Why My 3 1/2 Year Old Son Likes to Wear Girl Clothes

Updated on August 19, 2012
S.M. asks from Brentwood, CA
54 answers

My 3 year old son loves to dress in girl clothes ( mine included). It all started when he was around 1 1/2 because of his fascination with his girl cousin. He just adores her so much. He calls her his precious. She is 3 years older than him. This may sound cute to some of you and of course I thought the same thing in the beginning, but now it has become this obsession and he cries when I don't let him. This is a daily challenge for me because when it's not girl clothes it's pj's. He changes his clothes constantly everyday because that's what they do when they see eachother. I'm not concerned that my son will turn out to be gay, I just want to know how to stop this behavior before he goes to Kindergarten. Please help I don't know what to do.

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L.M.

answers from San Francisco on

My sisters boy also dressed in girls clothes for a long time because he admired his older sister. When it came time for kindergarten, he won and wore a dress. The other children made fun of him and he never wore girl clothes again. Just one scenario.

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A.S.

answers from San Francisco on

imho opinion, there isn't anything "wrong" in the behavior, and no reason to stop it. i would suspect that making an issue out of his chagning his clothes a lot and/or the wearing of girl clothes will only serve to draw negative attention to it and make his interest last longer.

children all imitate the people that they are facinated with, and every child i've ever known has loved dressing up. it's the way children explore their identity and what makes them themselves and you you - internally they are questioning, "if i put on this dress, does that make me a girl? if i put on this fire helmet, does that make me a fireman?"

if it's making you so nervous, create a dress ups box that has a wide variety of clothes and costumes, hats and scarves (including "girl" ones) and let him explore as he sess fit. he'll tire of the "girl" clothes when he's ready to. you could also provide some new games and activities (saved just for these occasions) when he sees his cousin so they have exciting alternatives to dress-ups when they are together.

my son was TOTALLY into dressing up as a princess and a ballerina when he was three. now he's a happy, confident nine year old who dresses like a boy - by his own choice.

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T.B.

answers from San Francisco on

My daughter did the exact same thing at the same age on a daily (multiple times a day) basis. She is now 4 and it's not nearly as much. It used to drive me crazy, now I miss it. There is tons of time before he goes to kindergarten.

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M.E.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't like some of the terms being used...cross dressing, drag - come on - this is a child. He's having fun dressing in brightly colored, pretty clothes. Female clothes have lots of interesting textures, they are soft, etc. I had a friend whose son played with my daughter and, of course, my daughter had lots of dress up clothes and this little boy dressed in the princess dresses, etc. His father also got very concerned. The same little boy is now 9 and does not wear girls clothing. Children aren't as aware of boy clothes versus girl clothes as adults are. It has more to do with what's available and what's fun to wear. Is it fun to wear a man's suit? It's pretty heavy and there is no way the pants are going to come close to fitting. But a dress will fit anyone and it generally is lightweight. If it would make you feel better you could look into getting some capes and more gender-neutral dress up clothes. Michele

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D.K.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you should worry about it so much. At 3 1/2 your son has plenty of time to get over this phase (and I do think it's a phase) before kindergarten. If you continue to make a big deal about it, and draw attention to the behavior that you don't like, the more likely you are to make more of a problem out of it. You could relegate the "dressing up" to playtime. Allow him to dress however he choses, if it's part of pretending or "dress up time." To try to encourage alternatives to girls' clothes, you could get some boy type dress up clothes, like doctor, fireman, cowboy, policeman, etc. Or even just the hats from these types of costumes to encourage imaginitive play. You often have to look under the heading of costumes in order to find these kind of outfits. If your real concern is how he will behave once he's in school, you should consider getting him into a preschool, if he's not already in one. At preschool he would have a chance to observe the behavior of the other children, as well as being introduced to what is expected of him in a classroom environment. Hope this is helpful!

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J.L.

answers from San Francisco on

There are the obvious questions of your feelings, whether this is so bad and whether or how it will carry forth in his life.
Are you afraid that he will be badly teased by others in Kindergarten? You say you are not worried that he will be gay. Are you sure of that? In this society, that can be treated worse than teasing.

Not addressing those questions, a simple answer was always the most helpful for changing behavior .....going camping.

Whether it was food habits, clothes, behavior etc.,
the woods and outdoors helped. Their attention was caught up in the excitement of the outdoor streams, lakes, animals, tracks, stick forts,
(feed it with outdoor games and activities wildly available in nature sections of libraries or book stores). Magical redwood forests were especially compelling with their ferns, water and hiding places.

Since what you bring in the car is limited, my experience was that they were so interested in what was around them that they quickly moved onto the other interests. (Later we got into outdoor skills)
Bring some other boys that could be possible friends.

If you can take 2 weeks, a lot changes, but even weekends were helpful, particularly for food habits.
Not only that, one ends up with more athletic and healthy children.

Maybe this might be one approach where clothes might become irrelevant, and it could become possible to know more about how deep his identifications are.
And in the end, love him for whoever he is.

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B.M.

answers from San Francisco on

S. I know you are very concerned about your son but the most important message he will receive- from anyone, in his entire life- is from you, and that message has to be "you are wonderful just the way you are".

I cared for a kindergarten aged child over the summer, and he loves to dress up in girl's clothes. He is in the first grade now and nothing has changed- when he comes to my house he heads straight for the dress up box. I know it's hard for his parents, and I've never really had a big discussion with them about it, but they are trying I think to walk a fine line between discouraging his behavior and discouraging him, as a person. I have a feeling it's tough.

