# How should I handle a little boy who likes girls' toys?

I have a 5-year-old boy who likes to play with girl stuff. He doesn't like to dress up or anything like that, he just loves to dress up the Barbies, and he will even help me with my clothes by telling me which ones he thinks are ugly and so forth. His dad has been absent from his life most of the time, and I guess this has led him to like more girl toys than boys but I don't know --I'm just a scared mom. He also plays with boys' toys and when we go to shopping he always runs to the boys' section and picks up the clothes he likes, and they are always boys' clothes.

The thing is that I took him to his dad's house to spend a week with his dad, and his dad called me and told me about the situation. I told him I already knew it and that for me it was something normal, that he was a child and kids like different things. His dad told me that he "wasn't raisin a faggot" and that he should have our son living with him so he can teach him how to be a man. I won't agree to this because he is my only child. I really don't care what my son will be in the future as I will always have him and he will always be my son.

But my question is: Is it normal that he likes girl toys? And does that means that he will be gay? And I am handling the situation right? What can I do to help him out? Please help me.

• If he does turn out gay, like I did, he'll remember the parent who let him be himself and the parent that called him a faggot. Like I did. – user6589 Apr 8 '15 at 3:06
• Not a full answer, but: as a young child I joined my sister in playing with her dolls, and I'm told (although I have only the barest memories of it) that at times I had one of my own. My parents had no issue with it - when I wanted the doll, I had one; when I later wanted an Action Man with a rocket launcher, I got one. My mom works in a school and does learning support stuff, and she tells me it's part of exploring nurturing roles that will someday be used in parenthood. For the record, I'm completely heterosexual. From the sound of it, you're doing just fine - let your son play how he wants. – anaximander Apr 9 '15 at 9:56
• Time for the kid to have a lot less contact with his father, I'd say, and I'm pretty sure if it comes down to a lawsuit CPS will have your back on this. – Shadur Apr 9 '15 at 14:24
• Why, oh why do people even think in terms so limited as "girl toys" and "boy toys"? – Jasper Apr 10 '15 at 9:03
• "His dad told me that he 'wasn't raisin a faggot'" It sounds like he is not raising anybody, so this statement would be accurate – gillonba Apr 13 '15 at 16:59

There's nothing whatsoever wrong with your son, but there is something very very wrong with his father. The best thing you can do is try to limit your sons exposure to this person. If he has these sorts of attitudes you should be able to argue that he is a danger to your sons emotional well-being and potentially have his level of access limited to only supervised visits.

• -1 Every parent makes mistakes, and someone who hasn't had much parenting experiences makes more. It sounds like the father is making an effort, even if he is misguided. Treating the father as an enemy or a lost cause isn't necessarily going to be the best thing for his son either. – Chris Sunami Apr 13 '15 at 13:16
• @ChrisSunami: Well, actually a person talking about the son being a "faggot" in one sentence and offering to "teach him how to be a man" in the next, while not necessarily a lost cause, is a danger to the son's emotional well-being and should have only restricted contact to him... – DevSolar Apr 14 '15 at 8:07
• @ChrisSunami - The father has shown unreasonable bias and hostility in a world where that kind of thinking is dying out. Whilst there isn't any doubt that he loves his son, his fears of "raising a faggot" (his words) will force him to try and imprint this sort of unjustified fearful thinking onto his son, and he will limit his son's exposure to outside ideas and will ultimately stunt his normal, healthy mental growth. There's nothing wrong with taking your son fishing and camping, there IS something wrong with judging every action he takes as if it had an effect on his sexual orientation. – Robotnik Apr 15 '15 at 5:47
• @DevSolar It's easy to be judgmental from behind a keyboard. I'm not advocating the child be continuously exposed to a hostile environment, and I'm sure the OP has enough knowledge of her ex to know what kind of person he actually is. But one ignorant statement is not enough for me to advocate dividing a father from a child in a world where intact paternal relationships are increasingly rare. – Chris Sunami Apr 15 '15 at 13:28
• @ChrisSunami. It doesn't sound like this paternal relationship is in any way 'intact'. The OP has also stated that the father intends to disown the child if he turns out to be gay. He said this about an innocent little 5 year old boy... His own flesh and blood. He apparently has no particular qualms about dividing himself from the child. I know we don't have much to go on here, but I find it very difficult to believe this man could have any redeeming fatherly qualities. – user1751825 Apr 16 '15 at 13:22

Kids like toys. My daughter plays with trucks and shovels and her toy lawn mower. My son will undoubtedly wind up playing with old toys that my daughter used to play with.

