brothers

Boys, as with girls, are individuals, their personalities and interests vary from child to child based on character, along with socio-economic and cultural influences- yet both sexes are frustratingly so often confined and limited, made to conform to stereotypical gender-specific notions (many archaic and not relevant to today) with children being defined by their sex, homogenised by assumptions and labels.

Oh, all boys must love sports and to fight, and girls, ballet and princesses.

It’s ludicrous that children are often made to feel they must reject some interests in favour of others based on their gender, and it must STOP.

Many girls like playing football and other sports. Boys love drama too as my two have shown both at home and in school and nursery.

Children are rounded young people who should be FREE from these restrictions. Yes, undoubtedly some may sway to more stereotypical behaviours but others, many others may not, their passions might be mixed, more balanced as with my two sons.

Both bold, strong boys who love arts and crafts and to read along cooking as much as sprinting around the garden and climbing trees, I always endeavour to support them by offering choice when it comes to activities, and to always encourage and celebrate those preferences.

I’m committed to raising modern sons.

cool kid

Last week, I read a report about my youngest son, Alexander, 3 which stated he was a ‘gentle, thoughtful, quiet and smart child’ in nursery.

My eldest son Oliver, 5 was referred to similarly by his teacher at parents’ evening that very same week.

She echoed how sensible and mature Oliver is, old beyond his years in many respects, caring, driven, passionate but unlike Xander, more vocal and confident in class.

A well liked, gregarious little boy who loves to learn, his thirst for knowledge, unquenchable. Something admired by his teacher and we as, parents.

I held back tears in both meetings.

Nothing is more touching than hearing your child is thriving and most importantly, feels happy in their scholarly environments. That they are well behaved and polite. Caring and considerate.

Both, like I do now, and as child have boundless energy. I get it from my Dad.

child

And yes they often save their more difficult behaviour for my husband and I at home but that’s the best way, is it not?

Now, the one word I kept returning to in the report, pinned on my fridge, was that Alexander is, ‘a gentle boy’. And he is. The sweetest, most loving young child you could imagine. When I stubbed my toe on a trolley recently, he and his brother rushed to put tubs of cold yoghurt on to my foot.

Xander kisses me over and over when I put him to bed at night and repeats how much he loves me. It’s heart melting. I love being a mother of boys, I wrote a post about it HERE.

…Personality-wise Alexander often veers from being incredibly shy to out going in an instant.

However, you can’t define him as either shy or outgoing as this changes based on his mood, and how confident and comfortable he feels in his environment: his personality is fluid, in the same way most children’s are.

A sparkle in his eye, as with Oliver, my sons are rather magnetic and charismatic kids (writes a very biased Mum).

Yet both are undoubtedly gentle boys.

beautiful boy

Xander’s teachers mentioned in our meeting that he is not a ‘rough and tumble’ kind of child. Yes he’s sporty and adores football (my eldest likes to run but dislikes other ball games on the whole) and both are creative, they love to write, read and draw and do so for hours on end.

Their attention spans don’t veer off as sadly many assume of boys, and I’ve seen this passion and dedication among their male friends too-where there is interest, there is engagement and often distraction is based on age, whatever the gender.

I abhor these presumptions, that boys can’t concentrate or must be kinaesthetic learners. Not all.

Now this is not to say my sons don’t love being physical too, wresting with Grandad is a love of theirs (poor Dad with his messy hair and red face after a play)-it’s just not something they do or need to do, every day.

I fully understand biology, and boys, hormonally tend to crave physical exertion more than girls, but I’m wary of this statement in itself, and the preconceptions that come with it which can limit both sexes.

I personally LOVE sport, I always thrived at sprinting in particular, from an early age. I need that exertion most days, to feel happy and calm. That’s my make-up and many other women feel the same.

My husband, Peter, on the other hand does not and prefers Tai Chi to a run any day.

Character determines passion and needs.

Let’s take films as another example.

Both my sons love watching Tinkerbell as much as Spiderman (Alexander won’t remove his hat as you can see from the pictures) and both enjoy the company of their female friends (if anything they feel less threatened and have more fun with girls than boys).

They are complex, rounded little boys with different interests that cover baking to basketball and I couldn’t be more proud.

I don’t want them to change in any way, yet one fleeting glance at the media and its organisation and hierarchy (films/toys for boys/girls) makes me worry.

Being simultaneously creative and sporty or scholarly and physical are not common in the narratives on offer or even within daily conversation.

