Does your child have non-conventional interests, mannerisms, or traits? This parent guide was created to help you understand what may be going on in your child's mind and how to guide them.
It Boils Down to This
The reality is that most boys and girls tend to conform to stereotypes in their interests and preferences, although not all of them do. As parents, it's important for us to critically consider the social and cultural factors that may impose unnecessary psychological burden on our children (which can vary across different cultures, communities, and individuals), and to identify the markers that genuinely separate the sexes.
Morality & Abstract Reasoning - Important/Unimportant Markers
Biology and anatomy play a role in determining our biological sex. If your child or teen is struggling with gender dysphoria or questioning their sexuality, it may be helpful to limit their exposure to people who you believe may be contributing to their confusion. However, it's important to note that bullying and teasing from their peers or insensitive adults can also contribute to their confusion. Certain communities may have strict expectations for what is considered socially acceptable male or female behavior, which can further add to the confusion. If someone, even well-intentioned, tells your child that a certain trait they possess is inherently immoral or shameful, it may cause resentment towards that person and their entire religious or non-religious worldview. This resentment may stem from the inner conflict your child experiences as they try to align their personality with societal expectations. On the other hand, another well-intentioned person may insist that your child's traits align with their "true" gender, which can also create confusion. Unfair or illogical societal pressures can make navigating sexuality and identity even more challenging for your child. However, it is possible to address and prevent these issues.
There are distinct societal differences between genders that children should respect and understand. In every society, there have always been noticeable variations in how men and women dress. Western culture associates skirts with girls, although it is socially acceptable for both boys and girls to wear pants. However, female pants are designed differently than male pants due to the variations in the pelvic structures of males and females. It goes without saying, but it's important to remind your child of this significant difference.
Regardless of the ever-changing fashion industry, the most important boundary that parents should enforce is not allowing their children to wear clothing specifically designed for the opposite gender. If your child understands this and wants to modify clothing to fit their anatomy, it can be reassuring evidence that they comprehend where the important limits lie.
Documentaries and television shows often feature stories of young boys who wore their mother's shoes, clothes, and makeup. Some of these boys had no lasting desire to continue dressing in women's clothing, but others did. It is crucial to understand that how children see themselves in the mirror can influence their self-perception. To prevent gender dysphoria, it is recommended not to allow your child to engage in "dress-up" with clothes designed for the opposite gender. This guidance on what to restrict your child from doing comes with additional and extremely important cautionary advice.
You might have come across stories of children who were restricted from playing in certain ways and later experienced psychological "repression". For many, this repression pushed them to a psychological brink, resulting in a desire to act out their childhood fantasies in adulthood.
One important tip for parents when discouraging certain play habits is to always offer suitable alternatives. Play is crucial for children to develop social skills and gain appreciation for the world around them.
Your little boy may find young girls interesting, but instead of admiring them, they may prefer to imitate them, which can lead to confusion. The same can be true for girls.
So, how do you encourage play while discouraging certain play habits? If your little boy tries on his mother's high heels, it may be tempting to overreact, but doing so can disrupt something in their subconscious mind. Avoid yelling, getting angry, teasing, or using derogatory language. These actions can create negative associations with you as a parent. The best approach is to use the Butterfly Method. Sy Rogers, a well-known cross-dresser who experienced gender dysphoria, gained fame for his decision not to undergo vaginoplasty. One day, he sought acceptance from his grandparents for his choice to transition into a woman, but they were unsupportive. Despite their rejection of his decision, they did not reject him as their grandchild, and he chose to value their guidance. Later on, he embraced heterosexuality, which resulted in the birth of his biological daughter. In sharing his parenting journey, he emphasized using distraction to redirect his child's focus when he wanted her to stop doing something. He would say, "Look, it's a butterfly!" In honor of Sy Rogers, TMC has named this technique the Butterfly Method, which aims to redirect a child's attention during challenging moments of parenting. It is essential to keep memories positive in order to raise a child who seeks and values your guidance.