My thinking is a little different than a lot of people's I guess. When I took him and my son on an outing this summer, he asked if he could wear his favorite dress. I said, "fine with me. You look great". He looked at me very seriously and said, "Will people laugh at me?" I looked him right in the eye and said, "I don't know." That's the most honest answer I could give him.

We went to the museum and the park and he wore his dress. With his sneakers. And no one laughed. The only people who seemed to notice gave me a smile. I just walked the kids into the museum and when heads turned I kind of yawned, like, "yup, just another day out with the kids."

Things are going to be hard for him. At the age your boy is at he is likely just playing but for this boy I think he is either gay or transgendered. He is almost seven now. It is probably going to be a difficult road for him and for his parents, who love him very much. I love him too, so when he comes over I let him play with my things and don't say a word about it.

My son is a sensitive child and when he cries, I've always told him, "It's okay to cry." The first time I said it my husband looked at me, and later he told me that he was worried about our son later, at school. What if he cried? What if he got laughed at? I told him it was up to him, if he cried and he got laughed at he had a choice. He might decide that his feelings were his own and that he would cry if he wanted to. He might decide that crying in front of other people was more trouble that it was worth. But the important thing, the very most important gift that we can give him, is for him to know that he is just great the way he is. Weather he cries or not. Whatever he chooses to do. He's loved just the way he is.

I want to give you my best wishes. Chances are this phase will blow over. My advice to you is to be neutral about his choices of playtime activities, including dress up. If, as kindergarten nears, you find that his interest in dressing up persists, make it a part of your kindergarten search. Ask schools how they address gender identity issues. Talk with a psychologist or seek out books to help you have an honest, affirming, age appropriate conversation with your son about the issue.There is a wonderful independent school in Oakland, Park Day, that is leading the way with children that have gender issues. But don't worry about all that now. Just enjoy your son and keep loving him the way he is.

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J.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Dear S.,
I wouldn't worry too much about the styles he prefers (girls clothes I mean) in and of itself it is harmless. However you are the parent and you make the decisions about what he wears. In the first 7 years or so it is appropriate to simply say something to the effect of "this is how we are doing it" and leave it at that if he asks "why" or resists you.. As parents, exerting our wisdom in making all decisions for the young child is our responsibility. Parents are the ones who "know better" out of our life experience. That is what parenting is about. When the child gets much older, he will learn to make wise choices for himself - before (even during) adolescence, learning to make good decisions is a very gradual process, since children in their growth and development only BEGIN to understand cause and effect after the age of 7? So I suggest being kind to yourself and him too - just lay his clothes out for him each day and if he resists, perhaps he will not be allowed to go out to play until he has them on - and you can put them on for him each day until he learns to do it himself. He will resist until he is secure in the fact that you mean what you say and that's that.(This is a key parenting factor: the child feels secure when we show that we mean what we do and say). It leaves them without having to wonder what's happening at any given moment, which makes them feel insecure. All this of course needs to be accomplished with tenderness, love (maybe humor) and confidence in your parenting. If you feel confident, he will feel that and be more cooperative. If you are angry or frustrated he will also feel that and resist more and more.
I wish you well. J. Birns - Waldorf educator/consultant (also parent of 2)

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E.E.

answers from San Francisco on

It sounds like he is a typical 3 year old who loves dramatic play! Seriously, don't worry at all about this. I was a preschool teacher for many years and his behavior is normal. Normal, normal, normal! The best thing you can do for him is get him a big box of dress-up clothes and accessories. Incorporate girls clothes and boys clothes, hats, and shoes. Include career clothes (like doctor coats, fire man hats, cowboy boots, etc.). You could also add props like fire trucks, a doctor's kit, a cash register and grocery bags, horse head broom sticks. Be creative! If he likes to wear dresses and heals right now then just go with it and throw in some flashy purses. In a week swap out those items and start a new theme. Let him change into his play clothes to his heart's content during play time. Make him wear his own clothes the rest of the time and explain that he can only change his clothes during play time.

I hope this helps! He's only 3 1/2 and this phase rarely lasts until Kindergarten. He has plenty of time. Me and my brother always dressed up in my mom's clothes. He loved the challenge of walking in high-heals. It's all part of role-playing and growing up.

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S.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Dear S.,
I am 45 and my brother is 46. He is gay and my mom said he started this kind of behavior when he was that age. It was also Barbie dolls, sequin shoes and ballet clothes. They bought him Fireman and Cowboy costumes and GI Joe toys and he refused to touch any of them. Back in those days they didn't realize gay was a genetic thing you are born with but looking back now, they say they always new has was going to be gay. He came out at 21. That's a long time to be confused about who you are. Just another perspective. I would probably try "playtime as dressup time" and get him around other boys so he can see the appropriate way to dress for a boy. We were worried about my son as well. He is 17 now and straight but when he was 3 he wanted to dress up like the Pink Ranger from Power Rangers and we told him no, that was for girls and he had to go dressed as red or blue cuz those were for boys. No meltdown...told him he could be pink ranger at home. Good Luck! Just love him no matter what.

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M.M.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

If you try to stop the behavior, he'll become more obsessed with it. You'll have created a "forbidden fruit." So, I suggest you go along with it. Let him dress in anything he wants. He'll then be able to grow through this phase and out of it. If he doesn't, then you'll be dealing with another issue, but I sure wouldn't think about that at this point!