This link from baby center would indicate that you, as a parent, are simply enabling your child's normal and healthy imagination and that:

"playing with Barbies at age 2 or 3 isn't going to "make" him anything other than an imaginative child."

Here is another example of a mother going through exactly what you are going through. And the expert answer given falls directly in line with the first link.

extensive research has shown that it's healthy for boys to play with so-called "girl toys."

By all the indicators I can see, you are doing a fine job of raising a perfectly normal and healthy baby boy.

Playing with "girl" toys at the age of five is indeed completely normal behavior for a little boy. You are correct not to worry and to allow your son to play in the way that he enjoys. It doesn't mean that he is gay, and it certainly won't "make" him gay; his sexual orientation is likely already fixed by the age of five, although he is probably still to young to be aware of, understand, or express it.

The tone and language of his father's response and his extreme suggestion of a "solution" (that the child live with him after he's been absent for most of the child's life) are very troubling to me. They are clues that the father has very specific ideas about which behaviors are "okay" for a boy, and that he finds anything that pushes against that to be unacceptable. If the father thinks this way, he will make it clear to his children. Your son should be free to grow into who he is and what he likes, with parents who will nurture and guide him, not a parent who wants to force him into one specific type of person--that is, "teach him to be a man." I worry about this especially because there is a (small) chance that your son may indeed grow up to realize that he is gay, and at that point his father may have already spent a long time teaching your son (even if it is subtle and not overt) that this is not okay, which could be very damaging both to his self-esteem and to his relationship with his father.

It's clear that you love your son very much and want the best for him. He deserves to have parents who will love him absolutely, no matter who he grows up to love in the future.

Your son is doing what he is doing in response to his own internal drives. His actions are nothing but a combination of genetics and life experience. Playing with dolls won't "turn him into a fag." He will eventually develop some level of attraction towards males and females that is determined by his genetics as well as prenatal testosterone exposure from your adrenal gland. These things influence how his brain is wired - how many neurons there are in which places, and what other neurons they will or won't talk to.

Heterosexual and homosexual attraction are simply the result of neural calculators examining the geometry of another person's face, looking at how far apart the features are, how angular the jaw is, how brawny or slender the shoulders and hips are, how tall the person is, how they act, etc. Attraction is just an emotion that takes geometry as its basic input. Behavior is controlled the same way.

Boys are more likely to play with trucks, and girls are more likely to play with dolls; not just because we think "boy=truck and girl=doll", but because trucks are more about interacting with the physical world, and dolls are more about interacting socially. Boys simply tend to like physical activity more, and girls simply tend to like social interaction more, because that's what their brains bias them to prefer. If the neurons were connected differently, their thoughts and actions would correspondingly change. It really is just a box of wires and transistors in there.

Of course, these are just averages. There is a lot of variation, even between individuals of the same sex. Some boys will grow up to be like Ru Paul, and some girls will grow up wanting to do nothing but haul lumber and swing a chainsaw around! You can't tell your boy what he should want to do, and neither can his father. (Well, you can, but you'll give him a horrid complex - keep reading.)

If you let his father take the reins on this, he will teach the boy that how he feels internally is inherently wrong, and that he has to lie to himself in order to satisfy his need to belong to an in-group. If he is taught that playing with dolls or liking the same sex is wrong, and if he is internally motivated toward those things, he will get into a needless war with himself that will damage him to the core. And - like another poster said - once he eventually figures out that he's been spoon-fed a bunch of nonsense, he will remember who supported him and who didn't. His father might benefit from knowing that his son will grow up to detest him if he gets heavy-handed about the dolls.

I believe that your approach, of letting him play with dolls if he feels like it, is in his best interest. It might help to tell him that if his father corners him about the dolls, that his father grew up being told that that was wrong, and that's why he thinks it's wrong. It's messy to introduce the concept that a parent can be fundamentally wrong about something, but that's better than letting his father unconsciously corner him into a self-loathing complex.

You have to figure out a way to protect your son's interests. His father means well, but suffers from the same ignorance we are all brought up in. He thinks his morals are universally true, like everyone else. He doesn't understand that it's just his subconscious mind trying to defend its in-group from a perceived threat. He thinks it's real.

I occasionally played with dolls when I was a kid. My friend had some Barbies. We did what all children do with Barbies sooner or later: we made them boink. Then we laughed, and moved on to the next shiny object. It didn't matter to either of us, whose gender role was what, or who should mess with dolls and who should mess with trucks.

