I have a 2 year old grandson that I take care for half a week and his dad the other half. My grandson recently told me he didn't want to play with any "girly" toys. This happened over a pair of feminine pajamas for a build a bear. My feelings are that at this age he shouldn't care about such things. It is not the first time I have heard him say something like this. I am not sure what the father does when this child picks up "girly toys" but my grandson won't touch them at my house. Looking for suggestions on how to handle this when he says things like that. Thank you.
First of all, let me say that if this is your largest problem with your grandson at the age of 2 you are probably doing a decent job of raising him.
It is "normal," or at least "traditional," that some boys feel this way.
From my limited perspective of raising a son and having been raised as a son, the preconceived notions and biases of a child seem to me to vary between 1) random and bewildering and 2) "traditional" and either frustrating or humorous.
I would describe this as a "traditional" bias in western culture (going off of the name Diana I assume that this is your culture), and it is obviously frustrating for you or you wouldn't be posting here. Some people, viewing this from the outside, would find it childishly humorous:
It is normal that you feel the way you do.
If I were you, as a female grandmother who does 50% of the work of raising him, it might annoy or alarm me that he is treating "female" objects as inferior. It might be also be somewhat alarming to hear this coming from a toddler at 2 years old. 5 years old? Sure. 2 years old? These biases come from every direction, some might even say some biases are ingrained (not a popular line of thought these days), but it is possible that his dad is influencing him in this if he's reacting like this at age 2. Possible, but make no assumptions.
You might have an interesting conversation with his father about this. If you feel comfortable with talking to the dad about it, simply ask him if he's seen this behavior while he is watching the child. Maybe keep a neutral face and don't appear to be overly worried. You can probably figure out how the dad feels about this issue by his reaction to the topic.
If you do not want to approach the dad about the issue, or if you do and he's somewhat hostile about the subject matter, you can tackle this from your angle of doing half of the child-rearing and let the child find his own path between the two of you.
Color and Insecurity.
First of all, were the pajamas pink? Were they "girly" colored? I still won't wear pink even though many Catholics from a century ago were dressing boys in pink and girls in blue (the color of Mary). Some guys I know will wear pink, and they look good and they're hetero and "manly", and they're secure in their own skin and nobody thinks anything about it.
I not only don't like the color but I won't wear it because of ingrained insecurity. I remember seeing a picture of myself as a boy with a pink tank-top and being embarrassed ever since - what was I thinking?! - even though it's only a color. Getting your grandson to overcome color bias might be a long haul, and he can turn in to a fine young man who treats women equally and with respect who doesn't like to wear pink, and that's ok. But I think you're looking to get him beyond this so that 30 years from now he's not a grown man admitting to the Internet that he's scared of wearing pink shirts. Good for you.
NO GIRLS ALLOWED!
Let's say it wasn't pink, but an overreaction to the fact that it was just random build-a-bear pajamas and he seems to be completely hostile to the notion that it may be "girly." Let's say this hostility runs over into an objection to girls in general (based in insecurity or ingrained bias or for whatever reason). Then you have a more interesting problem on your hands.
Growing up in the 80's and 90's, most male child friends I had had a bias like this, and if my memory serves me correctly
I did not because I was perfect I did too. This generally lasts (for heterosexual boys, who may be more likely to have these biases) until an interest in girls forms... or forever, depending.
Luckily, in Western culture this subject matter of gender bias has been handled in numerous ways for some decades, often at the level of a toddler's understanding.
Got any old Berenstain Bears books lying around? Like, say, this one:
Maybe he's not big into books right now:
(Note that this addresses bias toward actual girls more than girly items.)
Maybe he's too young and won't get it, or maybe this won't have any effect at all on him. Books and TV shows can help spread horizons, but they aren't a substitute for parenting.
Even if this doesn't address your concerns, the storyline of the show itself gives a sortof classic child-rearing road map to doing so: reverse psychology.
Coming to an Understanding
(Before going into this, I should note that "reverse psychology" schemes have a funny way of backfiring; I'm more suggesting that you employ your relationship with your grandson to explore this type of bias from an angle and get him to come to an understanding on his own rather than trying to confront him about it.)
An example of what you might do:
Find an object that he desires. Maybe a new one, maybe an old favorite. Let him approach it and start to take it. Then remove it from his royal presence as if it would offend him and declare "this is too girly for you!"
Make some cookies. A small batch. Pink icing, or whatever. Oops! Too girly. You'll have to eat them all, since you're a girl and he's not. He can't have girly things in his presence.
(He's a toddler, 2 years old, so my advice here could lead to a meltdown or resistance or "You're right, everything is too girly, I will wear red and black forever!" I don't know him, you do, so maybe think of something that is ritual/routine and that might not set him off but might get him to understand and learn from this situation.)
Don't torture him, just employ your relationship and your ownership of the things around him to get him to understand that objects have qualities beyond their color or his perception of their femininity. And slowly over time, using similar methods, you can get him to understand that people have qualities beyond their color or his perception of their femininity.
Good luck. He's a toddler, you're gonna need it.