I sure wouldn't say anything to the children about their dressing up together. The children are carefree and unfettered by adult shame and guilt. They need to keep their innocence as long as possible.

Best wishes,

M. Milos, RN

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M.B.

answers from Salinas on

I have a nephew who was like this before he went into school as well. His mother shared your same concerns. Then she just decided to let it go and let my nephew wear whatever he wanted to. And after a day or so, my nephew stopped wearing dresses to school. I suspect the more you push your son away from wearing dresses, the more he is going to want to. My advice is, don't worry about it. Children have an amazing way of working that stuff out in their own way.

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M.M.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi, Well my son wore high heels and purses and I did think it was cute at first.We had redirected him and was explaining to him as he growed up that the shoes clothes purses were for girls and that it just wasn't ok. Now u have a baby and well u can feel ok with letting him play,remind him he's just PLAYING key word. Eventually if u are consitant he should tapper off. Remember u are the mom and u must be firm, but hes only a baby once an what u put into him will come out. PLAYING is ok. Don't get upset yet...U can e-mail me if u choose. [email protected]____.com

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T.G.

answers from Bakersfield on

My advice is to ignore behavior you don't want to encourage and give positive feedback when he behaves in a manner you want to continue. If you make a big issue of it, it becomes an attention-getting device. Kids want attention, no matter whether positive or negative.

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K.J.

answers from Sacramento on

Have him hang around boys more often, and take him to do boy activities.

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S.K.

answers from Sacramento on

Just a thought, he thinks the clothing is pretty. I had a foster boy do the same thing. I let him at first, but it became a struggle, and today he is gay.You have to decide what you want for his future. I would remove all of the girl clothing so he does not have access to it. I would leave him out one set of boys clothing to change into. Each week remove the extra pants, and tell him that is all there is, and then remove the shirts, until he has nothing to change into. You need to be in control. What you let him do now, is his pattern for his life. Children are very smart and manipulate us all the time. With tears, tantrums and more. Take control. If you have to move his clothing to another area he doesn't have access to, do it now.
I would praise him for making good choices and leaving his clothing on. They fact that you are letting a 6 year girl undress with you son, is perhaps not the best idea. You need to set boundaries for them. They should be playing with toys with each other. I would get a playdoh table for them to play on when she visits, and make sure they are supervised adn perhaps join them in appropriate play time. Good Luck

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M.T.

answers from San Francisco on

S.,
I see that you already have a ton of responses and I have not read them so I'm sorry if this is reduntant of what others have already said but here are my thoughts after reading your post -- your son is 3 1/2...this behavior is totally normal. Also, I know you are concerned about kindergarden, but that is not for another year (or two depending on when your son's birthday is). You and your son have plenty of time to enjoy this stage and likely grow out of this stage before kindergarden. That said, if you are really worried or bothered by these activities that he seems to enjoy think about putting some restrictions/boundaries up but still letting his curiosity be free. For example...tell your son that while you are in the house he can change his clothes/play dress up/wear his pjs,etc but when it is time to leave the house he has to put his own clothes (and they can't be pjs) on. Or, dressing up/wearing pjs is fine, but while we eat (say you take a break from playing for a snack or lunch or dinner) you wear your own clothes. What you don't want to do is ban the behavior all together becasue that will just make him more curious about it and will create a dynamic where he feels he has to hide from you and can't trust you to let him explore his curiosty. This is a very pivitol stage for him to learn your expectations, boundaries, and trust. Good luck!!

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L.S.

answers from San Francisco on

S.:

Wow. I have a lot of experience with this. My 5 and a half year old boy still dresses in drag. He understand that friends at school might not understand this or appreciate it as much as we do at home. After a lot of research, we took the approach of not making a big deal about it - and when he became old enough that we susupected other kids might raise an eyebrow to say the least - we appealed to his sense of judgement and explained kindly and supportively that we thought it was fine and it IS fine - but not everyone might at school. He gets it. Where is it leading? I can not say. But, he has a lot of friends (mostly girls, but not all) that love him and with some careful grown-up steering (with his older brother and boy friends) are fine with it.

If you or your spouse make it a negative or a big deal - you risk your child thinking something is defective about them as opposed to uniquely creative. You risk them not sharing with you b/c they think it is not safe, self -esteem can spiral downward out of control, or that it will only get more intense b/c of negative attention they can pull from it.

If you want to talk more about it - I am happy to chat on the phone - I wish someone had been there for me when it all started up for us. ###-###-#### L. San Mateo, CA

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S.S.

answers from San Francisco on

This exact issue was on Super Nanny last week! What she did was have the entire family play dress up in different costumes so he felt it was okay to do and he didn't have to hide to do it. My grandson loved to dress in costumes. He would wear his Halloween costumes all year. I can't tell you how often I took him out shopping dressed like an elephant, lion, vampire, or whatever else he was in the mood to be that day. He just turned 13 and he is now a very accomplished little actor. He has even performed at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! I would suggest getting him an assortment of costumes in which to dress up and exercise his creativity. If you can get the cousin to come over and play dress up in some gender neutral costumes, that may even encourage him. Bottom line, don't worry about it at this age.
S. S.
http://www.cleanburnsoycandles.com

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E.R.

answers from San Francisco on

I am going through the same thing with my 2 year old. He has a 3 year old sister, who is the girliest girl ever. She loves all the princess stuff ect. i am a 24 year old single mother and a lot of his influence is myself and my daughter. He loves to watch me put on my Make up and loves all my accessiores, he is constantly wanting to look just like his siter and I. But how do i explain to him at 2 that he cant do those things. My dad tells me to let him express himself, and when he is older he will understand. I talked to his peditrician about it and he explained to me the more emphesis i put on it, the more attention he will focus on it. It's liek dress up for him. It's fun. Try getting things like old haloween costumes (for a boy) Pirates and monkey's things like. that might help him feel like he is playing a role, it could be as simple as that. Good luck to you, please share with me any advice that works for you. i too am looking for a solution.

