Kids and Gender Norms — I could use some advice.

Ever since my daughter learned the colors she knew her favorite was pink. She’s six now and that hasn’t changed. She has a closet full of pink dresses and she’s worn one every day since she started first grade a few weeks ago. I’m afraid the school is going to think we’re religious because she wears a dress every day.

My husband and I do not push this. In fact, we are often trying to get her to wear other colors. She picks out her own clothes at the store and she dresses herself. 

Normally I would say this is okay because it’s her choice, but recently she’s been talking about “boy” colors and “girl” colors. I always thought she wore pink because it’s her favorite color, not because she’s a girl…but is that true? Should I be concerned?

My daughter really isn’t a “girly” girl. She’s definitely not afraid to get dirty in those pink dresses and she’s constantly stealing my Tupperware containers to catch bugs which totally grosses me out. 

It’s just some of the things she’s been saying lately have been worrying me. For example, she said long hair is for girls and short hair is for boys. She had an adorable bob that she’s now growing out. I also have a female relative with short hair and my daughter often calls her a man. It can be a little embarrassing correcting her.

Is this just from her going to school? Help me out parents – how do you address this? How do I make sure she’s doing the things she wants to do based on her interests, not gender?


  1. Allison says

    I would not assume that what she is doing now is a prediction of how she will be in ten or twenty years. I would guess that she has picked up the idea of “girl” that she has seen outside the home and is trying it on to see how it fits. That is very common. Maybe in a few years, she’ll decide she wants to try out the “boy” (or “tomboy”) role. Or go Goth and be obsessed with Death Metal. Far more important is whether she is happy and growing and learning to trust herself, this stuff is just details.

    Also keep in mind, that you can be a role model, but you can’t determine how she is going to turn out. You, school, TV, etc., all will be influences, but ultimately she is her own person. From what I’ve read, I’m guessing she is your only child; people who have several children are often struck, even shocked at how different one child can be from another.

    In the long run, all you can do is to be the best you you can be; that is what will affect her most in the long run. I remember being told that when you’re teaching children, they learn far more from who you are than what you think you’re teaching them.

  2. Ada Christine says

    She’s still very young so, as disconcerting and sometimes embarrassing it is that she seems to be developing misconceptions about gender that are clearly cultural influences outside of your control, I don’t think it’s likely to influence her ideological development in any lasting way. She’ll develop the capacity to think critically about the world around her before too long and start questioning these things, and then you’ll have many opportunities to discuss with her the complexity and nuance of gender in particular and the world in general.


    Old enough to have substantial influences from her friends, and also to reflect what you actually do at home as opposed to what you say. You are a dominant influence, but not the only one, and you don’t want to be the preachy one that gets tuned out over the next run of years. So watch for teachable moments, and don’t linger over them. Ada Christine gives good advice.

  4. Tethys says

    She is noticing the gendered cultural norms, which is quite normal for elementary school.
    It’s impossible not to get the idea that pink is a girl color from all the pink clothes and toys that are found in every store.

    Six is old enough to understand that hairstyle and clothing are superficial trends. Teaching her about how different cultures use hair and clothing as markers of social identity might be useful? Many Native American men grow their hair long. Boys commonly wore dresses up until quite recently. The pope still wears his.

    Filling a dress up box with both pirate costumes and princess dresses might be a simple and effective method for children to explore the social connections between gender, appearance, and cultural norms. Wigs and hats are especially fun additions.

  5. SchreiberBike says

    Humans are rule learning devices. She’s noticed a pattern and she’s figuring out the pattern’s boundaries. It’s worth talking about to help her understand, but even if she makes mistakes, she’ll get over it. I’ve got a six-year-old granddaughter, and her mother went through many phases from pink dresses to monster trucks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *