toddler hairdressing

Gender neutral parenting

Again, there’s been a spot of gender neutral parenting hitting the headlines.

This time UK parents, who’ve decided to let their child grow up gender neutral, so letting him wear both ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ clothes, play with any type of toy and the like.  They’re planning to home school, although I don’t really see their argument in doing that apart from avoiding the child coming up against gender stereotypes early on.  I have to say that compared with the previous article I’d seen about an American family, this doesn’t seem that extreme.  No neutral name, no neutral haircut etc.

The mum made the decision because she believes that forcing boys to be ‘boys’ encourages essentially chauvinistic behaviour and hatred towards women.  Hmm, personally I know a lot of boys who were brought up only wearing boys clothes, having short haircuts and not playing with dolls, and now they’re grown up they’re in successful evenly matched relationships, and are nice people.  Seems a bit of a 2+2=5 equation.

Also, how many children realistically only play with toys that are for their own gender?  Many toys are neutral, and even if their home environment is only focused on one type of toys, many children have friends or siblings toys to play with, and/or go to nurseries where they can choose any toy.

I did feel for an older baby the other day at softplay though.  He’d picked up one the of toy hoovers, and made to push it around before his dad grabbed the toy away from him saying ‘let’s find a boys toy to play with’.  A shame, but I’m sure the majority of parents are quite open minded when it comes down to what toys their children play with.

N is very definitely a boyish boy.  He loves wheels (always has, even as a baby when he loved playing around his pram’s wheels), loves tractors (although I’m sure if we’d had a girl, being on a farm, they’d have had no choice), and isn’t really fussed with dolls.  I had a couple of dolls which he scorned, but he always liked putting his soft toys (and tractors) in my old retro pushchair to push around.  But otherwise, he’ll quite happily spend time in the kitchen with me, helping me cook, helping me put the washing in the machine or hanging it up to dry.  He likes to make ‘tea’ for people with his play food, and likes to ‘clean’ the bath while I’m in the shower.  We’ve not forced anything in particular, although obviously buy toys that we know he’ll like because he’s shown a preference towards it before.

On the clothes side of things, I think it’s a bit of a loony idea.  N’s quite a pretty boy, but however much he enjoys wearing the princess outfits at nursery, he just doesn’t look quite as good in those colours or outfits, as he does in more ‘boyish’ colours and outfits.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing him in trousers, jumpers and t-shirts, but if he was wearing a skirt, he’d just look silly.  Plus of course, his dad would hit the roof.

My view is, a bit of dressing up is fine.  All kids do it, and it’s their creativity and role playing, just the same as driving a train round a trainset is, whether they’re a boy or girl. If clothes are neutral colours (jeans, t-shirts etc), then go ahead, but personally I want to see a boy dressed like a boy.  If you look there are more creative and colourful boys clothes available away from the standard high street stores.

toddler hairdressing

If the child really legitimately wants to wear a mishmash of clothing then let them (you should see what N’s been wearing this week – in the house only, I must add!) if it avoids a tantrum, but I wouldn’t want children to feel forced into becoming ‘neutral’, where they might not understand who they are underneath.  I guess only the family will know if the child’s confused when older, or whether it works out as planned.

pyjamas over trousers look
Pyjamas over his trousers and t shirt

Much as I’d have loved to have had a girl to take to ballet classes or do girly things with, I’m glad we’ve got a boy who’s into wheels and farms, trains and reading, and wearing blues.

What do you think about dressing children in both boys and girls clothes, and raising them gender neutral?  Is it just another label for something that a lot of parents do anyway?

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  1. I agree – I think dressing up is fine and we should give our children the freedom to explore and do a bit of mis-matching. Most toys are gender neutral these days anyway; our son is nearly 4 and will happily play with dolls and hoovers although most of the toys he has at home are trains, cars and lego. But only because this is what he likes. To me, the problem with this family, is that they are not really raising their son to be gender neutral; they are raising him to be a boy in the morning and a girl in the afternoon (or vice versa). Apparently he changes his clothes and toys at lunchtime. Seems a bit forced to me! We home educate – not to keep our son away from other children, but for a variety of reasons. He socialises an awful lot, but it seems as if these parents want to home educate to isolate their child – not a recipe for a happy, well rounded grown up. Aggression is not caused by never wearing a tutu or playing with a doll; it’s caused by attitude towards others, women in particular. Perhaps they should let him be who he wants to be and concentrate on teaching him respect! Having said that of course, you never know whether the media portrayal is accurate – perhaps they are doing this already! (glad to have found your blog via Big Bad Blog Share)

    1. Thanks for your comment Katie. I agree totally. Their method does seem a bit forced. Plus of course, 2 is a very young age for a child to be deciding what they want to do themselves really. I’d read a previous article where the child had a very neutral name, chose to have his hair long, and wore what he wanted when he wanted it. They were really going from it from birth.

      But really as you say, respect and self worth is what they need to teach rather than the way they appear to be doing it from this article.

  2. Carson is always playing with girly stuff, just as much as boys stuff. I say leave them be. If they’re happy that’s all that matters. I rememeber when he was in nursery 2 years ago (about 3yrs old) Carsonsdaddy went nuts because we turned up and he was dressed up as Snow White. Why?! He was having fun, leave him to it!
    He’s defo coming out more ‘boyish’ these days, and I gather that’s nature because I haven’t forced it one little bit x

    1. Agree on the dressing up. All kids like dressing up, and N and his other boy friends who like dressing up in dresses at nursery are just role playing the same as girls do. I do think N’s dad wouldn’t be impressed if he saw him though! N has started wanting to put on ‘make up’ in the morning copying me. Today he grabbed my powder, and was all for putting that on. I think I’d draw the line at nail polish though.

      Thanks for commenting

  3. Mr Fussy chooses his own clothes being nearly 4 he is getting better at being coordinated but if I offered him a dress he would be horrified, We let him play with which ever toys he chooses and he had a dolls house, a pushchair and lots of other stereotypical girls toys but then he has lots of boys toys too. If we take him shopping he heads straight for the boys clothes he wants to be like his friends and I do not see a problem in that it is not stereotypes but parenting that shapes a child. Great post and such cute pictures

    1. Thanks for popping by to comment. Love the thought of a 4yo face on being offered a dress! I think N would be the same if I actually pulled one out of his wardrobe. He moans enough about certain t-shirts.

      So true that it’s parenting that shapes the child.

  4. I have a little boy is 4 and a half and he is most deffinutly a boyish boy but is also sometimes found in the “home corner” at nursery playing with the dolls with all the girls lol!
    I really have no issue with this at all aslong as my little boy us happy that’s all that matters!
    But like you I think the clothes thing is a little strange lol! Xx

    1. Oh that’s cute. N’s like your son, loves playing with the girls especially if ‘cooking’s involved.

      Today at nursery (not one of his normal days), he was the only boy in with 8 or 9 girls. Him and his hareem

  5. My boys chose to watch Thomas the Tank Engine and play with cars/tractors/trains. My girls always want to wear a pretty dress and feed their dollies & watch Sofia the First! I wouldn’t have a problem if the boys wanted to play with the girl’s toys or vice versa as they are just children learning new things and growing up. I think it would bother me a little if they were doing it when they were much older. Just my opinion x

    1. I think a lot of parents would feel the same as you. Definitely when they’re young they need to explore and learn, and a variety of toys is what increases their knowledge. I’m also with you on the choices. It was really noticeable with our NCT group how the girls love playing with dolls at a much earlier age, while the boys just wanted the pushchairs to zoom them around the room. They all had the same choice of toys when we were together.

      thanks for taking the time to comment

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