Raising a “Tom Boy”

Tom boy wearing school uniform

Let me start by saying, I’m not very keen on the phrase “Tom Boy”. A more accurate description of my daughter is “A girl who prefers things that were traditionally aimed at boys”. That is a bit of a mouthful so, for the purposes of brevity (and not sounding like a pretentious twit), I’ll stick with Tom Boy. I’d also like to clarify that I’m loving raising a Tom Boy. It’s saving me a fortune because I can use hand-me-downs and makes days out and holidays much easier because both children want to do the same thing!


Nature or Nurture?

I often wonder what has led Girl Child to her preference for boys things. This article from The Express has some suggestions on what creates a Tom Boy. Some of which are interesting and some of which are idiotic (along with the idea that raising a Tom Boy is something to be “handled”).

Obviously, her only sibling is a boy so that must have had some influence. However he isn’t a particularly “boyish boy” so I don’t think that’s the whole story. If she had wanted him to play dolls with her, he would have. I don’t think I have had much influence on her. While I don’t wear make up often, I do tend to wear dresses most of the time (albeit with leggings). We have fairly traditional gender roles in our family. To my shame I actually can’t change the weird lightbulbs we have in our house but I am the one who does most of the decorating so I think that makes up for it. (I may not do it the Chris’s standard but I get it done which I consider far more important).

Tom Boy Girl swinging on branch



Since Girl Child was able to dress herself she has chosen trousers or shorts. I’ll never forget the first time I put one of Boy Child’s old T-Shirts on her. She was about 3 at the time and was over the moon. Since then we’ve shopped for tops in the boys section which she wears with black leggings or boys shorts.

When she started in reception she chose to wear trousers from day 1. She wears a mixture of sweatshirts and cardigans depending on her mood. We tend to buy plain girls shoes but we might change to boys in the future if she really wants to. I do worry other children might ask her why she’s wearing boys shoes. While she’s very comfortable with who she is, I’m not sure she’s confident enough to deal with it yet. 

At the moment she wears boys shorts in the summer months for school which. While she’s still in infants, isn’t a problem. When she goes up to juniors, girls aren’t allowed to wear shorts. This would leave her in a position of either being too hot in trousers or wearing a dress she wasn’t comfortable in. It’s my plan to meet with the head when she’s in year 2 to ask him to change the policy. This is something I feel really strong out so I will face my fear of confrontation and get it done. I’ll let you know how that goes.


The Rest of the World

Girl Child has lots of friends. They are a mixture of girls and boys but she is certainly closer to the boys. She has two male friends who she has been close with since they were 3 and played together at preschool. They have no issues whatsoever about playing with a girl. For now. I can’t say I don’t worry about this changing when they get older.

In some ways it is hard for her being a girl who prefers boy things (that’s how she describes it herself). Where there is a girls version and boys version of something, for example Kinder Eggs, she really struggles to choose which one to get. She currently attends Beavers which she loves. However if she goes on a sleepover with them, she won’t be able to sleep next to her friends. The girls are always put in a tent together. She is regularly mistaken for a long haired boy, by both children and adults. It doesn’t bother her but adults often feel embarrassed to have made the mistake.

Birthday parties can be a problem. When it’s her birthday,  parents who don’t know her automatically buy her traditional girls toys. She’s always very grateful but I know deep down she’d have preferred something different. At other people’s birthday parties, there are sometimes girls party bags and boys party bags. I know she would prefer the boys bag. I also know the parents have probably made up the right number for the gender split at the party so don’t really feel I can ask for a different one.

Girl swinging on rope over stream


She might be a “Tom Boy” but she likes Girls Things too

She does also have the odd very girly passion. For her bedroom, when she was 3, she chose a pink with butterfly’s theme, which she still loves now. We suggested changing it a few months ago and she was horrified. She also (much to my horror) loves the giant Barbie house we were given. I keep putting it away in the loft and she keeps making me get it out again! Pink is one of her favourite colours. She is actually very proud of being a girl and will argue with her bother about weather girls or boys are “better”. 

I hope as she gets older she continues to feel confident wearing what she wants and being who she is and that the people around her, in particular the other children, continue to accept her for her wonderful self.

if you enjoyed this post you might like to try What it’s like to be an Introvert Mum or Phone Vs Kids or if you want to read more about raising boys and girls, check out Particle Parenting’s post.

Raising a “Tom Boy” Picture of a little girl in a green cap worn backwards


  1. Rachel Evans
    January 29, 2019 / 3:51 pm

    Aww good for her. Like you said, hopefully as she grows up she will continue to feel confident enough to wear what she wants!

