23 answers

My Little Boy Likes Dressing in Mommy's Clothes

My precious little three year old boy has started to play dress up with my clothes. When he's being too quiet I know just where to find him, in my closet trying on everything from my lingerie to my dresses. When I walk in on him he jumps out of his skin and seems very embarrassed and frightened that he's been "caught". I have not reacted to it in ANY way, negatively or positvely. I have not discouraged it but have non chalantly said to him "oh look who's playing dress up!" After realizing it wasn't a "one time" kind of thing I immediately ran into the garage and took out a huge box of costumes and let him go at it to encourage "dress up". That lost it's charm within a day and he was right back to dressing up like "a lady".
Has anyone had this experience and more importantly can anyone offer any explanations and advise for this behavior. I understand curiosity and girls clothes is always more fun than boys but he seems to "enjoy" wearing the clothes if you know what I mean.

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Thank you all for your responses, they're very helpful and supportive and I appreciate them all. I don't care if he's gay,that's not a problem in my mind at all my concern is a possible transgender issue which is definately something I would want to help him. I think it's all going to be ok from what I am reading and I am both releived a bit and feel in good company. Thank you all!

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Not to worry, yet. My son used to do that when he was about that age! and he is as boy as you can get!lol He especially loved my heals. I attempted giving him his daddy's shoes but he liked mine better (they are smaller, lighter, and more colorful). At this point in a child's life they are in admiration of the opposite sex parent its called odepus complex. By age five, he will be wanting to look like and do anything his daddy does. Right now everything mom does is cool and he wants to be like you:)

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My five year old did the same thing when he was between 2-3 years of age. Now he won't try them on anymore. He does like to wear high heels and walk around the house so if my shoes are missing then I know who did it. I wouldn't worry they go through those phases. My eight year old use to beg me to paint his nails and let him wear makeup he has now grown out of the phase about 4 years ago. And my two boys are the typical boys, they get dirty and play sports. I think boys do that cause they are around their mommy and see what she does and what to be just like her. But they do get out of it, now they want to be just like their daddy.

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Not to worry, yet. My son used to do that when he was about that age! and he is as boy as you can get!lol He especially loved my heals. I attempted giving him his daddy's shoes but he liked mine better (they are smaller, lighter, and more colorful). At this point in a child's life they are in admiration of the opposite sex parent its called odepus complex. By age five, he will be wanting to look like and do anything his daddy does. Right now everything mom does is cool and he wants to be like you:)

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Nearly ALL children that age go through a period of identifying with their opposite sex parent, sometimes to the point of wanting to dress and act like them. It's healthy and normal. It's also possible that its more than that and your child is experiencing some gender confusion or other issues. In that case, a trained, informed professional consultant would be helpful to you in determining how to go forward. I wouldn't jump to any conclusions just from the dressing up......I've been an early childhoood specialist for over 25 years and have never met a 35 year old boy who didn't go through this to varying degrees....some liked to paint their nails, some liked to be the mom when playing house, etc. This is an age when little ones are learning to empathize with others and they do that by pretend play a lot and they particularly pretend about being their opposite sex parent, often.

L.

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He's only three,so I'd say let him play. If you don't want him in your clothes, then dress up stuff is fine, but if he needs some silky scarves and tutus, hit the thrift store and let him have fun. What is gender specific is not what three year olds often recognize, they just like what they like. boys like to be like Mommy because they love and idolize us (and don't we wish that could last?) so the exploration is healthy and normal. No worries.
P. (mom of three boys!)

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Is he just wearing your clothes or just the soft silky things. If it is the soft silky things like a slip or nighty. Cut your slip or nighty into a blanky and see if it is just a security blanket that he needs in that soft fabric. That is just a guess. I am a teacher and I use to work in daycare and I have seen moms that have done that.

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Hello A., I did not read all of the other comments so I may be repeating. It is no big deal. Just encourage him to play with daddys clothes also. Set aside a pile that he is allowed to get into. Please please just do not let anyone make you feel as though he is having "gender issues." My sons favorite color was pink for like 1 1/2 years. No biggy, it is a pretty color. Now it has changed several times and he is just now (5 1/2) noticing that pink is used for girls usually.

If your homelife is stable and loving your son will be just fine!

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This is totally normal. Children like to copy their parents. If you are the one home all day he will try to be more like you...including wearing your clothes. I wish I could send you pics of my son at 3 years dressing like a princess. Tiara, shoes, beads, the whole bit. Now he want's to be Darth Vader (he is 5 now). Boys are always hearing how beautiful girls are and they are so pretty. I did start complimenting my son more and telling him how handsome he was, but I also didn't let him dress up in private. I bought a $19 dress up box from Target. It had several princess outfits and accessories in it and he loved dressing up in the stuff. I did not want him to feel ashamed of himself for "playing". Play dress-up with him. Make it fun. He will outgrow it, promise.

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Get the camera! Capture it now, because in a blink, he will be so done with it! All those good blackmail photos for when he's a teenager will be gone...

