"Girls Don't Do That"

Updated on August 01, 2014
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
20 answers

Mamas & Papas-

DS is nearly 4 and more recently very proud and pleased to be a boy, and to be able to do things which boys can do, and quick to tell me what girls can/ can't do. By way of example - apparently, I am not allowed to join in the fake fart fest that he and daddy were having, because I am a girl and girls can't or shouldn't blow raspberries and should think farting is yucky. Also, he asked me why I was wearing slacks, and shouldn't I be wearing a dress because girls wear dresses.

Not sure where he's getting these ideas. (Not that I am really hard done by being kicked out of the fart party). In any event, any tips on how to rasie a boy who is less old fashioned?

Thanks a bunch,
F. B.

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answers from Columbia on

Just answer with a lighthearted, "Girls fart too. Sometimes they're funny, and sometimes girls AND boys need to mind their manners, like at the dinner table. Girls like to wear pants so they can go run and climb, and sometimes they like to wear dresses."

Where he's at is developmentally normal. Don't get too wound up about it.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

Just gently correct his misconceptions as they manifest.

Some girls think farts are funny. Some girls think they're gross.
Some boys think farts are funny. Some boys think they're gross.
It's all good.

Some girls like to wear pants. Some girls like to wear dresses.
Some boys like to wear pants. Some boys like to wear dresses.
It's all good.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

sounds like he recently encountered his first brush with gender discrimination somewhere, and is testing to see just what it's all about. good for him!
so all you have to do is not over-react and redirect him to a place where your family is comfortable. 'i'm fine with not joining your fart party. many people- girls AND boys- find farting disgusting and not funny at all. you guys get it out of your system (heh) before i come back, please.'
'girls wear dresses more often than boys do, but people tend to wear what makes them comfortable. once upon a time all girls had to wear dresses all the time. i'm very glad the world has changed since then.'
ETA i really disagree with the suggestion to tell him that he 'hurt your feelings.' i dislike emotional manipulation of small people. and beyond that, it reinforces yet another annoying stereotype about women. adult of both sexes should not be 'hurt' by very small children trying to make sense of their worlds.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

At 4, although he had some friends that were girls, our son decided that girls were yucky.
I told him "But Mommy is a girl" and he got this horrified look on his face and shouted "Mommy is NOT a girl! Mommy is MOMMY!".
I smile just thinking about it.
He's older now (15) and doesn't think girls are yucky any more.
And he knows everyone (boys and girls) can do anything they want to do.
Boys can cook if they want to and girls can be astronauts.
Don't worry!
Your son will grow up and learn a lot along the way!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Okay, here's the thing:

Kids do this. At some point, usually starts in preschool or around kindergarten, we start hearing about 'boy' and 'girl' things.

This could be colors, activities, toys, clothes, etc etc etc.

This is how simple children are creating gender identification. They are not trying to be neanderthals, they are just circulating the popular beliefs of the playground population. Kids are still young, they like definitive things, not shades of gray.

My advice is not to worry. The best way to teach our children is through our own example, period. We can flap our jaws all we want about 'boys can do anything, girls can do anything' but our objections don't matter. Our actions do.

They do grow out of it, by the way. I've known quite a few youngsters who most certainly, with all seriousness, espoused those opinions when they were four and five and six and so on. They are KIDS. Correct it matter-of-factly ("oh, plenty of women wear pants and do you want to see something? Let's look at how men dress around the world. Introducing the kilt!") Use it as an opportunity to share your excitement of how neat it is that all the people of the world can do lots of different things.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Kids that age start to sort people, things, etc. I think it's not uncommon for kids to compartmentaize people, but then the secondary part of it is for parents to get them to see shades of gray. We have 2 friends who are transgendered and still working toward a full transition. DD was fine with us assigning he or she when she was 3, but at 4 she insisted I wasn't right and at 5 she's learned to refer to them as they want to be referred. She's also my pink sparkle T. Rex oh look there's a bug girl so she "gets" that she can like many things and doesn't have to fit someone's cookie cutter.

You might do things like show him men in kilts or show him all kinds of traditional clothing and he will see the multitude of choices for people, not just girls. I think that you are a smart, savvy mom and he'll figure out that there's a lot of wiggle room in what "makes" a man or woman.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think he's just trying to make sense if the world around him.
Just reply " some do" " some don't" etc.
As with other differences in people, not just make/female.
Some people are good at art, good cooks, funny, kind, etc.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Well you are his biggest role model as to what women can do, what do you model?

I know my kids, not the boys, not the girls, would ever say girls can't do.... They spent most of their time trying to figure out what girls can't do and came up with repair broken plastic but then, neither could boys.

