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Mommy Dearest: How Should I Deal With Gender Issues?

Mommy Dearest,

I have a 4-year-old little girl who seems to fit into the stereotypes surrounding children her age; she loves princesses, makeup, and playing with baby dolls. In an effort to get her to branch out, I have signed her up for soccer with other boys and girls her age. At first, the playtime was terrific — boys and girls running elbow to elbow. Then the coach decided to split them up by gender. Kids generally play with their own sex, so I understood his rationale for dividing them, but at this past practice he decided it was time for the boys to play football while the girls still kicked the ball around. When one of the girls asked the coach why the boys got to play football, he said, "The boys have gotten really good at soccer so we're letting them play football. You guys still need to work on your soccer." All of the mothers on the sideline gasped. While the coach may be right, he is already starting to pigeonhole them into the stereotypes that we moms are trying so hard to avoid. They are such an impressionable age and they are already starting to hear that boys are better than them. I would like to talk with the coach about it, but I don't seem to have the right words. Do you have any advice?

— Antistereotype Soccer Mom

To see Mommy Dearest's response, just


Antistereotype Soccer Mom,

Parents are often conflicted with how to share a gender-divided world with their children. It is commendable that you are trying to take actions to show your girly daughter the other facets of life that don't include tutus and lip gloss, but you may find that not everyone is like minded. It seems the coach could use some, er, coaching in stereotyping. He is probably used to straight talk and may appreciate the candor of a sideline mommy. Rather than make a big issue out of it, I'd simply tell him you want the girls to have the same learning experience as the boys. The larger concern at hand would be how he manages to tell the girls about their routine. I would ask him to explain to the girls that they are equal to the boys and ready to roll with the flag-football punches.

— Mommy Dearest

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Danni99 Danni99 6 years
Coach is lucky he's not coaching my kids. Either one. While both my son and my daughter are soccer allstars, they're also both wrestlers and basketball players. My daughter throws the most amazingly tight spiral that she was invited to play pee-wee football this past season, but since it conflicted with soccer, she chose not to. Gender stereotypes really bug me, and I am all too happy to use my "attorney voice" to advocate for smarter practices when I see adults using those stereotypes on my kids!
kia kia 6 years
I am right on track with some of you... I gasp that soccer is perceived as easier than football by this coach. He is setting a silly standard for these kids though. Just show your daughter the classic Cosby Show episode where Rudy plays Pop Warner football and is an awesome running back (or receiver?)
starbucks2 starbucks2 6 years
I was wondering about that, too, Lauren. I don't know that much about football, but soccer seems harder to me... Anyway, like MissSushi said, I don't get why you have to be advanced to move to another sport at this age. It should just be about the fun their having getting to know different sports.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 6 years
I don't get why football is the "harder" sport. Soccer is MUCH more difficult to master then football. No offense.
MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
People are always going to learn things at varying degrees, and its healthy to understand that as a child, but I don't agree with this situation. If it's an extra set of classes for sports, each team should advance at the same stage. Each team should play a sport for a specific time, and then move on. I think you should politely but bluntly tell him you aren't comfortable with the girls staying on soccer until he decides they are "good" enough to move on, while the boys advance from one sport to another. To be very honest, they are 4 years old, the level of ability is going to be rather subjective at this age.
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