I recall that children become more aware of gender differences around 3-4. So, his amusement sounds like it is more the recognition that he is pretending to be something he isn't... as in, he is aware he is a boy but its funny to dress up like mom.

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when I was a little girl, like 4-7 yrs old, i used to play "house" with a boy my age who lived down the street. One of us would wear heels and a purse and be the mommy, one would wear dad's old big shoes and a jacket and be the daddy, and i had a kitchen playhouse setup n the garage. Only problem was, this little boy and I always ended up fighting over who was gonna be the mommy. I found out later, when I was a parent myself, that he ended up gay. It could be, sorry to say this, that your son could end up that way too. Is your husband a strong figure in the household? or are you the boss of the family. Usually if they have a strong, masculine manly type of dad, they want to be just like the dad. Does he play with boy toys? does he like army, and transformers, toy guns, etc??? if not, prepare yourself for the fact that he may end up more "feminine" than you would like. and decide how you are going to deal with THAT should it happen.

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A.: Please accept everyone's advice here except the one who said to "nip it in the bud." Your son is simply exploring his new self-awareness. It doesn't mean that he's going to turn out to be gay. He loves his mom, he loves the pretty colors and sparkles, and he loves the independence of going in there and getting dressed up on his own. Whatever you do, do not make him feel ashamed of what he is doing. There are so many ways that a young child can misunderstand shame and this is a road you do not want to go down. It's cute, sweet, and it will most like pass very soon. I'd suggest a tea party! Then the next day, you can build a fort in the leaves. Relax and have fun with your boy, he will be grown before you know it and then you'll have "real" problems to worry about... grades, sports, driving, girls! Take care and give yourself and your boy big hugs!!

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I would nip this behavior in the bud. Tell him those are girl clothes and he has clothes he can play with. But not to allow him to play with girl toys!!! I know I said it. This might be comming from the fact he wants attention from the new baby... I am asuming its a girl. When little boys like playing with dolls usually the father steps in and says those arent for boys. There is definatly boy toys and girl toys. Teach him the difference. I am not a full beliver that a person is 100% born that way. I think some of it could be behaviors that are inapproperiate that have never been solved. You dont want him growing up thinking its kinda ok to play dress up in mommies clothes. If he does I know you will love him no matter what. But if you can prevent it wouldnt you??? Good luck and God Bless.

Don't call any attention to it and his curiosity may phase itself out. However, I have to ask...why does it bother you so much? I know we all want our children to grow up, get married, and give us grandchildren one day; but wouldn't you love him either way just the same? Don't read too much into what he's doing. Just love your child. Sexual orientation isn't anything that has to be dealt with, only accepted. Enjoy you're little guy. They only stay little for a short time.

My five year old did the same thing when he was between 2-3 years of age. Now he won't try them on anymore. He does like to wear high heels and walk around the house so if my shoes are missing then I know who did it. I wouldn't worry they go through those phases. My eight year old use to beg me to paint his nails and let him wear makeup he has now grown out of the phase about 4 years ago. And my two boys are the typical boys, they get dirty and play sports. I think boys do that cause they are around their mommy and see what she does and what to be just like her. But they do get out of it, now they want to be just like their daddy.

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that my now 3 1/2 year old son went through a phase just like this! He even went so far as picking out dresses in the store and throwing a fit when I would not let him try one of them on in the dressing room-because I was trying on some dresses. He also loved everything pink-so I purchased him a few hot pink polo type shirts and really did not make a big deal out of it. He really loved my tank tops with some type of sparkles or lace-he would call them his princess shirts. I also made sure he had other costumes to play with and now he lives in his spiderman! It was a very short lived phase, although for my husband it seemed like forever. I would not worry about it! Hope this helps! Good luck!

My grandson had a phase like this when he was about that age. He is all male now that he is fourteen. My girlfriend's son used to carry/wear her bra around all day long - it really upset her. He is all male too in his 20's now. I wouldn't worry too much. You didn't mention if you have any male role models in the house or in your life. It might be a good time to start some male bonding in his life. Perhaps he could spend some time with grandpa or uncle or daddy or boyfriend. Good Luck. I know you will love him however he turns out when he is grown.

I wonder if this isn't his way of "bonding" with you now that the baby is here; keep in mind he was an only child for a long time. Try to go out on "dates" alone with your son. Take him for ice cream, for a picnic an to play at the park or to a special movie. Something that shows him you still love him and that the baby isn't replacing that.

While I don't think exploration is strange, it concerns me when you think he is "enjoying" it. I assume you mean he is getting physically aroused. That could be a bit more detrimental long-term. I would try to discourage the behavior without making a big deal of it, like "come on buddy, let's go draw a picture together." You may also consider joining a local playgroup or moms club...MOMSCLUB.com...they have a lot of really fun activities for you and your kids to do together. That way he can start bonding with others and not be so dependent on you. If you try to re-direct and bond, and he continues the behavior, I would look at finding a therapist to differentiate between typical and atypical behaviors. Good luck and don't worry!