Handle it with respect and understanding
I have a friend who believes that, if his boy wears pink, it will turn him gay (and it is bad thing).
Myself, I basically do not care. If my girl wants to play with toy cars, she can. If my boy wants to play with horses and dolls, he can. If my boy wants to wear pink, he can. He once attended kindergarten in pink girly dress, because it has Elsa on it.
But the above is not common cultural mindset in my country
Honestly, lot of people believe that boys should play with boy toys and girls with girl toys.
Step 1: Understand the father
Understand that the father of this boy wants to have heterosexual son. Understand that he may perceive homosexuality and/or transgender as bad things. Understand that he believes, that he thinks, that homosexuality and transgender can be given by family education.
Step 2: Understand the toddler
Truth to be told, most kids show their attention to gender-related toys from early age (claim taken from Norwegian show about gender). So, if your grandson is kept only with "boy toys", you do not cause any harm by not showing him "girl toys"
So, how to approach it?
You have to question the father of the child. If he really believes that pink pajamas will turn his boy gay. If playing with a doll will make the child think that he is a girl. And if it's a bad thing.
Try to approach it in a calm educational manner and remember that if the father sticks to his decision, there is little to no harm to the child, which should be your main concern.
I would suggest to just follow the child, respect his opinion. Ask him why it's girly, find the reason be interested in his tought. There are so many things to do with a kid that it shouldn't really mather. Don't try to manipulate, lie or ignore his feeling.
You can also go with neutral toys at home. Most of the time, these neutral toys are also open ended which last longer and offer more imaginative play.
We never talked about "gender toys" and my 2yo figured it out by himself. We just follow the child, look at what he likes and want he does and expand on that.
Also, I see no difference between saying "it's girly" and saying "I don't like blue". Kids have a very limited language skills at that age and that could be his way of expressing himself. Ask him "is it the colors?" "is it the design?". If he says it's the color say "oh! so you don't want to wear this color?". This will help him understand his thought better and language skills.
Think carefully about whether this is about your opinions or the kid`s well being
Carefully think about if deciding not to dress a two years old in pink can realistically have an effect on such kid well being (I`d say it is really an irrelevant thing) then outweigh that with the potential strain in relationship with the kid's father by your taking a position on such things
He is the father, not you
So if he wants the kid not to be dressed in pink (or with shirts with soldiers on it, whatever) just respect the decision. Moreover, if you take such a little thing too far you may end up looking as a manipulative person, even if I believe you are not at all.
Remember this for the long run
Such strong opinion against having this kid play with "girly toys" may (may!) be a sign that in case the kids turns out out be gay when he grows up (small chance but clearly not impossible) he may need some support outside of the family, since there are still families where LGBT have a hard time being accepted
I would say based on my experience (with myself and siblings growing up, and with my son, and to an extent with the numerous kids I've nannied and tutored over the years) that the perception of toy "genderedness" is definitely learned, not innate, and that if such a distinction exists for a child it is always always always due to external inputs. These are everywhere, however: tv, movies, books, parents, grandparents, other kids, advertisements...
It is natural for kids to prefer some toys over others, but at age 2 it seems extremely unnatural for that preference to be based on the idea that it's a toy for girls. Why would your grandson even care about that? Even if he is aware of the distinction, why should it bother him?
My guess is that he had some experience with a person he respects or wants to impress where that person made him feel bad about liking and/or playing with a "girl's" toy. My grandfather did this to my brother when he was about 2, because he liked to dress up in my dresses and play with my stuffed animals. Luckily my brother was always as thick-skinned as a boulder, and for the most part my grandfather's criticism bounced right off. It was very distressing to my mom, though.
If I were you, I would talk to dad. I would mention that I've noticed this behavior in the child and ask him if he knows where it's coming from. If it turns out this is an idea that dad has been giving him, maybe see if you can get dad to investigate why he thinks it's bad for a boy child to play with a "girl's" toy (whether it's pink, or a doll, or what have you. Anecdotally - my second child will be born soon, and my son is VERY excited to help take care of him, so we got a little doll for him to practice with and he is THRILLED. He likes changing the doll's diaper and feeding it, and practicing holding it the "right way" so he can help with those things when his baby brother gets here).
If your grandson objects to a toy, there's no reason to try to force him to play with it. But if you suspect that he would not be objecting to the toy in question if it weren't for some warped idea that he shouldn't play with that toy - that it says something bad about him if he wants to - then it is absolutely worth intervening to make sure that your grandson understands that it's great for him to like whatever toys he likes. Everyone will have different preferences (I strongly prefer toys made of wood, but my son prefers those made of plastic cause he can take them in the bath). There are no wrong preferences. And liking dolls, the color pink, beautiful clothes, or horses, doesn't make you girly or weak; just like liking cars or monsters or dinosaurs or squirt guns doesn't make you boyish or violent.
I definitely think you're doing the right thing in looking out for your grandson's ability to determine his own likes and dislikes. No one should be telling him that he's wrong about something like that. It could turn out, though, that he legitimately prefers the "boy's" toys, and has learned that people won't try to get him to play with things he doesn't like if he says "it's for girls."