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Gender Identity

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My daughter will be six years old next month. She has fought with me since she was age two about what to wear. We have had to cut off every tiny satin bow on her T-shirts. She will wear a dress only for church.

She has expressed the wish to be a boy since age three and insists she's going to be a boy when she grows up. She speaks of this at least once a week. She has an older brother and sister. I know she is probably just a tomboy, but please advise.

A: Many little girls wear clothing in cycles: they want to wear frilly dresses for awhile, and then they switch to T-shirts and jeans. But it does sound like you have a strong-willed child. She simply may be a "tomboy," admiring the clothing that men and boys wear and the things they do. Does she play mostly with boys, or try to do things that boys do and reject the play activities of girls? Talk with her teacher to find out what goes on at school, such as only playing with boys on the playground.

With many children, the enjoyment in wanting their own way comes from the reaction of the adults around them. Think about your responses to your daughter. Do you try to argue with her and give her more attention because of the things she says? What happens if you ignore her or just say, "We'll see?"

Since this has been going on for almost three years and she talks about it at least once a week, you may want to talk with your school counselor about giving your daughter some individual time. If you or the school counselor think she needs therapy, the counselor or your pediatrician can help refer you to someone in your community.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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