And maybe, like in life, your own sons naturally conform to more alpha male notions or maybe they do not, and as with mine, they, like little girls everywhere, are simply (!) complex kids enjoying life, unaware (so far) of crazy societal pressures, free from restraints, as children should be.

My sons are affectionate and loving, they love to plait my hair and call me Rapunzel as much as they laugh their heads off at our invented game of ‘Dinosaur Mummy’ where I flap my arms and make T-Rex noises (I know what you’re thinking, get that on YouTube)! This comes a close first to Pirate Mummy (another classic in this house). Arr!

The most wonderful part of being these boys’ mum is how much I am showered with love, and the unconditional love I offer them in return.

brotherly love

It is unequivocally my job to raise these boys to believe in themselves and their potential, and to ensure they not only feel content, but free as well.

All I ask is we simply offer all children varied ways of being and playing out themselves, of nurturing their interests and putting them first, whatever those goals and wants may be. Surely that’s the key to raising happy children.

Let’s do away with statements such as, ‘boys will be boys’ alluding to some kind of sweeping idea that all boys (and thus girls) are the same.

Lets please, just let kids be kids.

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56 Responses

  1. Topfivemum

    Absolutely agree! I have an 18m old girl who loves playing with balls and I am going to enroll her on a toddler football course as I think she’d prefer this to anything else. When my son was born (just 12 days ago) my husband had so many comments about how he must be happy he can now have a football playmate – my hubby hates football. I can imagine it will be me and her down on the pitch while whatever my son chooses to do is his choice too. I think as parents our job is to introduce them to plenty of activities so they can find their own interests rather than us pushing them in a particular stereotypical direction.

    Reply
    • Honest Mum

      Love this comment so much, congrats on your new baby and I like you, am so bored and frustrated with the limiting notions of gender for our kids and ourselves. I love football and like your husband, mine doesn’t at all. Thanks for this x

      Reply
  2. Su {Ethan & Evelyn}

    I totally agree with you on this one. I have recently wrote about “Boys can wear cardigan too.” It is so sad that boys are exposed to being stereotyping at a young age. 🙁 You have done a great job mama! 🙂 x
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…Motel Rock Party Style Dresses Wish ListMy Profile

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  3. Lucy Bishop

    Amen to this! Let kids be kids indeed. It is so refreshing to read your posts and hear it echo my thoughts on gender stereotype exactly – like your wonderful boys my Bert is kind, gentle and oh-so-loving – yes he has his boisterous moments, but so does every girl I know too. Bert adores dinosaurs, but also loves his soft toys, dolls, imaginative play, pretending to cook in his play kitchen, and most of all cuddles. xxx
    Lucy Bishop recently posted…Mr Hare’s Big Secret by Hannah Dale (Wrendale Designs) *Book Review & Giveaway*My Profile

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  4. Tim

    I completely agree, Vicki. As parents, we should worry less about making kids conform to outdated gender stereotypes and encourage them to explore different aspects of themselves and support them to be confident in being comfortable in whatever they want to be and do.

    Isaac, for instance, adored pink for a long time and it became part of who he was. He eventually grew out of it and I was actually quite sad because I suspect he realised/was told that it was “a girl’s colour”. Ultimately that’s okay, because change is part of growing up. He loves to run but he’s not a sporty kid, and while we gently encourage him to learn how to throw and catch, if that’s how he is that’s how he is and we know he excels in other ways anyway. So he’s not “a boy’s boy”. So what?
    Tim recently posted…My Sunday Photo: The princess and the skeleton pirateMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      Exactly and I really want what it means to be a boy or girl to be neutral and without baggage. Oliver dislike football but is incredibly popular at school, loves running as well as arts, drama, Maths and English. Alexander is literally a little football star but again is hugely creative as myself and my husband Peter are. Two different young boys who I want to feel empowered-that they have choices and that any interests of theirs can be nurtured and dreams realised. Your children sound wonderful.