E.

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K.B.

answers from Sacramento on

My daughter was/is obsessed with wearing footie pajamas. even in warm weather. She is just finishing up kindergarten but earlier on (back in ore-school) we made a deal that she has to wear regular clothes to school or if we go out to a store oor something etc. but if we're just hanging out around the house, thne she can put her pajamas back on. Maybe you could try the same thing with the girl clothes. Is it the colors or the styles that he likes? Because they make boys and men shirts in pink and purple these days. Good luck. They certainly have a mind of their own, don't they.

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S.D.

answers from San Francisco on

At 3 1/2 years old it is very developmentally normal for children to cross-dress. They don't have clear gender permanence, meaning that little boys still think that when they grow up they can get pregnant or be a mommy. This is a healthy, normal part of your son's development, and there is no reason to repress it. Plus, he is probably obsessing over it more because YOU are obsessing over it. If you relax and let him play the way he wants to play, then he will most likely grow out of it.

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N.P.

answers from Modesto on

Hi Sandy!

I almost cried when I read your request this morning.

You see, my son does the same thing. It began around age 3, which was before any girl cousins were born. He's now 5, and started Kindergarten this year. I always thought it was "good" to let both my boys get "the girl thing" out of their system. It's weird how I know that it's NOT a gay thing, just an imagination thing.

You see, I DO think it's VERY normal for boys wanting to be girls, and visa-versa. Especially wanting to be a young girl now-a-days because there are SOOOO many accessories and things to use. The Toy Store's are just NOW beginning to sell things for little boys that you couldn't buy before because they were in only girl colors. You know...like Babies, Strollers, Play Kitchen's, even Barbies. Sure they make GI Joe's, but they don't make one's that can change clothes. They have finally just begun to sell boy costumes year-around, like they do the princess costumes. It's hard to have a boy with an active imagination sometimes, because everything "fun" is in girl theme.

Well, I finally bought a baby and stroller when he was 3...and Santa brought him a Kitchen this year...it's all he wanted. Thankfully, there were boy patterns to choose from. We ARE allowing him to get these instincts out of his system. My biggest fear, is he won't, and I will have another situation on my hands. But it looks like it's all fading away soon enough. The stroller is gone, and the Kitchen is only occassionally played with. Only one dress-up in the last month...It's tapering off.

I think the more "active" he's become....soccer, baseball, etc...the more he gets in touch with "real life" and the fact that he's a boy and not a girl. It helps that he has more costumes than clothes in his closet. He changes at LEAST 10 times a day after school. His imagination is endless each day.

Can I just say how RELIEVED I am that my son is NOT the only boy out there that behaves this way. I'm sure after reading my reponse that you will feel the same way, too.

I think you shouldn't worry, S.. He knows the difference between girls and boys at this age. But it's still fun for him to pretend to be the opposite. I guess :o) My 5 year old is a sensitive and caring young man, just like his daddy. My husband can "think and feel" for me, more than any other man I've ever known. If my boys can have 1/2 that quality, then their wives will be so lucky. I think it comes from having that "inner little girl" at one time in their youth.

I think it will all be ok....

:o) N.

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L.W.

answers from Sacramento on

How often does he get to spend time with her?
How often does he spend time with other kids?
He is doing this because it reminds him of the fun time he had with her, there are LOTS of ways to have fun.

This is an opportunity for you to get comfortable with the idea that you don't need to care about anyone else's opinion. What other people think is their business, but it doesn't need to push you off center. AND what you think should not take away from your son's joy over what ever makes him feel good.

May I suggest Emotional Freedom Technique's free manual, at http://www.emofree.com

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A.B.

answers from Sacramento on

One thing you could do is tell the girl that she is too big to take her clothes off around boys anymore. You could also ask her help to teach him not to take off his clothes so much. Discourage her from doing that with him and it might get him to want to stop, especially if he wants to copy her.

Him calling her his precious makes me thing of Gollum in Lord of the Rings, lol.

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J.L.

answers from San Francisco on

Who knows why? I've known several little boys who were really into wearing dresses at that age; one also hated wearing jeans & wanted to wear his hair long even though people said he looked like a girl. They've all grown up to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted boys and young men, and are also exceptionally creative (one is a gifted pianist). They all learned to know the difference between dress-up and "daily wear." Many little boys also adore older girls. These things change too. It's probably a phase. Don't worry!

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D.M.

answers from Modesto on

Read "Bringing up Boys" by Dr. James Dobson. It will be an excellent resource for you and will deal with your concerns directly.

