Do I let my son (2) wear purple?

Mother: “Our son is just two years old and has a strong will of his own. His favorite color is purple. It helps to calm things down if he is allowed to choose things himself every now and then. Recently we went out for a new raincoat. There were two more in his size, one bluish and one bright purple-pink. He immediately pointed to the latter, yet with guilt I bought the former. Before we had children, I made a commitment to keep them as far away from social prejudice as possible. That’s why I gave him a varied wardrobe from birth. Right from the start, this resulted in incomprehension from neighbour’s children, who made remarks such as: ‘What strange clothes he has on, he looks like a girl!’ Nowadays he understands these kinds of comments a bit, and I would be sorry if he became insecure. I would like to let him make his own choices, but I don’t want him to get nasty comments from the kids next door.”

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Learn to make choices

Bass Delivery: “It is an illusion to think that you could protect your child from nasty comments from other children. In any case, deviant clothes are often the object of ridicule. Of course you can support him in his choices.

“We once thought that we had rid ourselves of the difference between typical boy and girl clothes at a young age. From the 1970s, there was a strong emphasis on breaking through the gender-specific upbringing. That limited profit disappeared when it became possible to determine the sex of the child before birth. From that moment on, the children’s clothing stores again emphatically colored in blue and pink. Nowadays, the result of the fun ultrasound is the reason for the gender reveal party in one of those colors.

“We need to help children learn to make their own choices, while curbing their innate egocentrism. This is not really the case at the age of 2, because children are not yet able to oversee the consequences of their choices. The fact that she does develop a strong will at that age does not always make it easy to deal with. But purple clothes? Just allow! You have not been given the most difficult problem to practice that choice process with.”

Encourage differences

Steve Sieckelinck: „It is normal to become insecure about precious parenting principles once you have to care for such a fragile creature. Nevertheless, it is important not to project your own insecurity onto your child, and to let him make a choice freely, even if that causes reactions in the environment. He will probably do more of his own will that others think is something; you can’t smooth out all the creases.

“Gender identity is now one of the most discussed topics in youth work. Many young people have questions about this. There is a vanguard that demands the space to do their own research, and does not want to be pinned down to gender. At the same time, protests are heard in society.

“We cannot put boys in camo and girls in princess dresses to please that rejecting group. That only makes the problem worse. Rather, the effort lies in learning to accept differences between people.

“Education can contribute to that social ideal by instilling self-confidence in one’s own choices, and by tolerance of those of others. That’s why it’s counterproductive to watch tensely what the reactions are to the color your child attracts. When he is older, you can tell him that his choices may lead to rejection, but at the age of two he can safely choose purple. Moreover, ‘girl’ is not a swear word.”

Bass Delivery is a former lecturer in general pedagogy. Steve Sieckelinck is an educational philosopher and lecturer in youth work at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.