If you want, lie to his dad. It's unethical to lie, but it's far more unethical to let his father's culturally isolated upbringing interfere with your son's life. Tell him a doctor said that bothering him about the dolls will have a "reverse psychology" effect, causing him to be more interested in them - which it might!!! He probably doesn't care about them all that much, and will forget them as soon as something newer comes by. If he doesn't forget about them - if he starts showing "queer" behavior - it's not the dolls; it's him, and that was always going to happen, dolls or no.

• There are a lot of presumptions in the first couple of paragraphs that are worded as if they're scientific fact, but there is no citations given for those claims. I don't think the message of your answer is off course, but using what appears to be pseudo-science is why I -1 (which I'll remove if citations are added). – user11394 Apr 10 '15 at 18:31
• I -1'd too. "Boys simply tend to like physical activity more, and girls simply tend to like social interaction more, because that's what their brains bias them to prefer" is unacceptable and unsubstantiated nonsense. – sam hocevar Apr 11 '15 at 16:25
• OK, I added this citation: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296090 - If this doesn't adequately explain something, please let me know and I'll get more. (BTW - Unsubstantiated is fair, since I didn't cite it at first - but unacceptable? It's either possible to back it up or it isn't. "Unacceptable" doesn't apply to statements of fact unless they're factually incorrect!) – Huns Apr 11 '15 at 21:28

Your son likes picking out his clothes. I can't see that as a gender-defining issue. One of my (now married) sons had such a great eye for arranging flowers in the most interesting and imaginative ways that I would sometimes send him to the garden with a pair of clippers and a free hand (something my other children didn't get (blush)!

Playing with a wide variety of toys without pressure has been shown to foster creativity, being pressured to play with gender conforming toys alone inhibits creativity.

The real problem here, as you know, is the father's negative attitude towards his son. If he doesn't have visitation rights, you can specify that he can see his son only when you are present, so that you can see how the father acts towards your son. Having a number of such visits might let you make a more informed decision on how much of a role you want to allow the father to play in your son's life. Having a father play a role is important, if it's not a destructive role. Only you are in a position to decide that.

• Good for you. There’s real risk that parents will mistake cultural stereotypes for universal human truths, which of course they are not, and you haven’t fallen into that. Ikenobō, one of the branches of the Japanese art of flower-arranging, is an ancient, venerable, and extremely highly respected tradition in that land, where no gender-biased stigma is ever attached to it as it too often is in our own. – tchrist Aug 9 '15 at 20:05

I highly doubt there is a correlation between sexual orientation and the kind of toy one plays with at five years old. I can't imagine what would cause that, anyway; 'boy toys' and 'girl toys' are social constructs mostly unrelated to biology or sexuality, but to the expected role those children will play as adults.*

There is probably a correlation, however, between boys who play with social role-playing toys (animals, dolls) and nice grown up men. Playing with dolls is a great way to explore socialization and feelings, and those are rather important for a child to develop.

In general, children of any age will play with whatever happens to appeal to them (and perhaps their social group). I don't have a 5 year old yet, but my 3.5 year old likes playing with any toy: cars and trains the most, but that's also what his girl friends like to play with (they move!). He loves to play with dolls and dressup and everything else you can imagine.

I can't tell you what to do relative to his sexual orientation, except that 1) they're not something you can change, and 2) they're not particularly relevant at five years old. If it were me, I wouldn't think another thought about this until he's old enough to discuss sexual matters in enough detail that he can understand them.

I can't tell you what to do with your child's father, either, although if it were me I would let him know that such language is inappropriate, and that if he wants to be involved in his son's life, he should read some parenting books, particularly ones that explain how children develop socially and emotionally. That kind of attitude is very unfortunate, and not something I'd be particularly interested in having around my child. Perhaps you have a religious figure or someone in the community who can help.

*While some evidence shows that transgender people do begin expressing that as children, you can't necessarily see that in how they play; it comes out in how they actually self-identify. It's not a matter of being confused; they actually identify with their cis-gender classmates.

To put that in plain english, boy children who are 'trans' girls will actually identify as girls in their minds, not simply by playing with girl toys, but actually using words ("I don't feel like a boy") and thoughts. It's fairly rare to be identifiable at the age you're talking about (5); it's much more common as children approach adolescence, as children begin to realize the differences.

If you want to read more, there are support groups like Laura's Playground, or you can talk to a trained child psychologist.

