Why Does My Son Hate ‘Girl Stuff’ All Of A Sudden?

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

PPBB Community comment: “I wish I could control what my kids are learning in the classroom. My son comes home from kindergarten feeling like all he can play are superhero games. 
I’ve been telling both he and his sister from their day ones that all colors are for everybody, al
l characters are for everybody, princesses are for everybody and superheroes are for everybody. We live that way. 
But a few days in school and my boy yells “yuck” every time I ask him if he wants a pink heart sticker for crying out loud. 
It’s depressing, really.” -Kelly F


PPBB Reply: A lot of what your son is doing right now is totally age appropriate and common for kids who are in the phase of establishing gender permanence. Kids his age categorize everything and the world is very “this or that” for them right now. Good/bad, pretty/ugly, mean/nice, funny/scary. This is why the preschool/kinder age has such big emotions as the huge world they are learning so much about every day doesn’t line up with their boxes and they feel shifted and out of sorts. 

The categorization helps them feel a sense of control, because going out into the world every day without mom/dad right there can be scary and overwhelming so they compartmentalize everything and take their roles VERY seriously, which is why your son is overemphasizing that he is a B-O-Y right now and pink heart stickers make him wretch. 

It is completely frustrating and also a great indication he is learning and absorbing everything around him, including our culture’s definition of gender roles. Just be patient and keep emphasizing little gender equity mantras. It will stick with him as he matures.

Some PPBB gender equal and media literacy mantras you can use are:

Colors are for everyone.

All toys are for all kids.

There are many ways to be a girl.

There are many ways to be a boy.

Each person is Full of Awesome in their special way.


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  1. Kimberly Herbert says:

    Thank You Thank You Thank You for not placing the blame on the teachers. The lower grade teachers in my school had adopted the “All colors are for all people” along with “You take what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. The only boy last year that got up set about being handed a pink piece of construction paper was new to our campus. The other kids’ reactions to his fit was all it took. They were bewildered. He never fussed again.

    I only divide my kids into girls and boys for
    1. Bathroom breaks
    2. Formal Picture Day (the photographers require it)
    3. My towards end of the year you have to start wearing an undershirt or something speech – but that is only directed at the girls that are starting to show development. Coach also pulls those girls (especially any that were retained so year older) for a this is your body lesson. Yes girls who are 8 -9 sometimes start their periods.

    I allow some degree of free choice in seating arrangements. Last year for 2 weeks that meant I had 2 tables with all boys and 1 table with all girls. After two weeks the boys were begging the girls to agree to mix up the tables. I have to admit I struggled with having 1 girl at a table full of boys, because I had a nasty year long experience being that girl in 3rd grade. Then a coworker pointed out my experience was being the only sane person at a table full of bullies and sociopaths (3 are in jail for crimes against women), while being beaten up on a regular basis.

    One thing I was criticized for was sometimes my learning groups would be all boy or all girl. Thing is less than 1/3 of my class (of the grade) were girls. That made it feel like I was using the girls as buffers to keep the boys calm. Most of my science lessons were researched based. I had the kids rank their interest in a topic or question. I placed them according to their interests. If I ended up with all girl/all boy groups so be it. It happened some – but mostly the groups were mixed. Since they were researching and presenting about something they had an interest in things stayed calm.

    • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

      Kimberly –
      Thank you so much for thinking about these issues and making important changes in your classroom. You sound like an amazing teacher!!

  2. SpawnMama says:

    My six-year-old son (known as “Younger Spawn” online) tried that recently. This was the ensuing conversation: http://spawnchats.tumblr.com/post/90684399135/younger-suddenly-while-playing-a-video-game .

    I definitely agree that kids need to categorize; I just prefer to have his categories be “gender-freedom” versus “outdated ideas about gender”. WE’RE the progressive people who want freedom for everybody, and THEY’RE the ones who want to keep people trapped in “girl boxes” and “boy boxes”. Younger Spawn still gets the “this or that” division he needs, while also getting to embrace the idea of freedom from traditional gender roles.

    • Melissa Atkins Wardy says:

      SpawnMama –
      LOVE the conversation that you had with your son. I’m going to share it with the PPBB Community. Please send me relevant blog posts anytime, I’d be happy to share them 🙂

      • SpawnMama says:

        Thanks! We did have a followup conversation the next day: http://spawnchats.tumblr.com/post/90792484665/so-younger-revisited-yesterdays-conversation . There was a third time he brought it up a couple days after that but that time quickly shifted into a transgender discussion so it’s not terribly relevant. I’ll be curious to see if there’s any response from other PPBBers. 🙂

        • Brandy King says:

          LOVE these conversations, thank you for posting SpawnMama! I have always told Melissa that what I love about her work is that she shows us the “scripts” she uses in different conversations. I remember them when I’m in similar situations and I actually feel like I am in charge of what messages I am telling my kids are important to our family, rather than fumbling my way through it.

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