      Reply
  5. Mrs Snow

    “When I stubbed my toe on a trolley recently, he and his brother rushed to put tubs of cold yoghurt on to my foot” – so sweet. Amazing how already so thoughtful, compassionate and kind they are. They don’t want mommy to suffer! And they could only have learned that because you are so caring to their needs. Thank you for the article!
    Mrs Snow recently posted…Famous Voices of Postpartum DepressionMy Profile

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  6. Mummyhereandthere@gmail

    I have two boys and let them chose. Both different in some aspect some similar but they both have their own mind. You boys sound wonderful and know what yuounmeanaboyt behavoouing different at nursery/school compared to home! But I believe peoplwe have many facades to their personality depending on situation X

    Reply
  7. Sarah Bacchus

    Great post x Although I don’t have my own little ones yet as a primary school teacher I am in daily contact with them and see the variety of skills and aptitudes, as well as personalities that both boys and girls have, I try never to pigeon hole them and always allow them to find their own path with a little encouraging hand when it is needed, girls will be girls and boys will be boys but that doesn’t mean they should be labelled or their interests decided for them.
    Sarah Bacchus recently posted…Battling the Bake Off Blues…My Profile

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  8. Alison Palmer

    My twin grandkids, a boy and a girl are now 14. They have had totally different personalities since birth. She is a fierce competitor and excels at soccer and even played football as the only girl on the team (full pads and helmets). He, on the other hand does not have a competitive bone in his body. He is quiet and thinks things through. She acts first. It continues to be fascinating to watch them grow.
    Alison Palmer recently posted…Voting Is Your Most Important Civic ObligationMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      It’s so much down to character isn’t it! Thanks for this comment.
      Honest Mum recently posted…#Mumblesale for Great Ormond St HospitalMy Profile

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  9. Jessie, FlusteredMom

    Completely agree Vicki! My little guy is absolutely sports obsessed but he also loves putting make-up on me, picking out my outfits, shopping, and sewing….I love and encourage it. He’s a rough’n’tumble little guy, but he’s also very sweet. He told me the other day, that when I’m old, he’s going to take care of me and tuck me into bed at night.
    Jessie, FlusteredMom recently posted…Get to know me: I was a teen mom.My Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      Same as my two, they love shopping with me-aw loved that, I hope my two look after me one day too, we are so lucky aren’t we x

      Reply
  10. Capture by Lucy

    I whole heartedly agree. The thing is mine flit one minute from being the most boisterous, outdoorsy children one minute to playing with the wooden dolls house the next. We watched their harvest festival production at school this week and all the children performed an expressive (pretty much ballet) dance with apples. It was wonderful to see both the boys and girls totally engaged with the music, the rhythm and then the next minute they were running off to class. I think I give our boys access to everything, they naturally gravitate to cars and dinosaurs and trains, they are loud (don’t know where they get that from!) but they are sensitive souls too. Just got to nurture them the best way we can without pigeon holing them xxxx
    Capture by Lucy recently posted…Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair 2015 Hampton Court PalaceMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      Totally agree Lucy, your boys sound so like mine and their harvest festival production sounds incredible, grinning from ear to ear reading this comment xx

      Reply
  11. susankmann

    I agree that kids should be kids and have brought mine up to be that way. They can play football or go to dance or play with buggies or cars. Both my boys are doing well at school and teachers have said a delight to teach, they both love to bake and do crafts, but love football too. As they have gotten older, they are still as loving, but seem to fall into the I can’t have that it’s girly which is peer pressure. I am trying to teach them it’s ok and this meant my oldest has a pink football shirt. I hope everyone else can see it and thank you x

    Reply
    • Honest Mum

      Aw you are such a great mum Susan and you are right, there is so much peer pressure and from a young age too. We just have to keep telling them it’s OK to like and play with whatever you want without restrictions. Love that your eldest has a pink football shirt x

      Reply
  12. Mummy Tries

    You are on fire at the moment lady, you’ve written three of the best posts I’ve read of yours in the same week!

    LOVE this honey, you are so right, kids should be free of restrictions. They are so gender neutral when they’re little, it’s the adults that turn them into stereo types. Your boys are adorable and sound so very loving. Lucky mama xxx
    Mummy Tries recently posted…For My Lovely Friend Embarking on Her Third BabyMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      Thanks so much sweetie, I felt really inspired this week and hope to keep sharing the posts that are on my ‘to do’ list, absolutely agree with you, here is to freedom for all children xx

      Reply
  13. Amy Doust

    Couldn’t agree more. Love my boy’s tenderness and care. Love the fact he’s happy to play with his sisters’ dolls. Love the fact that younger sister grabs his sword to battle with him.

