My 2-year-old son plays with a lot of girls. There doesn't seem to be a reason or pattern behind it (girls rule, obviously), but most of his friends are female. While this definitely makes for some cute photo opportunities, how toddlers play and interact at his age is pretty universal, regardless of their sex. That's why there's nothing that gets under my skin more than when I hear people refer to toddler boys as "flirts" just because they happen to play with girls. Instead of pretending that your toddler son is a Don Juan in diapers, why don't you acknowledge the fact that boys and girls can just be friends?
Saying a toddler flirts trains kids to believe that the only reason why a boy is communicating with a girl is to get something out of her.
First of all, it's impossible for someone that young to "flirt." Flirting requires the understanding of how to navigate the delicate world of playful banter with the idea that something romantic or sexual might happen. Considering that my toddler still hasn't figured out how to get his socks off, I highly doubt that him playing trains with his female friends could be construed as flirting. They're learning, having fun, and smiling at each other, because guess what? They like each other in the most innocent and beautiful way.
Yes, this phrase is most likely just a knee-jerk reaction when seeing adorable kids play together. When you're talking to other moms at the playground or while in line at the store, it's not easy to keep the conversation going. While searching for something to say, this seems like an easy compliment and a lighthearted joke, especially when kids sweetly turn away with huge smiles on their faces when you wave or ask them a question. However, stop for a second and think if a woman with a daughter would ever say the same phrase about their child.
Saying a toddler flirts perpetuates the notion that men and women can't be friends. It trains kids to believe that the only reason a boy is communicating with a girl is to get something out of her. That's gross and wrong, and I think it should stop. Now. Children will learn soon enough that there is a stark divide between the sexes, so why try and instill this concept at such a young age for the sake of casual banter?
Instead of congratulating your son on how much of a "flirt" or "heartbreaker" he is at the ripe age of 3, acknowledge his good behavior in a more positive way. Things like sharing, playing cooperatively, and being respectful toward friends is way more important to ensuring your baby boy grows up to be a good man. Maybe if these child Casanovas hear acknowledgment for those things, when they're actually old enough to flirt, they'll be pretty well set up.
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