Category Archives: boys vs girls

Boy Toys, Girl Toys, How About Just Toys?

Dear Parents Who Gloatingly Insist that their Boys ONLY Play with “Boy” Toys and Their Girls With “Girl” Toys:

I must say, I congratulate you on such a foul proof method you’ve found at squashing sibling rivalry. It’s ingenious really. Stopping sibling rivalry in it’s tracks by deeply ingraining gender roles in your children that they wouldn’t even think of playing with a toy that it marketed towards the opposite gender.

I know, you typically begin your gloat with a “I gave my son a doll, but he refused to play with it” or other type thing, but be honest, it’s easier when your kids aren’t fighting over the doll.

Now my husband and I being rather progressive about gender roles never did much to ingrain them in our children. Heck, my husband is even a closet Brony. In other words, my son doesn’t care if it’s pink and glittery. If his sister is playing with it, he wants it!

And my kids don’t seem to care about whether the toy is for girls or for boys, or whether it’s pink or blue, truly their interest in the toy goes up the moment they see their sibling playing with it. Then all hell breaks lose, be that toy a truck or a doll. “How dare my sibling play with the toy that I like!?”

The other day they were playing nicely, and then at the same time both of their eyes fell on a toy dump truck. The toy dump truck seemed to glow under the gaze of their want and they both reached for it at the same time. It was really something to see! And then of course a fight broke out because there was one dump truck and two kids who wanted it.

I can only imagine the blissful quiet of the other houses of families who also have one of each but managed to ingrain gender roles in their children. Must be nice to have conditioned them so thoroughly that the conditioning overrides sibling rivalry. You have my congratulations!

Now if you’ll excuse me, my kids are fighting over the My Little Pony doll.


On Parenting an Internally Motivated Child and an Unmotivated One

This morning our dog, who is getting old and I believe is starting to become senile, had an accident. I sprayed some cleaner on it and when I went to put it up, I looked into the living room and found that Sissy had grabbed the rag I had out and was already scrubbing the carpet with it. While I was proud of her for wanting to help clean up a mess, it’s not a task I want my 21 month old doing, but it didn’t surprise me that Sissy tried to help. It’s what she does.

She “helps” me unload the dishwasher. She helps me pick up. She is always asking for napkins when we eat so she can wipe her face and hands. When she realizes I’m getting ready to leave, she starts gathering everyone’s shoes and socks and brings them to me. I could go on and on, but the point is that Sissy helps out. Well, as much as she is able to considering her age and small size.

I’m glad she’s a little helper. Trust me, I need it. But there are things I worry about.

Namely, Buddy. Who has the nickname Wreck-It. Essentially we put all of the toys, books, DVDs, etc, in a room and lock him out of it. If he gets into it it is trashed in under 10 minutes. And he won’t clean up after himself. Rewards do not motivate him, punishment does not deter him, and going hand over hand results in hours of frustrating manual labor for Andy and I to essentially force him to clean up after him that just leaves all three of us cross and angry. So at night I take out toys, books and videos for them to watch for the upcoming day and keep him away from the room at all costs.

And so it goes with Buddy. Some days he will put his plate in the sink. Other days he won’t. Sometimes he will help. Other times he won’t. And there’s no way I’ve found that I can entice him to helping with chores consistently.

Thus far Sissy has been developing typically. I have no concerns about autism with her. So she’s likely going to grow up as the typical child who has a sibling with disabilities and have those burdens. This is also one of the many reasons I wish I’d had Sissy first, because she does have such an intrinsic desire to help. But I worry about burdening her with all of the chores and responsibilities. And I especially don’t want to send the message that Buddy doesn’t have to do housework because he’s a boy while Sissy has to do it because she’s a girl and it’s expected.