• I almost upvoted, but the second sentence is partially wrong. boys toys and girls toys are not entirely social constructs, they are partially biological constructs newscientist.com/article/… (and many other websites, though I'm having difficulty determining which are the same studies). I make no claims that there is such a thing as a "boys toy" or that girls playing with "boy toys" is bad, merely that there is a biological correlation. – Mooing Duck Apr 7 '15 at 22:03
• Find a better study and I'll consider retracting that, but a study of captive rhesus monkeys I don't buy. – Joe Apr 7 '15 at 22:06
• livescience.com/22677-girls-dolls-boys-toy-trucks.html mentions two studies, different species. The second shows that newborns tend to track the "gender-appropriate" toys with their eyes more. This mentions several studies, several on humans: parentingscience.com/girl-toys-and-parenting.html I can find zero studies or pages suggesting conflicting results, but I'm at work and don't really have time to do a proper job of this. – Mooing Duck Apr 7 '15 at 22:15
• This may seem nit-picky in an otherwise very good answer, but please don't call our orientation a preference. Assuming you are a heterosexual male (if I'm wrong, forgive me) I don't think you'd say, "Well, I like sex with men, but I prefer women." Still gave you an upvote though for the rest. – user6589 Apr 8 '15 at 3:11
• @thumbtackthief Good point; i'm old enough that I'm used to the former term, but you're entirely correct that it's wrong. Updated. – Joe Apr 8 '15 at 14:09

As others have mentioned, enjoying dolls isn't particularly unusual for a little boy and does NOT mean your son will grow up to be gay.

The bigger problem here is your and your son's relationship with his dad. I'm a big believer that children need positive role models of both genders --but those role models don't necessarily have to be the children's parents. It sounds like your son's father is trying to be more present and do a better job, however he may not know that much about what it takes to be a good father. Punishing or shaming his child for something harmless is not going to have any positive result. Ironically, it is often boys who grow up without fathers present who feel they have to be extra macho in order to be "real men."

I would encourage you to make it clear to your son's father that you want him to be present in your son's life but that you need him to be accepting of who your son is. In any case, continue to make your son feel completely loved and supported by you, and make sure you talk to him about his time with his dad so you can help him respond appropriately.

First of all, he's just fine. Nothing to correct here. Second, I don't think sexual orientation is a choice or something you can change. You're born with it. I see it like this. If the doll represents anything, it most likely represents his mother. He lives with her, sees her living as a woman, dressing up, putting on makeup, etc... and he's emulating that. If anything, he's exploring the female gender. He wants to know how women work. All men want to know how women work. Hell, show me a man that wouldn't dress a woman himself if he had a say in what she wore. Of course, Stripper's Discount Warehouse would experience a boom in sales if that were the case, but that's a topic for a different discussion. I think your son likes looking at women. I don't think your son sees himself in the doll. I think he sees a representation of a woman and wants to understand them. Kids learn to understand the world around them through play and playing with dolls may well lead him to an understanding of women that other men will, one day, envy. But don't let him play with Smurfs. That's just messed up.......kidding. :)

I am 53, and I have been married for 24 years with 2 sons. In my childhood I spent all my time playing with the dolls people gave my sister; I also won prizes for cookery, sewing and flower arranging - my wife has several items of clothing I have sewn for her. My sister spent all our childhood playing with the toy cars and so on people gave me: she is heterosexual as well. Lots of stupid people made "off colour" comments during my childhood. One of my sons is currently working as a fashion model, and has a long-term girlfriend. This lining up what sorts of toys children like to play with their sexuality is a load of rubbish: just let kids be kids, stop trying to force them into moulds, and they will grow up to be whatever God intended them to be: gay, straight, bi: and who cares as long as they live contented, productive lives?

• thank you so much for your comment, as a child I was the same way, and I expressed this to his father, and he said I was just making excuses, I told him I was just raising a child confident enough to be whatever he wants to be in life and to careless of what people think or says about him. Maybe I'm wrong who knows, but I just don't want to make him afraid of expressing what he likes. – Mariana G. Apr 9 '15 at 14:56

I would like you to mention the following points:

• Whether he has any male friend(s) / siblings of his age?

• If "Yes", then how does he behave with them? Does he like to play with them?

• What personal interests does he show while he is in their company? (boys' interest/girls' interests)

For a 5 year old child displaying the behaviour you mentioned, I think you need not worry. Children like to play with whatever toys that catches their attention, be it girls' or boys' toys.

And playing with girls' toys can also be related to just a phase of time. As the time passes, he will surely be keenly interested in boys' toys and games.

At least it is much better than playing those violent games that affect the child' thinking and behaving aggressively.

I remember that during my school cultural programme, boys in my class would play part of female character and dress up like females for a fancy dress party or a theatrical play. Now as adults, they have turned out to be perfectly normal. In fact this made them more outward and enhanced their personality.

