can't do that; that's only for boys"? Yes, occasionally when she was a baby in her blue car seat, people would think she was a boy, but that happened even when she was wearing pink, so it just goes to show people are silly.

I tell my daughter she is beautiful and strong, smart and caring. The gender in our society have changed with every generation, which just proves that they're not inherent or required. Whatever my daughter ends up in life - a SAHM of 5 kids, a doctor with a stay at home hubby, a girly girl, a tough chick, a lesbian - as long as it's her choice or what makes her happy, then I'm fine with it. Because I know she will have chosen it rather than been forced into it just because she's a girl.

And if I had a boy, I would feel the same way, and give him just as many options. Gender roles can be just as bad for boys, limiting them and forcing them. I was an anthropology major in college and studied gender and gender roles in many cultures. There's a lot more out there than what we think "must be", according to mainstream America.

Stifler's - posted on 09/09/2010

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i don't think they are old enough to be considered gay at doll playing age anyway. pushing the stereotypes is what will make them gay if anything makes people gay.

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my 20mth old likes pink and since we are having another baby likes babies and when we go to someones house with a girl he carrys around a doll. its funny because i can't find any boy doll...why not? i reckon go with whatever they like, they have too much pressure on them when they get older to start it now

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Gender roles are a social construction. I raise my kids to be decent human beings and to do what they want and like what and who they want.

Karen - posted on 09/08/2010

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My boys have dolls and play dads and uncles with them. They also love lego- when they play lego with my neices the girls build houses and my boys build space bases or army battlement type things. In my work with 2-3 year olds I find that boys and girls often play with the same toys but in very different ways-no one shows them this, it's in built. 2 of my boys favourite colour is pink, the other one changes his mind every week, but the 2 always want a pink straw or a pink shirt (luckily quite fashionable at the moment). I think it's more important to teach them general characteristics such as kindness, manners etc because everyone needs to learn these.

Kristi - posted on 09/08/2010

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I sort of wonder why people care so much. Both my girls have traditionally male names, but are feminine girls just the same. I hear parents bugging about their little boys liking pink and baby dolls. So what?!! A little boy waiting for his sister to get out of class today came over to me and showed me his teddy bear, which he was carrying in a little basket with blankets. I recall this little boy from last year, and he is extremely intelligent, well-spoken and observant. He is all of three or four. He showed me his bear and advised me that she was a girl and her name was Matilda. She was a week old, so we had to be very gentle with her. I told this little boy that one day he would be a wonderful daddy, and inquired all kinds of things about his baby, which he was happy to share. This is the same little boy wearing Spiderman and who played fervently with a car collection last spring. One of my friends has a little boy for whom she found a free ride-around-in Jeep, which he happily drove all over the place while every manner of relative and well-meaning friend lost their mind because the darn thing was - guess what color - pink. Are you kidding me? WTF?? Who cares?! He was having a grand old time while people went crazy telling mom to spray paint it camo colors, etc. There is a great article in a summer issue of Mothering Magazine about boys who like the color pink. I thought it was interesting that the article said pink was actually traditionally a male associated color. I think it's a load of garbage that wearing one color or another is going to cause problems for a child because it's different. By the same token, I think it's an educational opportunity for parents to point out to children who have already been damaged by the rhetoric about color preferences that it is meaningless if a boy wears pink or a girl likes to play basketball. School age or whatever aside. My two cents. xoxo :)

Beatrice - posted on 09/08/2010

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Sherri - Let me clarify, and thank you for pointing out my error :)

The ones my daughter likes would be any that would be decorated more for boys than girls. The grisly skull and crossbone with blood dripping down the sides variety, as opposed to the skull and crossbones with the bow at the top of it's "head". My daughter has gone as far as to proclaim (and yes, I quote) "The color Pink is my NEMISIS".

The point I was trying to make is it doesn't matter so much as to what others think about the items a child prefers (bows or blood?) as much as it matters that parents are there to guide and listen to that child. My two cents.

Sherri - posted on 09/08/2010

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Funny I don't see scooters and skateboards geared just to boys at all. Almost all of my friends girls have both of these items.

Beatrice - posted on 09/08/2010

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Jami - It all boils down to what you believe and teach your child. If you and your spouse teach your child to be happy with him/herself for who he/she is and to disregard any negative comments others "might" have, there should not be any problem when that child grows, regardless of whether they decide to live his/her life as assigned at birth.

We (I) opted to dress my daughter in mostly blues when she was born. At the time, there were some really cute dresses and girly outfits. As she grew old enough to play with toys, I first started off buying those that were geared towards girls. I soon found out that she played with them some, and then would get into the toybox to play with her cousin's toys (trucks, cars, tools, etc). It opened my eyes to not try to stifle her into one gender roll, because children can learn from just about any plaything created for children.

Fast-forward to today: My daughter is 12 and well adjusted. She still likes some items that are more geared towards boys (scooters, skateboards, ugly VANs shoes) but she is 100% girl, and happy with who she is today. Sure, being a mom, I would love it were she a little more girly dressing, acting, but ultimately, she is who she is, and for that I love her.

As for those who chastise you for not guiding your child the way THEY feel you should... Continue to be a good mom, be there for your child, and the rest will fall into place. Don't worry about what others think, because at the end of the day, YOU are raising your child... not them! :)

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