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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 10643
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter who I have a concern about.

Customer Question

I have a 4 1/2 year old daughter who I have a concern about. She is often drawn to "boy" activities over "girl activities. She prefers to play with boys over girls but has friends of both genders. She is interested in sports and being active. She's never liked Barbie dolls, dolls, or wanted to dress like a princess. Instead she prefers characters who are leaders, rescuers, hero's, servants, etc.. It can be male or female. She dresses in girly clothing as long as it is not a dress and if it is a dress it cannot have ruffles or tool. When she plays she will some times do karate moves and ninja type moves but she will also play with a feminine attitude as well, like having tea parties, playing kitchen, and dancing like a ballerina. All of this has never really concerned me until recently. Recently, she saw my nephews privates. Until then she had never seen a boys anatomy. She later ask me what that is called and I told her and she told me she wants one of those. I told her that only boys have those and she got upset and said she really wants one and that she wishes she was a boy. She also said she wishes she was a boy so she could play boy games like her cousins. I told her she will always be a girl and she said she wishes God had made her a boy. I dropped it because I didn't know what to do. A few days later, her cousins returned. They played very aggressively which she did not like. She ran to me and she said, "I don't want to be a boy! They are too wild! I'm glad I'm a girl" she was crying and upset while she said this. Tonight she again said that she wants boy parts and even said a prayer for them. I ignored it because I'm not sure how to handle it. At bed time she started crying telling me that she doesn't like one of her girl friends because this friend likes princesses and my daughter doesn't like princesses. My daughter said she only likes princesses who go on adventures like Sofia the First and Rapunzel. I told her that when I was little I didn't like princesses that much either but I still had friends who liked them. I said that I didn't want to be Cinderella and she interrupted me and said "I want to be Cinderella!" I am so confused by her behavior and her thoughts that she is expressing to me. I'm having anxiety about this and losing sleep over this because I don't know if this is normal behavior or not. Can you please give me any advice that you have? Thank you!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

*This website DOES NOT constitute treatment and only provides information and advice in a Q&A format. For treatment (therapy and/or medications) you must go to a licensed professional in your area. Please note that anything said here is not private or confidential, as this is a public forum.

Hello and thank you for using JustAnswer. I can definitely understand why you are concerned about your daughters behavior, but it does sound like this is quite normal for someone of her age and temperament. May I ask has she expressed any sadness or depressive symptoms at all related to this? And if you tell her that she can be a girl, but still do "boy" things or emulate "boy" fictional characters (e.g. adventurers) how does she respond?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your response. She is usually upbeat, positive and confident. She is a leader in her class and with her friends so I've never seen any depressive symptoms whatsoever. Tonight she did cry about not liking her friend because of the princess thing.
We tell her often that she doesn't have to be a boy to do "boy" things and she always responds in an upbeat manner and say "ok I get it!' But we do have to reminder her of this every week or so.
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

Well unfortunately no matter how much progress we have made in regards ***** ***** equivalency, there is still a lot of work to be done on this front. Your daughter probably gets reminded by her peers, most likely the boys, that she "should" not be doing this and this (e.g. adventuring, active, sporty, etc...) and she should be doing this (e.g. focusing on being a princess, damsel in distress, cooking, etc...). Gender roles are still barriers that as a society are difficult to overcome, but there has been a lot of progress. So this is most likely why you have to keep reassuring your daughter that she does not have to follow a traditional female gender role and that she can be whatever she wants to be; her desire to be a boy is not really a gender issue, but more an issue for opportunities in her eyes as she feels there is a better fit with the traditional male gender role, which is fine. Usually a child that truly wishes to be a different gender or feels they are in the wrong gender will have intense depression and anxiety about their gender, but it sounds like your daughter is just expressing how she feels there is an unfairness with traditional gender roles, and she is right. As long as you continue to reassure her and support her decisions for her to form her own path, not linked to any gender role, than she will do just fine. Most likely she is just frustrated that others try to stereotypical cast her in a role just because she is a girl, which in my opinion is perfectly understandable.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Your response makes me feel much better and I really do think you have her situation figured out. Her friends are very much into "boy" verses "girl" activities. Especially her boy cousins who she really admires. I was just thinking that she is frustrated with her friend because her friend is fitting the stereotypical role and my daughter is not so she is become resentful of her. Other girls who are not as "girly" and usually who are a few years older than her (not as into dress up and make believe) do not seem to bother her.
I do want to ask though, is it normal for her to say she want "boy parts"?
Aside from constant reassurance that it is o.k. to like "boy" things and still be a girl, is there anything else you would suggest? I'm feeling like I'm to blame because I never pushed any sort of stereotypical activities on her and I've found myself trying to push them on her lately in terms of TV shows and toys that I offer to buy her. Is this wrong? Also, is there anything that I should be looking out for as the years go on?
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

You have to understand, she is very young so complex ideas and concepts such as gender roles are beyond her right her mind everything is very black and white. So she knows she wants to do "boy" activities, so to her in order to do that she must be a boy. That is the simplistic thinking and thought process she is going through right now, which is understandable given her age. As she gets older she will understand more abstract concepts and start to realize that her destiny and goals are not predicated on her gender only. So far you are not doing anything wrong as you are being a progressive parent which is good; continue to support your daughter and tell her that just because a toy is blue or looks like it is meant for a boy, does not mean she cannot have it. Help her to think outside of the can also switch it around and tell her what if a boy wants to play with a pink princess, is that wrong...of course not because he can be and do what he wants. I understand that you purchased toys and encouraged activities that may be meant for "girls" in the stereotypical sense, but I would say you should not feel forced to do this and instead let her branch out and explore the person she wants to be as long as she is happy and not hurting others.

Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

I hope this helps to provide you some guidance on this issue. Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns as I would be happy to continue assisting you regarding this issue.

*Please do not forget to leave a positive rating at the top of the page so that I can get credit for helping you. Thank you, ***** ***** appreciate it.