Child's relation with his/her father is of immense importance but any rough or aggressive attitude towards him might hamper his nascent thinking. Don't let him feel that you think something is wrong with him.

Most of all try to mend the relationship of your child and his father. Your child should not get even a faintest idea that his parents consider his activities abnormal lest he might grow emotionally insecure and distant with both of you.

Give him some time to grow his mental aptitude and at the same time be watchful of his activities.

I hope as the time advances, things will turned out to be just normal.

• He doesn't really have friends his only brother is 9 years old but when they're together they play any type of games. I give him confidence and told him thatthat nothing is wrong with him, but I'm not sure if that's what his dad will tell him. – Mariana G. Apr 8 '15 at 5:12
• You are naturally worried but you are doing your part. Rest of the efforts should come from child's father and his elder brother. Encourage your elder son to team up with his younger brother in more outdoor activity. Counsel your husband that he should take it easy towards the child & need not be aggressive towards the child because that would only worsen the situation lest the child might think that something is really abnormal with him & this thinking would really hamper his growing age and overall personality. A child's strength comes from his family. Be his strength. – a.s. Apr 8 '15 at 11:05
• If you have a job then get him enrolled in some play school where he would be more engaged in outdoor games and activities. You could get a feedback about his activities from the teacher at play school. Try to discover his other interests. On a sanguine note I have a belief that your worry might come out to be totally unwarranted but only future will tell & as a Mother, presently your worry is reasonable.Once again I emphasise, don't give him even the faintest idea that you think his behaviour is abnormal in any way. Behave normal with him & be watchful. I wish you luck in your goal. – a.s. Apr 8 '15 at 11:33
• the point is that thr elder brother is not my son and before he used to live with me but now he lives with his mom, and the father is not present all the time because he's married with another woman, and to be honest I'm not worried about it cause the psychology at school told me that it was normal! – Mariana G. Apr 8 '15 at 15:49

Re dealing with the Dad, maybe tell him that liking girly things could be an early sign of heterosexuality? It's a bit odd to think of an interest in the the opposite gender as a sign that he might be gay... An older boy who likes girls might ask a girl out or something, but a small boy who thinks girls are nice will not have such things on his mind and will probably just pretend to be a girl or play with a female doll. My brother was very into pretending to be a princess at that age and also had girlfriends when not much older (this mostly involved coming out of school hand in hand with a girl from his class and saying, "This is Katie! She's my girlfriend! We're going to get married when we grow up!" then doing the same thing with a different girl the next day). As an adult, he still likes girls and has had many real girlfriends.

A slight bit of a cop out as it doesn't help matters if your son actually does turn out to be gay, but you may not have to cross that bridge, and if you do, at least he'll be older by then and understand what's going on a bit more.

Lots of great answers here, but I notice one thing that is missing that you might care to think about. Perhaps more important than whether a child plays with dolls or toy soldiers, or whatever, is playing with the parent(s). At least with my kids, I pick what we play with based on my interests. That might sound unfair, but I know I'll play longer and with more enthusiasm if I play with stuff I enjoy. I find playing with dolls incredibly boring, so I pick legos (duplos when the kids are in choking age), railroad stuff (Thomas the tank engine), and strategy games (checkers, stratego, chess) and model kits when the kids are older. If they want to play with dolls or something I don't particularly enjoy, I usually politely decline. But most of the time, they'd rather play with me, especially at ages <10. You might find that your son enjoys interacting with you. If you are at all worried about him playing with dolls, introduce legos and other toys and explain that "this is what mommy enjoys". I agree with others that playing with dolls is not going to make someone gay. However, I feel (and it's very much a personal, unscientific opinion) that too much doll and dressup play is not particularly good for boys or girls. I think legos, trains, models, stategy games, etc. more stimulates the mind. But again, I'm probably biased by the fact that I don't like playing with dolls. Never saw the point. Good luck to you!

• I do like this answer. The problem, though, isn't with mommy - she's fine with it - it's with dad. But it's still a very good suggestion if she can get dad to see it that way. – anongoodnurse Apr 10 '15 at 0:31

I am glad to see this conversation and particularly to see so many advocate for a child being supported to be whoever and whatever he feels he is. When a child feels accepted, it goes a long way toward developing self-confidence. Self-confident people are better-equipped to handle life's challenges in a smart, aware way, and to use their talents to improve the world.

I may have missed something, but I see only one reference to transgenderism. So I want to draw a a distinction here in an area where there's not a lot of public acknowledgment. It's important because if your goal is to support your child feeling good about who they are, then here's some information about just how complicated "who they are" really is.