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J.M.

answers from San Francisco on

S.,
First I'd like to point out that the language you used sounds like you feel there is something wrong with being gay. You might want to be a little more careful to insure you don't offend anyone.
This is the age for dress up. Both of my kids liked to change clothes several times a day, often in costume. As for your son liking to wear girl clothes, it is refreshing. It means he has not been brainwashed by our society into believing that as a boy he should only be attracted to "boy" things. Who decided that girls like pink and boys like blue? Not our children. I believe you should embrace this time in his life and know that in the near future unfortunately, he will learn that "girl things" are not for him.

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E.C.

answers from San Francisco on

Dear S.,
Its really normal for kids to constantly wear other kid's clothes and switch back and forth. I have a big manly son who was always putting on his sister's clothes...its just play and there are no filters for gender at that age. Perhaps instead of thwarting this trend, you could just get a box of play clothes and give him new and interesting clothes that are also fun to wean him from the cousin's. She may also like to play dress up from these clothes.

It will eventually break. FYI, kindergarten teachers are amazing and insightful...if it were to go that long, they would help! Be confident.

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T.D.

answers from Sacramento on

I honestly do not want to upset you in any way, but have you ever thought about having him Checked for hecked "Sexual Identity Disorder"? Over the past year or two I have seen several programs regarding this and only wish that we had had this informayion 50 years ago. I had a brother who had a sex chnage more that 35 years ago. I remember my mother beating the heck out of him, taking him for huge doses of male hormones, psychology visits, etc. Needless to say his life was a very sad one, although our entire family did accept his decision "eventually", no one understood what was happening.
She passed away in 2000, never having seen any of the new information that has come out. Her doctor explained all that he could to my parents. It was truly a physical disorder. Barbara Walters did a pretty extensive program on this some time last year- very informative and several families shared what their experiences were (these were all very young children). Apparently while pregnant, the mother has some kind of extreme hormonal imbalance which they have found to be the cause of this. I pray that this is not the case with your son, but how much greater a life he'll have if it is and it is diagnosed early.

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K.U.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

I agree that there are times when this behavior will not be appropriate, and I think you could try a compromise with him with that understanding. Can you ask him to make a deal with you about it, so he knows there is a safe place for him to express himself this way? Maybe he could play dress-up anytime on the weekends, but agree that weekdays are different. You could even participate with him on the weekends so he knows you accept this aspect of his self-expression. It would be great if we could all express our eccentricities in public but the reality is, and he'll find out soon enough, that there is often a price to be paid for expressing ourselves unabashedly around those who are threatened by such irrepressability. If this is something that he can feel safe expressing with you then he won't be as likely to get a hang-up about it, all the better. Best of luck.

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D.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

My son, who is now 18, insisted on wearing girl's and women's clothes, too, when he was between 5 and 7. He, also, had a crush on a girl and was fascinated with her clothes, nail polish, and shoes. I was worried more about the teasing he would get than being gay, also.

The professionals I was talking with, a social worker from his hospital and a Marriage and Family Therapist, said this was completely normal (and I wanted to let him live it out so he wouldn't get stuck on it). His choices back then really challenged my attitudes about alternative lifestyles (cross-dressing men). But when it came right down to it, I knew I would love him no matter what!

I told him he could wear anything he wanted at home, but it was not safe to go outside--because people might tease him. Once he accepted that, I let him freely dress as he chose. He, also, changed clothes many times during the day. It took him a while to grow out of it, but he did finally. There have been times during his growing up that he has wished he was a girl; I think because of all the intriguing and eye-catching girl things out there. He's still smitten with girly-girl stuff, but he's more interested in the girls than the stuff.

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S.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

my name is S. and I have an adorable lil. boy that is 3 yrs. will be 4 on august 30th. my son absolutely loves barbies he loves combing there hair and he wears shirts on his head pretending to be hair and he likes dresses he is extremely feminen, I always make sure to let him know that I don't care what he plays with I still love him and that no child should ever be deprived of any toy or color that makes them happy. the only way I can put it is I love to draw and paint, I would be miserable if I was deprived from it because I'm not an artist. I believe in not encouraging them but
absolutely respecting them and always remind your child that you love him no matter what and always suggest a different toy like for instance in my situation I respect the whole barbie thing but I also suggest arts and crafts or kick ball just so that he gets distracted for a while. although he always carries his barbie with him and he has over 100 of them, I always tell all my relatives to never mock my son because of what he likes and whenever a comment is made about barbies are for girls or your not a girl , I make sure to say that a toy does not determine your sexuality. I always make sure to remind him that he has a great imagination and if so you can do anything and to be able to do anything is awesome.

Updated

my name is S. and I have an adorable lil. boy that is 3 yrs. will be 4 on august 30th. my son absolutely loves barbies he loves combing there hair and he wears shirts on his head pretending to be hair and he likes dresses he is extremely feminen, I always make sure to let him know that I don't care what he plays with I still love him and that no child should ever be deprived of any toy or color that makes them happy. the only way I can put it is I love to draw and paint, I would be miserable if I was deprived from it because I'm not an artist. I believe in not encouraging them but
absolutely respecting them and always remind your child that you love him no matter what and always suggest a different toy like for instance in my situation I respect the whole barbie thing but I also suggest arts and crafts or kick ball just so that he gets distracted for a while. although he always carries his barbie with him and he has over 100 of them, I always tell all my relatives to never mock my son because of what he likes and whenever a comment is made about barbies are for girls or your not a girl , I make sure to say that a toy does not determine your sexuality. I always make sure to remind him that he has a great imagination and if so you can do anything and to be able to do anything is awesome.

