My parents always tell me how a girl should act!
Parents of very cooperative teens may hear how “lucky” they are. This usually comes from parents of teens who are… well, acting like teens.
In the same way that most infants spit up until they get the hang of feeding, most teens push back against their parents until they get the hang of managing their own lives with integrity. The inevitable struggles are rarely pleasant for the teen or her parents, but they’re beneficial to character development. If teens can’t or won’t challenge their parents, how can they formulate a vision of their own life? If they aren’t permitted to make their own choices and their own mistakes how can they gain confidence in relying on their own judgment?
Today’s letter comes from a teen who just wants to be her own girl.
My parents don’t really like my tomboyish personallity. Whenever I wear something boy-like or act like a boy they always yell at me or tell me how a girl should act. Because of this we always get into fights. One time my dad told he would kick me out of the house if I show any signs of being a tomboy. How do convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?
I get why you’re pushing back. Many people see their choice of clothing as a very personal expression of self. You want to dress in ways that a) make you feel comfortable and b) make you feel like you’re being true to yourself. As for your behavior? That’s the essence of who you are. There is no more personal expression of self than that!
I don’t know your parents, but I can guess what they might be having a problem with. When you dress or act “like a boy” they might see it as a sign that you are queer. Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not. Who you are attracted to is no one’s business but yours, but some parents have a really hard time when their little girl doesn’t fit into a neat box with a pink bow around it. ;O)
What you wear isn’t necessarily a sign of your sexual orientation or your gender identification. Some queer girls like to wear boys’ clothing. Some straight girls dress that way, too. It’s not a big deal… except to your parents.
You ask: How do I convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?
I don’t have the answer to that one, because it’s impossible to change someone else’s attitude if he or she doesn’t want to change. The best advice I can give you is this: Being yourself (inside and out), without worrying what others think, is a sign of maturity. It’s also the best way I know to live a happy life.
P.S. You might want to read my answer to a parent’s question about her daughter wearing boy’s clothes. Check out the comments, too.
Now more than ever, as new sexual misconduct allegations surface each week, we need to focus on raising daughters who refuse to let anyone tell them how to dress and how to act. Our parenting job includes many things, but it does not include teaching our girls to keep their mouths shut when anyone disrespects them, makes them feel uncomfortable or tries to dictate their “place” in the world.