Gender and sexual orientation are two entirely separate aspects of a person. So whether you identify as a male or female or some alternative option (both, or neither, for example), it in on way determines whom you're attracted to. A third aspect of our nature is masculine/feminine traits, and everybody has their own individual blend.

It was not until I got to know a large number of transgender people that I became aware that you can be any combination of male and female characteristics and still you might identify as male, or female, regardless. And that's sometimes different from whether your body looks "male" or "female" when you're born. And whether you're gay, straight, bi-sexual, polyamorous, asexual, or something else, is a lot more subtle than how low or high your voice is or what color clothes you like or whether you dance all the time or hold your body pretty rigid.

We tend to create "false binaries" about people, to pigeon-hole them into being A or B, X or Y, etc. A more accepting and, I think, honest way to view people is to understand that the individual is not a collection of binary choices (black or white, yes or no, etc.) but rather an extraordinarily complex assemblage of all sorts of characteristics, some of them seemingly contradicting each other.

And so I've come to see people each as a unique blend of a near-infinite number of qualities, not just a bunch of answers on a true-false quiz, and not even as falling somewhere on one or more "spectrums." We're just too subtle to be reduced to that. What if, for example, the "spectrum" of male/female isn't a spectrum at all, but some sort of loop, or maybe a 3- or 4-dimensional universe of qualities?

All this may seem radical or ludicrous, but if you start seeing people in this way, you'll have a much deeper appreciation for human diversity. You'll see that although words and labels are a necessary convenience in our culture, they can also limit our understanding and therefore should not be considered the be-all and end-all in how we understand one another.

Two short anecdotes for you:

My brother loved to play with our sister's Barbie, My Little Pony and Silvanian Family toys when he was little. He isn't gay.

My neighbour has a 3-year-old boy who likes to wear a Cinderella dress and pink wellington boots everywhere. Do his parents care? Not really. They obviously bought those things for him because that's what he saw at the shop and wanted. I get the impression he just likes them and doesn't distinguish between "these toys are for girls and these are for boys".

In my opinion, little kids just like what they like and aren't even properly aware of their sexuality yet (or certainly don't have the understanding of it to make an informed declaration that they are sexually attracted to the same sex). Maybe your son is gay, maybe he's not. Him playing with girls' toys sometimes doesn't make him gay.

The only problem here is the father's attitude of homophobia and intolerance. Saying that he would disown his son if he was gay is shocking.

Regarding the following statement:

His dad told me that he "wasn't raisin a faggot" and that he should have our son living with him so he can teach him how to be a man. I won't agree to this because he is my only child.

All other issues aside, this sounds like the reason that you would not agree for the boy to live with his father is for your interests only. I'm not judging if living with his father is better for the boy or not, but as a parent you have the responsibility to do what is best for the child, not what is emotionally easy for you.

I do agree that calling the child a potential faggot is quite strong usage of language if he is using this language when speaking to the child. However, if he is using the language to invoke discussion regarding the child's upbringing, a subject that obviously affects the father emotionally, then that is quite proper usage of strong words: to express strong feelings. It does not mean that the father dislikes gay people nor does it mean that the father would treat the child poorly if he is gay. It means that the father would prefer that the child be raised in a fashion that emphasizes traditionally masculine behaviour for male children. That is completely expected.

I see a father who is concerned about the upbringing his son is receiving. I'm not implying that the son is receiving a bad upbringing nor that the mother is doing anything wrong, but the father experienced what he perceived as abnormal behaviour and expressed his concern. The boy's father has shown A) that he does care strongly about the child's upbringing, and B) that he wants to be involved, even to the point of raising the child himself. This has nothing to do with the child's sexuality and everything to do with the father's feelings of being left out of raising the child. The questioning of the child's sexuality was merely a vehicle for the father to express his desire to help raise the boy. If it wouldn't have been this catalyst, it would have been something else.

You might want to take this apparently-negative situation and turn it around into a positive situation that leads to more involvement of the father in the child's life.