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S.V.

answers from San Francisco on

hi S.:

i would find male friends that are going to introduce him to soccer, baseball, etc,,,
what about his dad?
does he play with his dad, and do things with him? is great that he loves his cousin, but why does he have a fascination for her? is she the only friend he has?
i did have two friends who loved girl clothes, later was girl make up, and they are sweet guys, and good friends.
get him more involved with male activities that are going to open his eyes to other things..
warmly,
sandy

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C.T.

answers from Sacramento on

I am in the same boat. I just finished an intake with a doctor for my son (age 6) for his gender varient behavior. Here is the advise that I got. Basically there are 3 types of boys - Boys who like boy things, Boys who like both boys and girl things and Boys who only like girl things. Ask your son which one he thinks he is? Chances are you'll get the later. Now Mom, you have to decide right now do you love your son so deeply that its transends his gender and the love you feel for him is so deep that you can see straight to his soul? If the answer is yes and I am sure that it is. Here is what you do next. Create an enviornment that is safe for him to express himself at home, or at trusted friends or family. Set limits on what you wear outside in public. Let him know that there is nothing wrong with him and that the world still does not fully understand boys who like girl things just yet. Get support. Go online to National Childrens Hospital in Washington DC and print out their brouchure for parents, teachers and kids. You are not alone. Different is always scarry but your son is only 3 1/2. He's still figuring out who he is. Research shows that it is still very typical behavior up until 3rd or 4th grade. Most of these boys do end up gay, about 25% end up straight but very intouch with their feminin side. and about 3% end up transgender. So how calm and non judgemental in either direction is very important. What you will end up teaching your son the most is the one thing that every child needs to be a healthy happy adult. The knowledge that his Mother loved him unconditionaly. God Bless

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G.P.

answers from San Francisco on

My son loved playing with his older sister. She is 1-1/2 years older than him and would play dress up. She would dress him up as a girl and they would play. (I have some darling pictures.) However, I voiced my concern to my counselor.

He asked what clothes my son wore. He said get him some cool bright colored clothes maybe with cartoon characters on them. Have him shop and pick them out. This helped a lot. But he still had a favorite dress. He was 3-1/2 years old and going to pre-school. He had 3 boy friends there who liked to play and build stuff. He insisted on wearing his dress to school. I convinced him to bring it and he could change in the dress up room if he really wanted to once we got there.
He was met at the gate by his buddies who yelled at him to come in and play. My son looked at me and said, "Mom will you take my dress home, I don't need it here." And that was that.

Today my son is an amazing young man who likes to dress well and feels very comfortable wearing suits and ties at work. Don't worry it will all work out.
Good Luck.
Gale

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J.M.

answers from Sacramento on

Hi, S. -
The good news is that a lot of kids do this. You still have time before he goes to Kindergarten before he finally gets bored of it. It most likely is just a phase. And while the phase may seem to be lasting forever, it's just a phase. Kids love - and need - to be creative at this age. My newphew dressed up in my daughter's dress-up clothes every time he came to our house and my brother was going insane. He did it for about a year, until he was 4.

Also, kids want to have some control in their life that is "their" control. My daughter insisted on wearing what she picked out. Nothing ever matched - at least pajamas can match! =) This did go into Kindergarten for her, but only occassionally by that time. Sometimes you have to let up the fight but sometimes you have to lay down the law.

Maybe try giving your son a choice of outfits each day and let him know that he only has the one. He can choose from 2 or 3, but then he has to stay in just the 1 he chose. He's very young but you can try to explain that all the extra changing also means extra laundry for Mom. You might want to also create a "dress-up" box. I saw this on Supernanny 2 weeks ago because the dad was freaking out that the son was wearing dresses and high heels. Create a box full of all sorts of costumes/dresses/men's clothes and set aside a specific time when he (and cousin) can dress up. The rest of the time he needs to wear what he picked out in the morning.

The importance of the dress up box is that there are specific times that you say they can use the box BUT they also get to be creative. This gives you more control of what he wears out of the house but allows him to express his creative side.

I hope this helps! There is no perfect answer as all kids are different but hopefully you have a couple ideas to work off of. Good luck!

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T.F.

answers from Stockton on

Don't do anything. He's normal. He's obsessing, because toddlers obsess. The fact that you try to stop him will just make that activity more attractive to him. Again, he's normal. He's playing dress-up. That's all. So, don't do anything and don't worry.

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W.S.

answers from San Francisco on

It's definitely appropriate play for that age. I'd get them BOTH some gender neutral or boy costumes to play with together. Not so much to keep him out of the pink tutus, but so that he can see his little girl cousin want to be a cowboy (or whatever) or and he can feel good about being a boy. Creating a little balance in what they play with could be good for his self esteem if its appealing to both of them. But I wouldn't worry about him wanting to pretend to be different than he is. It's part of how children learn empathy. They imagine what it's like to be other people. He's probably trying on what it's like to be different than he is more than he is expressing a desire to BE different than he is.

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J.S.

answers from Stockton on

my son's favorite color was pink, and he loved playing with dolls until he started kindergarten. The other boys didn't like pink and didn't play with dolls so he sort of conformed. Probably what will happen with your son. At your son's age my son only played with girls. Now, at six, he only plays with boys. It's just a phase.