To maintain composure, avoid reacting emotionally or making statements that can be provocative, such as, "Why are you wearing that?" or "What's wrong with you? That's only for girls!" The Butterfly Method can assist you in staying calm and composed. The approach involves redirecting your child's attention away from any perceived self-image distortions and towards something else. If your son or daughter is wearing clothing that you feel may affect their perception of themselves, simply suggest an alternative option. One effective alternative could be engaging in play together and creating imaginary characters in appropriate scenarios. By diverting your child's focus in this manner, you can regain tranquility and remind yourself that this momentary situation is just temporary.
If your child resists your redirection, stay calm and view the situation as purely about behavior and obedience. What parenting approach do you employ when your child is disobedient? Have a behavior correction plan that both distracts them from the repressed play memory and effectively addresses the disobedience. Initially, discreetly remove any clothing or make-up if possible, and then explain that the consequence (such as a time-out or loss of privilege) is due to their failure to listen immediately. If challenged or questioned about taking away their clothing, consistently remind them that the consequence is solely for their lack of attentiveness.
What you should never do is to allow yourself or others around your child to encourage inappropriate play habits by referring to them as the opposite sex. Saying things like, "You make such a beautiful girl" to a little boy or "You're such a boy" to a little girl can be confusing. These types of statements may unintentionally distort their self-perception. Dressing in a way that goes against traditional gender norms should not be encouraged because it takes clothing that is specifically designed for one sex and appropriates it for the other. Allowing this can confuse your child into thinking that boys can be girls simply by wearing their clothes and appearing to look like them, or that girls can be boys by doing the same. It disregards the fact that we have distinct and complex anatomical, and physiological differences.
Telling a boy he can't have something because it's pink or telling a girl she can't play with toy cars can be confusing. Avoid imposing arbitrary cultural views on an atypical child. Colors, useful objects, and objects found in nature are not meant to be utilized by only one sex. However, it is just as inappropriate to forcefully feminize a stereotypically masculine boy or to masculinize a girl who is naturally feminine. The reality is that most boys and girls naturally conform to behavioral norms, but not all do. As parents, we need to critically think about which constructs may be unnecessary psychological burdens for our children and which ones are necessary distinctions.
Morality & Science - Masculinity vs. Femininity and Sex
Renown clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson, stated,
...fetal testosterone levels are very much associated with post birth masculine behaviors...
However, neuroscientist Dr. Joel finds that despite this truth, masculine behavioral predispositions in the brain can and do change. *In one of her public video presentations, Dr. Joel attempted to minimize the differences within the male and female brain. However, at the close of her presentation, an objective viewer will have found that her conclusions are oversimplified, and that the differences between the male and female brain remain significant.
She explains that at some point during her intensive research on the subject of male and female brains, both fetal male and female brains could be altered under stress. Her findings continue as follows: Though male brains, without exception, are naturally "washed" (as she terms it) with testosterone in utero, an alteration of the dendritic spines can occur. The dendritic spines along a person's neurological pathways are responsible for changes in a person's mode of being. Those alterations can also indicate whether some males might exhibit more "feminine" traits than others, and some females might exhibit more "masculine" traits than their female counterparts.
According to The National Library of Medicine, "The production of testosterone at about 9 weeks of gestation results in the development of the reproductive tract and the masculinization (the normal development of male sex characteristics) of the brain and genitalia." The sex chromosomes of a person's DNA are present at conception, and are what most technically determines whether an embryo holds an XY or in very rare cases an XXY chromosome and will become a male, or an XX chromosome and will become a female. But the production of testosterone in males during gestation is the critical point at which males and females are fully differentiated in body and brain, and remarkably biologically dissimilar to one another. It is also the point of logical proof of the sex a person is to be.
Much later on in a person's fetal development, closer to 29 weeks, the human brain develops more complex and alterable neuropathways. Using microscopy, it is revealed that dendrites (tentacle-like features extending from a neuron) within a female's fetal brain, will naturally have a higher density of what is known as dendritic-spines. When a pregnant woman experiences specific lengths of stress, their developing female child will see a reduction in the dendritic spines along the dendrites. Fewer dendritic spines is a naturally occurring and marked feature in the uninterrupted development of the male brain. So, although testosterone does not "wash" the female brain as it does the male brain, the reduction of the number of dendritic spines effectively mimics a more masculine brain.
