My child is getting teased for not acting like his/her same-sex peers. What should I do?

Children can be mean, and even at their best, be insensitively frank. Whenever possible, stop others from name-calling such as “Tomboy [nickname]!” or making derogatory remarks, such as, “You’re such a sissy!”

Equip them to face peer pressure and counter bullying. Help your child to differentiate what is being said about them from their real identity as a developing young man/ woman, and respond to taunts with words rather than fists: “It’s not nice or right to call people names.”

Build up your child’s sense of self and worth. Positively call out and affirm the masculinity in your son (“That was very gentlemanly of you!”) and femininity in your daughter (“I’m glad my little princess showed kindness”). At the same time, assure your child that as a unique individual, he/ she does not have to conform to stereotypical gender roles to be loveable.

Engage in gender-typical activities together. For example, Dad can teach Son to throw and catch a ball; Mum can do her nails with Daughter. Children benefit most from the bonding with and role modelling by their same-sex parent. Mirror for them from young what it means to be male/ female, including accepting their body as the physical representation of their gender.

You should become concerned only when your child continues in frequent activities that are more typical of the opposite sex, and begins to adopt other habits and mannerisms, e.g., Son uses Mum’s makeup and later becomes fascinated with female accessories and acts more girlish than Mum or Sister.

Together with your spouse, recognize the underlying issues that may be contributing to your child’s gender confusion, agree to work together to help resolve them, and seek the guidance and expertise of a counsellor or psychotherapist who believes that change is possible.1

 

Endnotes
1. Joseph Nicolosi and Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)