Show your child what girls can do

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I notice many kids do this and I really do not know where they get the idea (us poor parents are usually blamed). I swear I have never talked about earrings and I actually never wear them. Some how my kids saw a male relative wearing an earring and they said it was for girls. My 3 year old at the time was very confused that a man was wearing an earring.

The pants thing would crack me up.

My son was reading 'This is the House That Jack Built' with me and was really confused when it said "The judge married him." So much to explain in this one sentence from the 1800's. My son was about 5 and said a man can not marry a man (BTW I live close to San Francisco, so you would think my kid would already be aware that a man can marry a man). Not to mention there are plenty of female judges.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I've told my daughter that women can grow and birth babies and then feed them with their bodies, and men can't, while the only thing men can really do that women can't is successfully pee standing up.

My husband agrees, but she still has her old-fashioned ideas about gender put upon her by media, peers and the world in general. I just correct the stereotypical reference:
"Only girls like pink!"
"Boys like pink too. It's just another color."

Later I'll have longer conversations about it but she's too young (5) for that right now.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

He's never seen a man in a kilt?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

It's a very normal part of development. He's trying to find his role. One of the easiest ways for little ones to do this is with boys & girls. My 5 year old is suddenly going through an adult vs kid phase. He is often telling me something that kids can do that adults can't or something that he'll do when he's an adult.

My oldest did the boys vs girls thing. I tried to let him know that it was ok to just want to play with the boys at preschool, but it wasn't ok to say, "Girls can't do that!" At first I was very concerned, as I don't have a daughter and was a SAHM. I didn't want my boys to get the idea that women could only be moms. I started to realize that they knew so much more about me and other women in their lives and had no idea I was nervous about that :-)

Honestly, take a Mommy break when they want to do "boy things," and if you see him excluding girls in other situations, gently remind him that it's ok for girls to do that, too.

It'll pass, and you don't want to make too big a deal out of it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

Maybe read him stories that have strong female leads, so that he can see that girls can do anything boys can do.

I would also approach it objectively, and ask him WHY girls can't do it. "Why can't girls make fake farts?" "I'm a girl, see? and I can do it just fine." Essentially, try to get him to come up with an answer beyond "because girls don't do that"... He likely won't be able to come up with one. Heck, even pants. "why can't girls wear pants? We have two legs, just like boys. We like to run and play just as much as boys do." My 4yo responds to logic she comes up with on her own far better than anything I tell her... Sometimes her logic just takes a little extra guiding. ;)

You might also let him know that it hurts your feelings/ makes you feel bad when you are told you can't do something just because you are a girl.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I think I would have had a snappier comeback to the fart fest issue.
"Girls CAN, but ladies choose not to." Or something like that.

You don't want to go to the other extreme and have him think that rudeness is valued in a woman. Right?

Maybe I'm just a prude. LOL But we don't have fart contests in our house. Not even my husband and son. We all think that sort of thing is a bit crude.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Girls can do anything that they want to. Boys can do anything that they want to. One of my boys wore princess pull-ups the bulk of the time he was potty training. He asked for dresses with princesses on them. Only reason we said no is we knew he would be unhappy trying to play the way he always played and having that dress get in his way. We told him that reason and never made it about dresses are for girls. Kids can do whatever they want to. There are no "boys" games or "girl" games, there are just "kids" games. That has been our mantra since we first had kids.

We don't allow fart contests or anything along those lines in the house though, girl or boy. I find it so annoying ;)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I love this question.
Take just one day and see how many times gender is pointed out or the 'rules' of gender are implied, said, or demanded.

Children pick up on gender rules because they're watching and absorbing our culture at lightspeed. He's seeing these negative gender role rules modeled somewhere. What's he watching on tv? Teachers are notorious for being gender-crazed.

And challenge him. Ask him 'why'. It will stump him. It will get him thinking.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm sorry, being kicked out of the fart party would have caused me deep pain. Good luck on your search for the source of information your son follows. It is a mystery isn't it?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

This is just what 4 year olds do. Just ignore it, unless he starts excluding people. It's part of them trying to control the world through creating rules based on difference. We do this all the times as adults, and this is just how 4 year olds do it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

He would get the idea that women wear dresses if he has ever looked at the signs on the public restroom doors.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

When my oldest went through this phase, I'd tell him he hurt my feelings, that I was a girl, and he should never exclude anyone just for being a girl. It worked okay, but I can see we are going to be doing this dance for a long time!

It helps him now to understand that girls have been left out of so many things for so long - but he's 10 now. At 4, the statement above was what he needed.

My middle son didn't go through this phase, thank goodness, but he's the kind of boy who is unashamed to like pink and princesses - along with superheroes and trucks. I don't think this is gonna be a big thing for him. My youngest son is still in the yelling at us about toys phase, but so far, nothing about girls vs. boys.

good luck and hugs,

p.s. Girl power!

1 mom found this helpful
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