Dear Family Coach: We live on a street with mostly boys. My daughter has no problem playing with the boys her age, but she doesn't play much with other girls. I'm wondering if I should put more energy into organizing play dates with girls. She does interact with girls during after-school activities. But is that enough girl time, or will she be affected in some weird way by how much time she spends with the boys? — Curious
Dear Curious: Your daughter won't be weird because she spends more time with boys. I'm guessing by weird you mean she won't be a typical girl, as defined by society. Maybe she isn't demure and doesn't feel content playing quietly in the corner with dolls. But if you imagine gender identity on a continuum you can see that weirdness doesn't exist. Girls are as diverse as the flavors of Jelly Belly's.
Your daughter may be more drawn to basketballs and baseball gloves than Barbie dolls, so playing with the boys makes more sense to her. She may have loads of energy and find that the boys bring more gusto than the girls do. It's quite possible she just hasn't found a girl with whom she shares similar interests and temperament.
I wouldn't worry about your daughter's inclinations. She will likely learn to socialize with girls naturally as she develops her gender identity. There's no need to force her development with play dates, unless she expresses an interest in playing with a particular girl. If you force her, she could pick up on your concern and start to feel that something is wrong with her. If and when your daughter starts to shift to play more with girls, her time with the boys won't be for naught: She will have learned how to communicate and interact with the opposite sex, which is an essential life skill.
Dear Family Coach: My daughter came home from school and promptly announced that my friend's child doesn't wash her hands after going to the bathroom. I feel like I should tell my friend so she can have a talk with her daughter about hygiene. How can I have this conversation without hurting my relationship with my friend? — Clean Mom
Dear Clean: You can't, so don't . There is absolutely no way this conversation will have the intended effect. For starters, your friend will be embarrassed. She will think that you assume she doesn't teach her daughter to wash her hands. Then, she will wonder if you think she doesn't wash her hands. It will get awkward quickly. She will surely reprimand her child in front of you to prove she does care about hygiene, and the child will be embarrassed to be punished in front of you. However, embarrassment won't ensure that her daughter will remember to wash her hands after using the bathroom. So, to return to my original directive: Do not mention this to your friend.
What you can — and should — do is encourage your daughter to kindly remind this girl to wash her hands when they're in the bathroom together. She shouldn't shame her or call her out in front of the other kids. She should just nicely say: "Don't forget to wash up. I'll wait for you." This girl will be so happy to have a friend look out for her that she will relish washing her hands. Problem solved. And, your daughter will learn how to tackle an issue with sensitivity.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.