Her son only wants to play with girls

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 27, 2012 06:00 AM

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For the past year maybe, I've been a little worried about my 5 year old son behavior in terms of being a boy. He likes playing with girls more than boys, he's love the arts (which I love), and likes playing "girl games" (among other things). Although I don't mind any of it, I did notice it all. But today he said to me, as I asked him to give me back my hair band: "I wish I was a girl." That really surprised me and worried me. I explained to him that he is a boy, and being a boy it's cool, but I don't really know what else to do. Should I worry about this? Or am I just making something out of nothing? Is there any literature that you can suggest for me to read? Thank you!

From: Maria, Rochester, NY

Hi Maria,

Some boys brains -- researchers estimate about 20 % -- are hard-wired in ways that are more typical of a girl's brain than a boy's. That means they enjoy the kind of play that we tend to associate with "girl play," like arts & crafts, pretend play that involves relationships, than the more physical play we associate with boys, like running and playing with balls. This doesn't exclude one kind of play, and it certainly doesn't mean he'll never like "boy play." It just means this is his preference. And his comment about "wishing" he was a girl? I would take that to be simply this: His best friends -- the people he has most fun playing with right now -- are girls. He wants to be like them because they're his best friends.

Now. As I've written in an earlier answer to a similar question, does any of this foreshadow sexual orientation? Likely not, but possibly.

In the meantime, since boys and girls tend to separate as playmates sometime in first and second grades, I suggest you steer him to activities where he will find other boys who enjoy what he enjoys. Most communities offer arts and crafts camps and after-school programs like drama, or whatever it is that attracts him to girl-play.

Here's some reading: "Raising Cain" by Michael Thompson, also his book entitled, "Best Friends, Worst Enemies."

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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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