It's a very normal behavior, especially for little boys. His reaction when you catch him at it is most likely a response of "oh no, I am gonna be in trouble for getting into mommy's things" than any real embarassment over what he is doing. He likes to dress in your clothes because they are what YOU wear and often some of your scent will linger, even through a washing or a dry cleaning. It is his way of feeling closer to you when you are otherwise engaged (ie cleaning, paying bills, making a meal etc) during the day.

I wouldn't discourage him per se as it will increase his feelings of insecurity over his interest. Rather. Find a handkerchief or a piece of old clothing of yours, and sleep with it a few nights in a row. Then give this item to him as a symbol of your closeness to him. You will find as long as you keep your scent on the item (sleep with it ever so often) his interest in dressing in your clothes so much will dissapate.

Good luck and I hope this helps you feel better about what he is doing. ;-)

i think this shows a deep appreciation of his mother. i wouldnt make a big deal out of so he never feels shamed, because you may be able to get him to stop doing it on the outside, but hell hide what it is hes trying to express on the inside. talk to him whiles hes doing it. see what it is thats alluring to him. is his dad around. because if hes only got you or sisters hes probably acting out al he knows.
have gun.

Your post reminded me of a situation we have had with my daughter's best friends. I posted my question in another thread. Anyway.
Three is the age of exploration. I really wouldn't worry about it. You are his strongest influence right now. When he gets involved with other people, he will want to emulate them.
In the mean time, I would hide the lingerie and treat it like anything else. It sounds like you have reacted just like you should. Keep up the good work. If, later, these tendencies don't subside, then worry about how to deal with it. Good luck.

my baby boy loves high heals and lipstick. We're treating it funny. His older sister loves those things, too.

We're very clear that we love our son no matter what his gender/ orientation issues might be in the future, but it still feels strange to watch him enjoy that so very much. But he's small and he's trying life out. And I'm not even sure why it makes me uncomfortable.

Personally, i think you're doing the right thing. Don't call attention to it, provide distraction and let him be him.

And I agree with the person who said to take the black mail pictures! His future wife will get a good laugh.

Both my boys did similarly, mainly with my shoes (not Dad's). I would just make sure that they have other fun clothes and shoes to dress up in. They still wanted mine. And, They are ALL BOY! Don't react at all. Don't be too pleased or too upset. Just do as you are doing. The only other thing is that you may just provide some of your clothing that they can play with as well as some of Dad's, but the other stuff is off limits because they are "messing up your clothes and closet". Provide a few stuff, like T-shirts, scarves, hats, belts, etc. Let him have fun, but tell him the closet is off limits, especially the lengerie. Eventually, the skirts and aprons became capes and head wraps. But it began as dress up. If he looks too much like a lady, then you might say "you're not a girl. Here, try it like this. And, then change HOW he's wearing it and laugh and be pleased with it. He will adapt it eventually, even if he won't admit it the first time. He will want to please you in the long run. I wouldn't let my boys purposely look like ladies if that is the intent, that would be biblically wrong. But, just the fact that they are dressing up in my clothes and shoes isn't a big deal. You can influence them with your opinions and praise. Just keep offering them both.

My boys also play(ed) with dolls. They just do so differently than girls. Dad's hold their babies and I want to foster that. But, I don't let my boys behave in a feminine manner. I don't focus on the object, but more on the behavior. It's something that has to be taught. When my son saw how my daughter would have her hair fixed, he wanted it too. It was the attention. So, I would say, no ribbons won't look good on boys. But, we can put in some gel. Or this hat would look good on you, etc.

Ooohmagosh. My three year old is doing the same thing ... has for a year a a half. I've tried both approaches..being very positive, supporting the behavior, letting him do it as often as he likes, and so on. I've tried the negatives, I've even tried discipline (even though it was against my better nature)

My son, as we speak, is sitting in the floor with a towel wrapped around him like a dress, has on his slipper shoes (they are Hulk shoes but he refers to them as his "glass slippers" like from Cinderella) He knows ALL the Disney princesses names..and is simply OBSESSED WITH BARBIES. If you find anything on your post please help ME TOO! lol.

I am thinking this is just a phase. He knows he loves mommy and he is identifying with you now, just figuring out the world. Three year olds are very innocent. I have a few friends with sons that did the same thing at around this age but now at ages 8 & 9 or so, would never dream of it and only talk about football and video games.

There is also a new baby in the house that can produce all kinds of phases in toddlers. I bet in 6 months he will have long moved on to other things.

My husband and I saw a little boy about your son's age at the book store looking at princess books in the corner away from his family. He was smiling and seemed to really enjoy the princesses a lot. I think it's a innate thing boys go through. I think it is a part of finding out who they are and what they like. It might be that he is trying to figure out what you like so much about your clothes and shoes, etc. It will no doubt give him a much needed feminine side as he grows up. You are an awesome mother by not reacting negatively to this! I applaude you! So many times I can imagine this happening to little boys and their parents freaking out and telling them it is wrong. This creates men who are insensitive and don't understand women. It also inhibits who they really are, creating a depressed and confused older boy/man. You are great! What a lucky boy!!

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