Tell Me About It: 5-year-old boy likes ‘girl’ things

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Question: I have a 5-year-old nephew who is starting kindergarten. He is a fantastic little boy who likes "boy" things like cars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but he really likes many "girl" things like Doc McStuffins, Minnie Mouse, and My Little Pony.

He picked a My Little Pony lunchbox for school. His mom is worried he will get picked on, and so am I, but I am also concerned about sending the message that he should not be himself. Next is the backpack, and he'll want Doc McStuffins. Mom feels she should steer him toward a plain one.

How do we encourage him to be himself and also not set him up to be picked on because he doesn't like traditional "boy" things?

Answer: But he does like traditional "boy" things - and "girl" ones. Some suggestions:

(1) No characters. Backpacks need to last, so plain it is.

(2) No labeling things "boy" or "girl."

(3) Once our kids did understand boy-girl expectations, we made it very clear: We thought it was stupid, the whole idea of deciding that a color or hobby or show could be male or female.

(4) Just as their tastes are up to them, so is a decision to risk ridicule - "Some people might give you crap for wearing that, but I don't care if you don't."

(5) Foster independence. A conforming kid can be tormented by peers, and a pink-wearing dude can own the place. Love kids, accept them, and allow them to fend for themselves sometimes.