    Reply
  14. Lisa Backsnbumps

    I completely agree with you, every child is an individual and even though I have 2 boys they are complete opposites of each other. Yes they like playing the odd game of Nerf gun war but so do the girls I know. They also like drawing, painting and being creative. It’s important to me that they play and experience all sorts of things not just the gender stereotypical ones. #brilliantblogposts
    Lisa Backsnbumps recently posted…Throwback ThursdayMy Profile

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  15. Ellie @ Hand Me Down Baby

    Great post.
    I feel the same way, but about raising my daughter. She’s a very strong-willed little girl who knows her own mind and I love to encourage all her passions and character / personality traits no matter what they are.
    But I’ve had people say to me that I must be disappointed that she’s not more of a “girly girl” simply because she prefers to wear leggings over skirts or dresses. Or look at me quizzically when I say she loves cars and trains, as if those were exclusively ‘boys toys’.
    Aren’t people funny at times, when children don’t fit into the predetermined role they had set for them?!
    #brillblogposts #brilliantblogposts
    Ellie @ Hand Me Down Baby recently posted…Blog Post: No Oats Blackberry Crumble RecipeMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      What? I am baffled by people, your daughter sounds amazing and she is so lucky she has a mother like you who will celebrate and nurture her interests and personality. That is the key to happy kids xx

      Reply
  16. Natalie Streets

    Oh I so agree with all of this – as I said yesterday that Oliver wanted to play being Princess Oliver and I was Princess Mummy (probably the first time I’ve ever been called a Princess in my life).
    I remember talking to him one day about boys and girls, at the moment we are trying to explain at as he learns ‘his’ and ‘hers’ and ‘him’ and ‘her’ etc, but if you ask him if he’s a boy he says no, a girl? no, he will say with a frown, well what are you then? “I’m Oliver” – and doesn’t that just sum it all up perfectly? A child is as individual as their fingerprint.
    #brilliantblogposts
    Natalie Streets recently posted…Memories from ChildhoodMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      LOVE that so much, in fact the hairs on my arm were raised when I read that. What a wise and wonderful boy you have there, thank you for commenting x

      Reply
  17. Melanie Greenhalgh

    For everyone of us that thinks the way we do – there is another one that thinks gender stereotypes are true and should be reinforced. It continually drives me crazy when parents interupt their child’s development bu restricting them playing or accessing the things that make them happy. Great post Vicki. Mel xx #BrilliantBlogPosts
    Melanie Greenhalgh recently posted…Climbing HillsMy Profile

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  18. Sarah

    This post really got me thinking. Because I have a girl and boy, both kids have access to each others toys and take turns choosing what games they play – which in turn gives them a lovely variety of choices. Likewise, they take turns choosing what films we see at the cinema, or what DVD goes on so are both expert on Disney princesses, Pokemon and Transformers. There is no doubt that gender stereotyping is rife in childhood. Both my kids have a particular love of science and maths, it is clear already that that is where they excel. It is also clear that without intervention from me, my son will get much more encouragement in that field than my daughter, both by family and school. I even have to remind hubby that our daughter would like to learn to solder and code as well as our son – I suppose all we can do is try and keep our own minds as open as possible, and lead by example!
    Sarah recently posted…Crocodiles of the WorldMy Profile

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  19. JOhn Adams

    Very thought provoking post as, with two girls, I could write the opposite; Raising Modern Daughters. Neither of mine is overly sporty but they love outdoor play and love rough play (oh they can hold their own with boys). I was, nonetheless perturbed just a couple of days ago when Helen (the eldest) commented that “men can be doctors and women nurses”. It’s not a sentiment she’s heard at home, especially considering the household she is growing up in with a mother who is the main provider. Words were had to dispel that myth. If I did have sons, however, I’d be making clear that nursing, midwifery, teaching and childcare were completely acceptable career choices (the latter two have a workforce in the UK that is a staggering 98% female!). Thanks for hosting #BrilliantBlogPosts
    JOhn Adams recently posted…Birth stories told by dad Pt 2My Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      I absolutely agree John and you are an inspirational parent who is going an incredible job as is your wife. It’s so easy for kids to absorb the ‘myths’ presented to them from the media and society and it is our responsibility to show them the potential both girls and boys have. To not limit them, even if external forces try to. Thanks for this John.

