You’ve all heard the debate. Nature vs. nurture. If you raise a girl in a girly way, she’ll BE girly. If you raise her to be a tomboy, she’ll BE a tomboy. If you raise her in a sterile environment, then and ONLY THEN will she turn out to be the person she was meant to be. And that person is apparently a gender-neutral child who likes neither frills nor fighting, pink nor blue.
Well, I’m here to call bull. Sorry, but I’m just not buying it. Besides the fact that I think as parents, it’s our role to train our children, I also have some firsthand accounts that prove that you don’t have to teach boys to be boys and girls to be girls. Three of them in fact! H, M, and D! I’ll be focusing on baby D today since he’s our only boy and the nature has stood out in him the most.
(Disclaimer: Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I will be using the terms “boy toys” and “girl toys” here. This doesn’t mean I don’t think boys and girls can play with the same toys. I think it’s great for boys to play with dolls and girls to play with cars. I’m just using the terms so I don’t have to keep listing specific toys. You know what I mean.)
Nature Vs. Nurture: Which is it??
Honestly? I think it’s a blend. Sure, you can raise your kids to be a certain way if you try. Give the girl lots of princess dresses and movies. Put the boy in all the sports. But in the end, the child will be who the child is. So the question becomes, what’s the best way to parent your child?
Nature Vs. Nurture: The classic example
For those of you who haven’t been readers for long, in our family, we have three kids. Two girls (H is 4 and M is 3) and a boy (D who just turned 1). We have all the girly things. Princess dresses, dolls, dollhouses, kitchen sets, and baby carriers, but we also try to keep around some more gender neutral toys. Like a train set, blocks, a school bus, a fire truck… These things are great, but really, they don’t get a whole lot of use. The girls are girly through and through!
Enter Baby D. He’s begun crawling and his whole world is opened up! He loves to crawl and play with (tear apart) everything he can get his hands on. He has just started getting into really playing with things, so we haven’t had time to coach him on “boy toys vs girl toys” (nurture). Well, the other day, he crawled off into the girls’ room. In their room are all the girly toys you can think of, a few gender neutral toys (blocks, books), and two more boyish toys (the school bus and fire truck). Baby D crawled into their room and within minutes, came back out, pushing the firetruck and making “vrooming” noises.
I want to take a moment to reiterate, we did not coach him on this. At no point in time did we show him how much fun cars (or firetrucks) are, and I’m almost positive we had never made the “vrooming” sound. This was TOTALLY in his nature. Out of all the toys in that whole room, he chose that one.
Should We Only Allow Our Kids to Play With Certain Toys?
I touched on this earlier, but the answer to this, in my view, is no. Absolutely not. If D WANTED to play with a doll, I’d let him. I’d even think it was sweet! (In fact, I’ve tried to get him to hug his sister’s baby doll a couple times and he tosses it aside.) It’s not that I won’t LET him play with dolls, it’s that he won’t. It’s in his nature. The girls had some boy toys before D was born. Not a lot, because they weren’t as interested, but we did make them available and even encouraged them to try them out.
I remember being at the DMV once a long time ago and hearing a dad yelling at his son to “PUT DOWN THAT BABY DOLL!!” It was so strange to me that the dad wouldn’t want his son to essentially “practice” being a daddy. I mean, the boy wasn’t trying to breastfeed the baby, just hold it! We need to allow our kids those opportunities and even encourage them at times. On the flip side…
Should we Allow Nature to Be The Sole Contributor to Our Children’s Gender Identity?
This is where things get dicey. There are families where children aren’t even told whether they are a boy or a girl. They’re raised without an identity and allowed to choose whether they want to identify as male or female. Do I agree with this? Absolutely not. Putting your child in a sterile environment where they are unaware of how they should act or identify themselves isn’t good for the child any more than forcing them to only play with certain toys. The danger of confusing your child into thinking they can decide who or what they are rather than identifying with the gender God made them can have extreme consequences.
I’m not going to go into this here, but here are some links I found useful for this purpose.
What’s The Balance in the Nature vs. Nurture Debate?
Balance. Pure and simple. In our home, that means we provide a few of both “types” of toys and then buy other things that interest our kids. We don’t go all out on Disney princesses, but H did have a princess birthday party when she turned four. But that followed her train birthday party when she was three! We follow the interests of our children and then help to mold them as they grow. We teach them that boys are boys. Girls are girls. Daddies are boys. Mommies are girls. Daddies and mommies get married and have babies. Girls and boys wear different clothes. It’s really not hard or complicated unless we make it so (which the feminist movement has done a lot of). And most importantly, it’s OKAY! Our differences are beautiful and should be cherished, not scorned. And if we cherish those differences in our children, that’s all the nurture they’ll need. Nature does a pretty good job of taking care of the rest.