I’ve thought about rewarding Sissy for her household contributions, but social psychology 101, if you reward a child for doing something they like, they tend to stop liking it so much. Ever heard of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation? When we do something because we want to, that’s intrinsic motivation. When we do something because we are compelled to, that’s extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is pretty much always better than extrinsic motivation, because even if no one is motivating you, you’ll still do it. For instance, people who love to read will read regardless of whether or not there’s a test on the book, whereas someone else will read a book only if there’s going to be a test on it and they care about their grade.

Since Sissy already seems intrinsically motivated to help, I want to nurture that. But therein lies the problem. I thought about having a rewards chart and letting Buddy and Sissy put a sticker on it if they helped pick up their toys at the end of the day, but while that might help Buddy clean up, it would also likely destroy Sissy’s internal motivation, quite simply because rewarding a child for doing something they find intrinsically rewarding gives them an externally motivating factor to do it.

For instance, if you give a child who loves to read pizza for reading a lot of books, they’ll stop enjoying reading as much. However, if you give a child who doesn’t like to read pizza when they read a certain number of books, they’ll start to like it and read more.

So I feel kinda stuck. Do I do the rewards chart and entice Buddy to help around the house and sacrifice Sissy’s internal motivation? Or do I just try to get them into a clean up routine in the evening and hope Buddy will eventually start to pull his weight? For the moment at least Sissy doesn’t seem put out at all by the fact that Buddy doesn’t help out, but if he doesn’t start I have a feeling that will change as they get older.

One of Each

My son, Buddy, will be five in a few months. My daughter, Sissy, is about 18 months. As I was the first of two girls I guess I always thought I’d have two girls myself, but I ended up having one of each. What interests with having one of each is the question of their differences. How much is personality? My sister and I are complete 180s and we were both girls. How much of it is the fact that Buddy is mildly autistic while Sissy does not appear to be autistic? How much is gender?

Buddy does have some very traditional masculine traits, and Sissy some very feminine ones. Yet what is masculine about Buddy he gets from me, and feminine about Sissy she gets from my husband.

Andy and I are rather open minded. We both want to encourage whatever interests they have, even if those interests aren’t gender typical. Buddy once really wanted a My Little Pony doll and it was no skin off our nose. Sissy loves playing with cars and is fascinated with books on them.

This morning I took them shopping, and Buddy saw some “Star Wars” balls. He really wanted one, so I grabbed it. Sissy saw this and wanted one of her own, and ever eager to indulge them in all thing Geek, I got her one. Buddy saw that she had one and decided he wanted a second one, and even the most devoted of Geek moms have to draw the line somewhere. Overall Sissy is mostly interested in the toys she sees Buddy playing with. She’s not paid too much attention to the sole doll she has, granted it may change as she grows older (I used to brag about how not all boys like cars because Buddy couldn’t be bothered with them, and then BOOM, Hot Wheels were suddenly the best thing ever according to him).

All the same, Sissy really gets into having her hair done and choosing which hair bow she gets to wear. Obviously Buddy does not wear bows. Well, when she was an infant he would take them off of her and put them on him, but eventually he got bothered with how they felt and stopped. So while she really wants to play with the toys that Buddy does, she doesn’t want to dress like him.

I dropped Buddy off at school and went home with Sissy, and she started kicking the ball to me. Later she hung up a dress on a hanger and walked to the closet and tried to put it up (she was obviously too short for this). I keep saying that in a few years her room will be immaculate and his will be a disaster area. Yet this is one of those cases where like her kicking me the soccer ball (Buddy would not have done that at her age, he just hoarded toys he didn’t actually play with them) I’m not sure if it’s gender or autism.

When you have one of each, it seems as if it would be so easy to caulk up every behavioral difference as gender related. Sissy is good at cleaning because she’s a girl. Buddy loves hiking because he’s a boy. But there are so many other factors it’s really hard to say. And, when dealing with such a small sample size, really hard to draw sweeping conclusions either way.

And at the end of the day, as long as they grow up strong in the ways of the Geek, then it really doesn’t matter.