Girls are More Delicate

The little boys at our local playground have two games that they like to play. One is chase and shoot, a thrilling adventure that involves running at top speed while making machine gun noises and slashing through the air with imaginary swords. The other game goes like this: one boy falls down, the other boy jumps on top of him, a third boy completes the sandwich and then all kinds of grappling ensues. The latter game is awesome to watch and I often have to refrain from coaching. (Grab his arm, roll to the left, now get on top, get on TOP! Yes!) 

Usually Maya is off with her own friends playing their odd combo of rainbow princess Star Wars expedition. But occasionally she becomes intrigued with the boys rough and tumble game, as do some of her other buddies. It was on one of these days when this gold medal parenting moment happened:

Mom (to her 5 year old son who was grabbing at one of the young ladies): Hey, be gentle! You have to be careful when you play with girls, they are more delicate. 

She meant well. In fact, a few minutes later she made some comment about wanting her son to grow up treating women properly, which is of course a good goal. 

But I could write a novel about all the things that are wrong with her statement.

First of all, your son should be careful no matter who he is playing with. There might actually be boys out there too who are not in the mood to have their stomachs jumped on. How about you look at the other kid's face (no matter what the gender) and see if he/she is having fun? Here is a good tip; if they are laughing, punch away. And if they look miserable, stop. Easy peasy.

If you read my blog often you know that I am a huge fan of rough play, so long as both parties are willing and it does not get too out of hand. I think it helps kids learn control and physical limits and body awareness. And yes, it hurts sometimes. What do you expect from a game that involves kicks and punches? 

Here are the rules of the road: If your kid is bigger than the person he is rolling around with, he needs to be more careful. If he is more aggressive, he needs to be more careful. If he is getting a little too crazy, he needs to be more careful.  If his buddy says stop, he stops.  Immediately. Isn't that the lesson we want our little boys to learn? That no means no?

Yup, that about covers it. Parenting done.

The worst part of telling a five year old boy that girls are "more delicate", is the message that it sends. Little boys put few things above physical prowess. Is this a fair way to assess people? Of course not. But he's a five year old boy and it comes with the territory  So now you are teaching him that the thing he uses to judge people, namely, how tough and athletic they are, leaves girls lacking. Not because they might be smaller or slower, but simply because they are girls. In your mission to raise a young man who respects women, you are, in fact, sending the exact opposite message.

Also, it is a big fat lie. At least as far as early childhood goes. Are girls less likely to enjoy war play? Yes. Are girls more likely to want to play princess? Yes. Are most grown men naturally stronger and more aggressive than most grown women? Yes. But a kindergarten girl is not more delicate. She just isn't. If a five year old boy gets punched in the face he's gonna cry just as hard. Trust me. 

And while I am on this topic, parents please stop raising your boys with that old standby "Don't hit girls." Don't hit anyone. Unless you need to. And then, you should hit them with exactly the amount of force that is appropriate according to the situation and your size and strength versus the other person's. So no, when your girlfriend doesn't do exactly what you told her to, no, it is not ok to hit her. But when your buddy pisses you off by making goo-goo eyes at your lady friend, its not cool to hit him either.

Oh and females, if your boyfriend says something horribly sexist and insulting it is not ok to slap him, despite what movies might tell us. Hitting is hitting. Remember your pre-k teacher? Unless you are in sparring class, please keep your hands to yourself. Easy peasy.

To you, misguided mommy who really means well, it just so happens that my little girl is not delicate. In fact, if your son wants to play rough with her, he should keep his hands up. And her little blond friend, the one with the cute pink skirt, is no wilting flower either. 

How do we teach little boys to respect women? I am no expert, but I imagine it starts with teaching them to respect people. 

Anyone know the phone number of Lloyd Irvin's mama?


  1. Yes, Sensei — as you put it "teaching them to respect people" is the key. Again, as you say "Parenting done!"

    Another well-written piece!



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