By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist
Edition: January 27, 2008 | Topic: Questions from readers
Question:My 8-year-old son has very feminine qualities. He has always loved to dress as a girl and play with dolls. He is extremely creative and seems to be a very happy and well-adjusted child.
We won’t allow him to wear girl’s underwear or clothes outside the house, but as soon as he gets home from school we do let him dress in girl’s clothing. We’ve always encouraged our son to do what makes him happy, but I’m worried what will happen if his friends find out about this.
Answer:You are making a mistake in allowing a child so young to wear girl’s clothing. Your son may indeed have significant gender issues, which will be a challenge throughout his teenage and young adult years. However, in letting him dress as a girl, you are inadvertently encouraging and reinforcing behavior that can cause him serious problems as he gets older.
All parents place limits on their children’s behavior, and we do not always let children “do what makes them happy.” Take away the girl’s underwear and clothes. You can still respect your child’s interest in traditional “feminine activities” and encourage his creativity.
This is a perplexing issue for parents, so you may wish to seek professional help in managing these issues. When your son is a young adult, he can make a decision on these issues, aware of the societal consequences of his choices.
Question:My ex-spouse allows her boyfriend to sleep over at her house every weekend. I think this is wrong and sets a bad example for my two younger children who are over there. Isn’t this psychologically harmful to the kids?
Answer:Parents need to be sensitive to the attachment feelings that young children have in these situations. Once dating partners spend a great deal of time with the spouse’s children, the kids naturally begin to look at them as parenting figures. They may refer to them as “Mom” or “Dad,” and grow emotionally close to them.
If this is a committed and long-term relationship, that may be appropriate and healthy for your children. However, introducing a variety of dating partners regularly into the lives of young children communicates the wrong message about the nature of relationships and could indeed be harmful to your children.
Question:My 9-year-old daughter got very angry and went into her bedroom and cut her beautiful bedspread with a pair of scissors. I am very worried and want to have her evaluated immediately. My husband thinks I am overreacting.
Answer:Kids get angry, and sometimes do things they shouldn’t. If this is a one-time instance of your daughter acting in such a manner when she was angry, then I wouldn’t seek professional help. Instead, talk with her about the differences between her feelings and behaviors. It’s fine for her to get angry, but obviously unacceptable for her to destroy things. Help her develop a list of things she can do when she feels upset. At her age, this may involve listening to music, exercising, being alone in her room, reading, etc.
If your child’s cutting up her bedspread is part of a pattern of inappropriate behavior, then you should indeed seek professional help.
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/drgregramey
©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.
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