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Dr. Bonnie
Dr. Bonnie, Psychologist and RN
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2189
Experience:  35 years experience counseling children and families
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my 4 year old son loves to wear my high heel shoes, nightgowns

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my 4 year old son loves to wear my high heel shoes, nightgowns and a towel on his head pretending its long hair. He also loves to play with cars, enjoys art, drama and dancing. He is not obsessed with dressing like this all the time, but definitely feels strongly about being a princess. What, if anything, does this indicate? At what age is it possible to discern whether a boys strong interest in girl dress up is just dress up or warrants my going to seek the guidance of a professional so I can best support my wonderful son?
Hello and thanks for consulting JA,

Your son sounds like a creative and imaginative child. His dressing up as a princess is just one facet of his imagination at work....wondering what it is like to be a girl or a mommy. To him, it is no different than wanting to be a policeman or a is a role he is interested in. Whether to worry is related to the frequency and intensity of this behavior. Below you will find the link to the DSM IV Criteria for Gender Identity Disorder (this is from the manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose)

This will inform you about others things to watch for that indicate gender confusion. There is not an age mentioned in this criteria and rather looking at the preoccupation with the thoughts of being opposite sex.

I hope this helps....Good luck,
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
A psychologist I spoke with said not to reinforce the behavior (dont praise when dressing up, but dont criticize either) I used to help him dress up, dance around and have fun with it, but now I have stopped doing that saying "You are getting older now. Mommys clothes are her clothes and your clothes are yours. If you want to dress up, you can wear your police man outfit or lion outfit, etc. I tell him I dont want him messing up my closet rather than saying anything negative. I feel really bad about this but worry if I endorse it and he continues to do this in public, he will be ridiculed (he was opting to put on the princess outfit at pre-school every day and his teacher removed it saying he was a bit obsessed). Should I not reinforce and see how it goes, or encourage him?
Thank for the additional information.
I agree to keep it low key. You can matter-of-factly say, "Princesses are girls. You are a boy. What does a prince look like? They are boys." The ridicule is probably what stops most children from continuing these behaviors....the natural consequences. The message becomes: It is just not socially acceptable.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Sorry to be a pain, but by my keeping it low key am I giving him the message HE is unacceptable. The last thing I want to do is be the creator of shame or pain for my son. If he does have issues, I want to help him accept himself and feel confident in his parents love and support. Low key and just watch and if progresses or gets stronger in a few years, seek a professional?
You are truly a sensitive parent....I doubt that he would not take low key as disapproval. But yes, you are on target with your plan.
Dr. Bonnie and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for your time and thoughtful answers. I will look up the site you referenced. Thank you!

Found you a great book which is along your line of thinking about accepting child as he is and it's ok to be different, etc.

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