• if you go through all the comments I have make explaining why I said that, you will understand, plus the father alreay told me, that if he turns to be gay, he's taking him out of his life, and that he's not he'sis child anymore, I'm just trying to protect my son, because for me not matter what or who he will be I will never, ever taking him out of my life. – Mariana G. Apr 9 '15 at 12:32
• another thing is that I have never denied his father to be present in his life, moreover I had always push him to be close to the boy, but he was too busy traveling and always told me, he didn't have time to babysit a child, and now is trying to blame everything on me. So now you tell me if I don't have the right to be concerned about him living with another person who doesn't know anything about him. – Mariana G. Apr 9 '15 at 12:36
• "It does not mean that the father dislikes gay people nor does it mean that the father would treat the child poorly if he is gay." Yes, it does. He said that he didn't want his son to be gay, and he used a deliberately offensive term to do so. Sure, he's in the process shown that he wants to be involved, he wants his kid to grow up "right", but he's also shown that his thoughts about what "right" mean and his methods for achieving it are harmful to the child. That's a huge issue and it concerns the child; it's not just not an "apparently-negative situation" or "for your interests only". – Cascabel Apr 9 '15 at 17:10
• "[T]he father experienced what he perceived as abnormal behaviour and expressed his concern." That's not quite correct. The father expressed bigotry which the mother is concerned (and rightfully so) about exposing her son to. Today it's about dolls. Tomorrow, maybe video games? Playmates? His clothes? So many possibilities. "The questioning of the child's sexuality was merely a vehicle for the father to express his desire to help raise the boy." You have absolutely no way of knowing this. You are making assumptions; you need to admit that in order to be honest, imo. – anongoodnurse Apr 10 '15 at 0:35
• Virtual -1. WEhile almost never a 'downvoter' I signed up here just to downvote this answer but find I need 125 rep to downvote. While I appreciate the good intentions of your answer (1) Your introductory stance is extremely questionable (IMHO as always, of course) with the conclusion not appearing to match the data when "logically" examined, and (2) Overall you seem to be dangerously oblivious to the general information provided. | I have reservations to some extent re most of the answers here and you had (and have) a chance to put a counter view - but it needs to be done more carefully. – Russell McMahon Apr 11 '15 at 3:41

Dave has mentioned this a bit, but I think that there's something that can add a bit of explanation. Understanding of what's going on is always good for solving it.

My experience as a scoutmaster is that boys living without strong male figures seem to do "girly things" more during childhood and even puberty. This includes children from separated families that live only with mother, children whose dad is extremely busy with work.

There's nothing wrong with your son playing with dolls. He'll either grow up of it sooner or later, or it's a sign of some preference he has that you can hardly change (and shouldn't really try to change).

If you feel he may miss a male figure in his life (from what you say it seems to me that his dad doesn't appear to be a good male figure, but I can't know of course), it may be a good idea to find a way for him to get such a figure. It may be doing sports, scouting, or even spending time with your friends or wider family, if there's anybody who would "fit".

If you find it strange that he plays with dolls, you can try to find out why he likes this, and find something else. If he likes the social interaction part, you can get him LEGO or a similar toy that has figures as well. If he likes the creativity in clothing them, you can try to get him into some artistic handcraft things: ceramics, painting etc. Maybe he simply likes that they're "living creatures" and teddy-bears could have the same effect.

At any case, I don't think it's really necessary to force to change anything, but if you knew why he likes dolls, you could try.

There is very little I can say that hasn't already been said.

Disclosure: I don't have a son (yet, but that's another story for another day) but I have kids.

My point being that if I did have a son there will inevitably come a day where he would want to play with his sisters' toys. There is a clear distinction between behavior I would define as okay for a brother with his sisters and behavior that needs correction. Me personally, I wouldn't let that behavior continue too far beyond 5 or 6 years old, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let him play with them by himself, but that's just me and my wife. I would also say that if there were no little girls in the house, there would be no Barbies/Girls toys for him to play with either. You mentioned he was your only child but didn't mention where the Barbies came from, or where he's at when he plays with them, so I'm curious.

No one on this site knows your son better than you, and you must observe your son and see if he's showing behavior that needs to be corrected. Anyone can tell you not to worry, but we're not there when you see him interacting with the Barbie. He could just like girls (and a Barbie is like a girl, to a 5 year old anyway), or it could be a sign of something deeper. Part of the job of a parent is to correct our children's behavior if need be. It sounds like you do a great job already of observing him and how he acts, you should keep it up. If he displays behavior that makes you uncomfortable, then you can change it. You know how you are and how his father is, so you should be able to spot behavior that can turn into a problem if it continued on it's own. The good thing is at his age now his attention span is so short that you can easily expose him to other things to keep his mind off of the Barbie dolls, for example.

Finally, you didn't ask about this, but children should have both parents in their lives if at all possible. I'm not saying send your son to live with his father permanently, but your son at least deserves to continue learning who his father is, and at this age if the father wishes to spend time with him, then (if there is no legal standing preventing it) you should continue to let the son visit, or vice versa. Your son is old enough to tell you what happened at dad's house and if it makes you uncomfortable then you should handle that. Eventually, if there comes a day where your son no longer wishes to see his father, then at that point it's up to your son.