When my son was 4 he decided he wanted barbie dolls for his birthday, so I caved in and let him have them. By the time he turned five, he was ripping the heads off the dolls and throwing barbie heads at his brothers. :P

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N.S.

answers from San Francisco on

My baby son likes to wear his sisters tiara and use her pink purse, too. He's only 22 months old at this point but we try not to make a big deal about it. I happened to be watching Nanny 911 a week or two ago and they addressed just this issue. A little boy was hiding in the closet (literally) because his dad would ridcule him. Nanny went out and got a bunch of non-girl costumes like bees, animals, cowboys, etc...The whole family got into the act and they all dressed up in costumes and played together. This made the act of putting on girl clothes less weird and gave the boy an outlet to pretend. Maybe his cousin and he could play dress up and pretend in less gender specific costumes (e.g. wizards, dragons, etc....)and find new outlets that are more acceptable in terms of pretending and wearing costumes.

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S.H.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,
Your concerns seem premature to me. My three-year-old grandson, a twin, is more attracted to his sister's cute, sparkly clothes too, but I, as a mother who raised one of each sex, know that children's preoccupations are short-lived and pass more quickly than we need concern ourselves. Attachment to his cousin is reason enough to identify with her, as is true of my grandson, so it makes sense, especially at that need-to-have-a voice age, that he try to show his admiration this way. I'm not a child psychologist, but I think our concerns about passing fancies are not worth real concerns at such a young age. Your trying to dissuade him is probably even apparent, despite your thinking otherwise. My feeling is--relax. Let him express himself now and, when he sees other boys don't do this, he will desist.

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M.J.

answers from San Francisco on

I think it's so sad that so many parents on here feel the need to tell you if he is near pink he'll suddenly be gay. Well, let me tell you...I was the girliest of girly girls (still am :P) and I am gay. What we like, how we dress, what our interests are have very little to do with our sexual orientation, trust me on this one.

My son loved to wear girl clothes when he was very little. He had a baby sitter who had two daughters and they would dress my then 2 year old son in princess costumes and he just LOVED it. Why can't a boy like sparkly things? It's our society that has dictated that boys must like blue and camo and girls must like pink and sparkles. We aren't born with that in our brains.

Interesting fact, before World War One (I think it was, but someone might correct me on the dates), pink was actually the official "boy" color and blue was the official "girl" color. Then, it got switched.

Why do you have to stop this "behaviour?" Why can't you just let your son wear whatever pleases him? He'll most likely outgrow it or learn that society will belittle his likes and preferences if he wears "girl" clothes out in public. To me, that's the saddest part :(

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D.C.

answers from Modesto on

I understand your concern - I would start to provide "healthy" outlets to him that are good alternatives and allow him to continue his make-believe play. Like animal costumes, cowboys, indians, historical figures, inventors (Thomas Edison...) heros etc. Expand his horizons, so that he has all sorts of new cool ideas - you could even show him movies with those new heros, and if you can have the co-heroines for his cousin to dress up in, so that he sees the fun in being the hero saving the heroine etc. Dress-up companies make fun out of being a girl, and the boys are left behind in this make believe in other manners.
Blessings to you,
D. Cason

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T.S.

answers from Chico on

S.,

My advice is don't "do" anything. Kids go through stages. Kindergarten isn't for two whole years yet. If you push this he will most certainly resist, if he has spirit, which clearly he does. Good for him. Allow him some control and he'll feel less rebellious. I think it's precious that he idolizes his cousin. My nephew is madly in love with my oldest daughter. Let it be. It makes complete sense that he wants to emulate her. I can't help but wonder if you do actually have some issues about his gender identity because this seems very minor in my opinion, particularly at the age of 3 years old. In any case, I'd concentrate on all the other wonderful things about him and your relationship - like the unconditional love you feel for him.
Best, T.

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S.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S..

First off, I am so glad to hear that you're not worried about your son being gay or not. All of us parents need to return the unconditional love we are given by our little ones.

I agree w/the responses about this most likely being a phase and the adoration your son has for his cousin is sweet. My son usually takes a liking to older girls w/long dark hair. Already has a preference, lol.

I can hear your distress and that's no fun for Mom or son so hopefully the following might help w/some sort of compromise:

Does your son have many boy playmates? Maybe adding more male pals to his circle of friends might help. You can easily point out what cool things boys do too.

How about meeting your niece at the park for a few playdates instead of having her over? This might let your son know that there are other things they can do together besides dress-up. And when she does come over, have a craft or the like for the theme of the day and hopefully break the dress-up habit a little.

Maybe trying some dress-up clothes geared toward boys would help. Hit up the thrift store for some costumes. His favorite super hero if he has one, cowboy stuff, aliens etc...even have niece join in.

Lastly, I would simply be cautious about any abrupt rule changes. This has been something he seems to get enjoyment out of and I'd avoid breaking his spirit.

I hope this helps somewhat. Parenting sure is a challenge 'eh?