      Reply
  20. Sara | mumturnedmom

    Completely agree, and as a mum of boys and a girl, I am very conscious of this. They all get to do the same things, play the same things. However, they all have very different personalities and likes/dislikes and some of those are very ‘traditional’. There seems to be something to be said for nature over nurture, more so that I ever expected before I had my daughter. As the boys have got older the ‘that’s for girls’ phrase has slipped in, which I detest, and we very swiftly have a little conversation about that, where I remind them that their mother is an engineer and that there is no such things as ‘for girls/for boys’!
    Sara | mumturnedmom recently posted…How to navigate life with a tween: the journey beginsMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      Brilliant parenting and great you are fighting some of the archaic notions passed onto boys, that phrase often comes from other school children. I agree about nature and I was a very girlie girl myself, despite my mother not being one. It’s definitely about character but also about giving children choice which is what you and I do. Yay x

      Reply
  21. jeremy@thirstydaddy

    congrats on the good reports, you have reason to be proud. As the father of a girl who is dressing as Capt America and loves playing soccer, I’ve written a lot of the foolishness of gender presumptions.The more voices there are calling for its end the better
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…Storming the CastleMy Profile

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  22. WHINE OR WINE

    Yes totally!! kids are kids…all individual!!! People say boys are harder, girls are harder, they are this they are that and they are all different and into different things!! They are gorgeous, well done in school report!!! pat on the back for you xxx
    WHINE OR WINE recently posted…Hen Do Horror….My Profile

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  23. Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn

    I feel quite strongly about this too. I think the international Let Kids Be Kids campaign and Let Toys Be Toys campaign have done amazing things in raising awareness, but people do hold such gender stereotypes. I wrote on my blog recently about when my son started wearing a beaded necklace. He threaded the beads all by himself, which is no mean feat for a three year old, yet so many people were so rude to him about it, saying necklaces were for girls etc. He doesn’t see boys and girls toys/films/dress up costumes etc, he just sees things he enjoys. Likewise with my daughter. It makes me so sad when people put gender restrictions on children. #brilliantblogposts
    Cardiff Mummy Says – Cathryn recently posted…COMPETITION! Win an Oddgods Welsh rugby goodie bagMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      I love that, children should be free and the more we champion their individuality, the greater the effect on society as a whole, I really want to see these gender stereotypes changed x

      Reply
  24. Karen

    Oh Vicki this is brilliant! This is a subject close to my heart. Freyja adores Spiderman, superheroes and Star Wars (as well as Disney princesses). It should not matter what she likes because of her gender. It makes my blood boil when I see “Boy’s toys” and “Girl’s Toys”. I went on a particular rant once about some Spiderman “Boy’s Socks” which I then bought for Freyja as her feet are no different to boy’s feet and Spiderman is not just for boys!!
    Karen recently posted…Hotter CheltenhamMy Profile

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    • Honest Mum

      I agree, how can toys be defined by gender. Childhood should be free of the pressures we adults face, it’s such a small window of freedom. #letkidsbekids x

      Reply
  25. Mirka Moore @Kahanka

    Love your boys and you should be proud they are “gentle’. I also hate when people say boys and girls should be behaving in a certain way. The last sentence sums it up perfectly for me, just let kids be kids. xxx
    Mirka Moore @Kahanka recently posted…Let Your Imagination Breathe with #Geox4KidsMy Profile

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  26. Ebabee

    Fab post and so true. Let kids be what they will be. A is a girl as you know and quite a girly girl but yet she hated ballet and instead she much prefers to play on climbing frames, football and tennis. There is absolutely no one size fits all. Sure she does some things that are ‘considered’ girly but also a lot of others that aren’t. I too encourage whatever she likes and encourage her to try different things, and definitely not be stuck with what society says girls should do. Very well said and well done to the boys for their fab reports xxx
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  27. Notmyyearoff

    Great post! Z loves superheroes and jumping off everything but equally loves Tangled, beauty and the beast and pink. We try never to hone him into any kind of gender stereotype and he’s a well rounded boy we hope!! Annoys me a lot when parents won’t let their girls play footy for example or their sons are only allowed to watch cartoons deemed to be “non girlie!”

    Reply
    • Honest Mum

      I agree, why people act this way is baffling! Let kids be kids x
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  28. Ella @ Breaking up with contraception

    Nice post Vicki – I liked the sentiments and your boys sound like great kids.

    Reading it made me wonder if you know about the Twitter group ‘Let Toys be Toys’. If not you might be interested in them and their campaign against gendering children’s toys, books etc.

    Ella x | http://www.breakingupwithcontraception.com
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  29. Charlotte Taylor

    I’m the same. When my boys suggest something is for girls or boys we have a discussion why they feel this is the case. I remember hearing in horror how my friends little boy was not allowed to play with the toy kitchen as it was his sister’s! My superhero loving, rugby playing 4 yr old is quite happy to tell people his favourite colour is purple and loves spending time with me in the Kitchen. My 2 year old is growing up and following his example!

    Reply
    • Honest Mum

      Wonderful to read, how sad for your friend’s son xx
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