Update in response to comment

I don't mind the d/v, my beliefs usually attract those on this site, but since I was asked, to answer your question, I didn't say the boy shouldn't be allowed to play with dolls. I did say that I would monitor and correct that behavior if I felt that letting it continue would not be in my sons best interest.

To elaborate, in an answer above there is a paragraph that starts If you let his father take the reins on this.... I respectfully disagree with that paragraph completely. I will agree that his father might not be the best person to handle the situation, but teaching a child that something is wrong is not universally detrimental to that child's mental well being. Children are moldable by their very nature, and it is the parent's job to mold them. Simply put, if a child knew what they wanted, and knew right from wrong, then they'd be wise enough to make their own decisions, but they don't, so they're not.

To be blatantly specific, if I felt my son was starting to become confused and not understand there is a difference between boys and girls (not the difference, just that there is a difference), then any behavior that contributes to that confusion needs to be monitored and corrected if necessary.

Let's be honest: The OP is worried her son may grow up effiminate, or worse, homosexual. The father is as well. It's obvious from the question, and it's an understandable fear. How people answer this question will be largely (if not wholly) governed by their views on homosexuality in general, which is okay. Actually, I largely agree with the accepted answer of Wirehead's, but wanted to expound because I feel that it's less black and white and more of a gray area.

I obviously disagree with statements such as ..Heterosexual and homosexual attraction are simply the result.., but I didn't downvote, because everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, and it could have possibly turned into a flame war. Back to the topic though, I do not believe that boys playing with barbies will inherently make them effiminate or homosexual, although I do think encouraging female behavior in a male in general can lead to this if left to continue.

This belief is more from personal experience than it is from being a Christian. I know someone firsthand who had two sons, let the oldest dress up as a girl, encouraged this behavior, and, once the child was a teenager(not of legal age), gave him estrogen pills. After seeing this, his little brother has now followed in his footsteps, including the pills. The father is around, and I have no idea why he didn't object to this. In my opinion this should be illegal, but I digress.

I believe this particular example is the result of behavior that was damaging to the child's mental health being encouraged. That is an extreme case yes, but I believe it's relevant to the OP's question because of the ultimate result, and also furthers my point about detrimental behavior being encouraged or allowed to continue.

Once again, Let me further be clear: I don't believe a boy playing with his girl cousins' barbies with his cousins is harmful, to a certain extent. This is no more harmful than jumping rope or playing hopscotch. However, I wouldn't let those girls paint his nails or put make up on him, which could cause confusion.

In addition, there are plenty of 'gender-neutral' toys and games that every kid should have, 'gender-neutral' in this case meaning toys that don't carry the gender stereotype with them (barbie dolls, for example).

Moreover, of course, the question may come up about letting girls play with toys that are traditionally played with by boys. I don't have a problem with this either, but again to a certain extent. I'm a little more relaxed about this for the simple reason I've seen more girls that were tomboys when they were little turn out normal than I have effeminate boys, although it does happen. I know this will warrant downvotes from those that agree with the homosexual lifestyle in general, but I'm not in this for votes: The OP asked a subjective question, so I gave an answer based on my beliefs, as did everyone else. No one here can say without a shadow of a doubt that what will happen one way or the other, we're all just giving insight based on our own life experiences and beliefs.

• I appreciate your comments, and I will try to answer few of the Q you asked, he is indeed my only child but he has sisters from his dad side, plis I have lot of nieces and a step daughter, and it was absolutely with her that he started to play with the dolls, regarding his dad I never stop him from seeing his father, in most of my comments I had clarify that I eveb begged to his father so he could be more present in our child life. – Mariana G. Apr 10 '15 at 19:19
• Why should older boys (in contrast to older girls) not allowed to play with dolls? – Paŭlo Ebermann Apr 11 '15 at 1:20
• @PaŭloEbermann I personally don't think that behavior should be allowed to continue for a boy. In addition, there comes a point where even girls don't play with barbie dolls. – MDMoore313 Apr 11 '15 at 11:40
• I had to vote this down. Why don't you think that the boy should be allowed to play with dolls? What harm do you think will come of it? If the answer makes sense, I'll take off the -1. – Huns Apr 11 '15 at 21:36
• I don't agree with BigHomie, but I think he has presented his arguments well and should not be down voted. Plus, he has a cool name. – Dave Apr 13 '15 at 18:19

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