Take care, S. B

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G.N.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.! I have two sons, ages 12 and 9. They both went through very effeminate stages where they role played being girls, modeled after their cousins and step sister. One summer when I took them to my very conservative grandparent's beach club for 2 weeks, my oldest(who was about 5 at the time)refused to wear his swim shorts and would only wear cousin Emily's bikinis! He thought they were beautiful and more fun than his shorts! He had long hair at the time and everyone mistook him for a girl.
Both of my sons passed out of their phases of cross dressing, it took my older one longer. I was embarrassed often by his choice of outfits, but I tried not to let it get to me. He once wore a tutu in a dance show because that's what the girls were wearing and he liked it better than the boy option!
As parents we have the perfect opportunity to look at our conditioning and our thoughts, how would we feel if our children were gay? Would it matter at all? Would we be able to fully support them? Why is it even an issue at all? Do we have problems with cross dressing? Apparently so, since it comes up so often. The truth is that it's natural. As my sons have grown up one of the things I'm thankful for is that they both went through such a sensitive and open phase, believe me it's better than back talk and super macho, which is what my 12 year old is starting~!
I don't think you should try to stop his behavior. It's the first step of letting your son know that you will love him no matter what. I always say to choose your battles as a parent. I don't think clothes are worth battling on. The harsh lesson of life that your son may learn is that he may be teased by other kids if he continues to dress and play as a girl. You should let him know this, so he can make his own decision. Try to stand by him and support him. He will most likely grow out of this very soon, if not you'll need to figure out your path of supporting him anyway so you may as well start now. Good luck!

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L.N.

answers from San Francisco on

I know you've been inundated, but I thought I had something to add. Girls stuff is SO much more fun than boys stuff: we get so many more accessories and colors and fun. (I love the idea of a big dress up box!) Also, a lot of what you're doing is teaching your kids appropriate behavior, so you can start working with him on what's appropriate for outside the house. Just like you discourage him from picking his nose in public, you get to set the rules about what's appropriate to wear outside of your home. I would keep it pretty loose, though, so you don't end up overly squelching him. For example, lots of jewelry or tiaras (;o)), heels or makeup are not appropriate because they're not safe, or they'll get lost, etc. I'd also get him a lot of fun pjs, frankly, they're comfy and safe to play in. And some colorful, fun tee-shirts of his own might distract him a bit. My daughter is 12 and she and a lot of her buddies wear pj bottoms to school: they're cozy, comfortable and have fun patterns. I think it's weird, but it's not a battle I consider worth fighting.

All will be well. As long as the

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C.I.

answers from San Francisco on

I was watching Supernanny last week and the little boy (I believe also about 3 years old) loved to dress up in his sister's clothing. First of all, she told the parents that this is just play for him. He was just having fun. Supernanny then brought in a basket full of "dress up" clothes for the kids to play with. This included animal costumes, funny masks, even a feather boa. And she had the parents get involved in dress-up time as well. This made it a fun, goofy time that the family spent together. It seemed to re-direct the boy's interest from his sister's clothes to the play costumes (for the time being at least). Hope that helps you a little bit. I read a very touching article in a Parents magazine not too long ago about a little boy who absolutely insisted on wearing a dress to preschool. The mom feared ridicule from other children. Eventually she gave in b/c he was so persistent and she prepared him that other kids may tease him. Some of the 4 year olds told him he looked "pretty" and did not tease him, while the 5 year olds told him he was dressed like a "girl". He responded that "no one is allowed to make fun of him" (coached by his mom) and was perfectly happy in his dress. It actually made me cry to read the story b/c as moms we really fear anyone hurting or making fun of our precious children. It's not easy but we do our best for them, and sometimes they let you know what you want I suppose. Good luck! :)

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L.F.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,
I think your child will out grow his fascination with girl clothes, but it may be awhile. I would suggest allowing it only at home and then naming the other clothes for other occasions. For example, he could have going to the park clothes, going to grandma clothes or going to preschool clothes. Then specifically call the girl clothes, dress up clothes, or something that makes sense to him. Then put the dress up clothes in a special box and try to have dress up time a special time - make a Big Deal about the new box - and then put it away after dress up time (even if is only for a few hours) Just some suggestions.
My 4 year old son loves pink. Everything has to be pink. It drives my husband crazy. I think it will change with time, but it has been 2 years of pink!!! Good luck!!

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Y.W.

answers from San Francisco on

Hello,
I have a 7 y/o daughter and 3y/o b/g Twins. My son went through a phase of wanting to wear make-up. Crying and the whole bit. I started to schedule little outings or 'guy time' with my son and my husband and it seemed to help my son with is 'self awareness'. Have you tried to have your husband or another male role model in the family spend time with you son? Have you tried introducing him to boy 'dress up' cloths? Fireman, police man, cow boy ect. You can also encourage your niece to play games with your son that are not gender specific. Hope this helps

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L.P.

answers from Sacramento on

I would think this is just a phase. But let me just set one thing straight.
You CAN NOT MAKE your son gay!!!!
The more you make a big deal out of it the bigger it will become. Have you tried explaining that it is ok to play dress up at home or in a play situation but that he should wear HIS clothes when going out or to visit family?
Please,Please, get beyond your belief that you can change your child's sexuality,he will be who he is,even if that turns out to be gay....you will love him anyway,it's your child. I know you want whats best for him as any parent does ....just be the best parent you know how to be.

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A.G.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi!
My 3-year boy did like that too for a while, he wanted to wear dresses like his sister. We told him it was fine but that he only could wear it at home, since boys don't wear dresses when they are outside. Period. And then after a while he just lost interest.

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L.B.

answers from San Francisco on

I'm pretty sure it will stop on its own before he goes to kindergarten. You could try setting up some sort of sticker chart or other incentive program (for example, every morning when he puts on his "big boy clothes" and every night if he's had them on all day, he could get a sticker and these would eventually add up to some prize or treat. But honestly, I think if you just didn't worry about it too much, it would eventually disappear (or mostly) on its own.

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