If you continue with this line of thinking, you might mistakenly assume that stress decreases the number of dendritic spines in both males and females, and that women under stress carrying male fetuses would be more likely to have hyper-masculine boys. However, this is not the case. In fact, the opposite is true for male fetal brains. When a pregnant woman carrying a male child experiences certain levels of stress, her developing male child will actually experience an increase in dendritic spines. As mentioned earlier, a higher density of dendritic spines is a characteristic feature of the uninterrupted female brain.
The male and female brain have long been a subject of debate, with some experts claiming that there are minimal or no differences between the two. They argue that individuals who identify as a different gender or exhibit non-stereotypical interests and traits must have some sort of genetic error or defect. However, scientific research strongly refutes these theories. Studies have shown that the male and female brain exhibit consistent contrasts as early as 9 weeks of gestation. Furthermore, it has been proven that both boys and girls have the neurological capacity to display both masculine and feminine traits from infancy. It is worth noting that biological sex is determined before the brain develops, ultimately categorically defining our sex. Additionally, according to Dr. Joel, changes in dendritic spines and the resulting masculine and feminine traits may be reversible.
The male and female brain encounter opposite and distinct changes when they experience the same neurological interruptions. Instead of using "masculinity" and "femininity" as indicators of what sex we should be, we should rely on biological sex as the consistent and defining marker. Understanding this, you can confidently guide your child if they exhibit non-conventional qualities, and remind them that masculinity and femininity do not determine their intended sex, supported by scientific evidence.
If you are dealing with a very young child who is confused about his or her "gender", you can use this video to illustrate to them that characteristics and interests are merely traits, and that they were made perfect, just the way they are.
Universal Lessons From the Torah - Overcoming Bullies and Accepting Differences in Yourself an Others
According to the Hebrew Torah, the Creator of the universe created the rainbow and all the colors that compose it. At no point did he tell mankind that objects found in nature could only be appreciated by one of the two sexes. A very poignant Bible story emphasizes that not all boys are the same. It is the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Joseph was unique among his brothers and his parents understood this. They would eventually gift him a coat, and it is noted that the coat had many colors. Joseph was so beloved by his mother and father that he was envied by his brothers.
And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully. ~ Genesis 37:4
As boys sometimes do, and unfortunately are even encouraged to do, Joseph was bullied by his siblings.
However, it may also be worth noting that Joseph was not one to fight back. He may very well have had a less than stereotypical level of masculinity for his era. Jewish wisdom explains the following about Joseph's feminine traits, "True, all five states of [strength] are given to the feminine [divine attributes] i.e. into her [knowledge], as is known. And so too, all the five states of [kindness] are transferred to the feminine [divine attributes] during the coupling [of a lesser divine attribute and the female], as a drop of "male water" [i.e. seed]... Joseph personified [the feminine and the foundation of divine attributes]" ~ (Excerpt from Chabad.org "The Secret of Joseph")
But Joseph was chosen and gifted to be a prominent leader. Despite his brother's mistreatment of him, to the point where he was left for dead by them, and later sold as a slave, the Creator had great plans for him. Years later, Joseph, whose greatest strengths were in his mind and character, later became a great and beloved leader. There are many lessons in Joseph's story, but the moral of this lesson is that some boys may seem feminine and some girls may seem masculine, but those differences may hold a God-given purpose. Who is to say that your atypical son was not created to become a great interior designer, or a gentle father? And who is to say that your daughter will not become a great architect, or a courageous mother?
Believe in your child and protect them from confusion. With your guidance, direction, and correction, they will be just fine.
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TMC employs widely accepted academic sources and abstract reasoning to delve into the topic of moral behavior, considering observable and measurable data. We also incorporate traditional Jewish knowledge on moral conduct due to its extensive wealth of philosophical wisdom, as symbolized in our logo.
Our ultimate objective is to offer guidance for achieving a happier and more fulfilled life through the embrace of moral living, irrespective of whether one is already familiar with it or just discovering it. Live morally.