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:57 pm

      Really hoping so!

  2. January 29, 2019 / 5:58 pm

    Such a shame that, in space year 2019, gender is still a “thing” at all. Kids are kids, and it’s frustrating that teachers, shops, other people and society at large want to put them in neat little gendered pigeonholes. I could go on to rant about the patriarchy, but instead I’ll just say that your daughter clearly rocks, and I hope she doesn’t let peer pressure change her. ☺️

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:58 pm

      She does indeed rock!

  3. January 29, 2019 / 6:52 pm

    Such a lovely post Josie my little one loves trousers and shorts for school and she’s always ready to out run those boys! Nice to know I’m no the only one with a girl giving the boys a run for their money although mine is always reading books lately!

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:59 pm

      Its so more more practical isn’t it.

  4. January 29, 2019 / 6:58 pm

    I’ve got a tomboy too! In fact, she went through a mega girly phase between 3-5ish but has slippped straight back out of it and really doesn’t ‘get’ alot of girly girl preferences. I love it. There’s something to really be proud of when you know you’ve raised your kid to feel comfortable with who they are, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit within standard cultural norms. Ace post. Thanks for linking up with #ItsOK xxx

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 4:00 pm

      I think a lot of the less pleasant girly behaviour goes over there head when they are Tom boys too!

  5. January 29, 2019 / 7:22 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this, I was a “Tom boy” when I was a kid. I just use the term adventurous and fearless because after all that’s really what it is. I’m sure every child has the potential to like boy traditionally boys or girls toys but it’s whether they are allowed or bought these toys/clothes etc. It’s really good to see parents being more open minded these days. I wore hand me downs from my boy cousin and played with action men but now I love to wear make up and do my hair, we all grow and change constantly.

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 4:01 pm

      I’ll be very interested to see if she gets all girly when she hits her teens!

  6. January 29, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    I loved this read! Girls not allowed shorts?! – how outdated is that!! I agree you can’t let that one lie. I had to overcome my dislike for making a fuss at school this week too – a story for another day but definitely worth doing and I feel better for it now. Skirts not practical for a lot of things, unfair to enforce that. Your daughter is so lucky to be so supported in all her decisions, choices and preferences. And thanks so much for the link xxx

  7. January 30, 2019 / 2:02 pm

    Good for her, I say! If that’s what she prefers to do, then go for it. So sad that ‘gender’ is a thing to be slotted into. Good luck with the school confrontation!

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 4:03 pm

      I’m currently working on convincing school they don’t want to offend me by helping out loads, we’ll see!

  8. January 31, 2019 / 10:35 am

    This is so interesting Jo, especially since I have two small girls myself. The thing is my two are as girlie as you can get. And I often wonder where it came from too because I don’t believe I had an awful lot to do with it either. It’s amazing the paths they choose to follow all by themselves. It also reminds me of my older sister who when we were growing up was the ultimate ‘tom boy’. And she stayed like that until she was 17. Then (and I have never asked her why) it was like a switch went off inside her. She turned it completely around and transformed into the most feminine girl you would ever meet. She ditched the doc martins and started wearing make-up. And that was it, she never looked back. I don’t think it was suddenly liking boys either that did it for her because she already had a boyfriend before she made the change. I really should ask her someday. But you have to let them be don’t you and keep following their own path. It’s such a great read, I really enjoyed it! #itsok

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 4:05 pm

      Thanks Tracey, it certainly feeds in to the nature verses nurture argument doesn’t it. I really feel like she is who she is and nothing really influences her.

  9. Issy joslin
    January 31, 2019 / 9:40 pm

    Lovely post. Totally shocked that she can’t wear shorts when she moves up, ridiculous you have to address that these days. Xx

  10. February 1, 2019 / 11:30 am

    Girls toys are boring anyway. I think she has the right idea! Well done for being an excellent mum and encouraging her to be herself. As we move toward a more ‘gender neutral’ society you’ll probably look back on this and think it’s all a big fuss about nothing! #thatfridaylinky x PS We’re over at http://www.daddyanddad.co.uk

    • Jo
      February 5, 2019 / 9:13 pm

      Girls toys really do seem a bit rubbish!

  11. February 1, 2019 / 12:36 pm

    She sounds like a wonderful little girl who is confident in her own likes and dislikes. I was very similar as a child and had some great friendships with the boys in my class which endure 20 years later #thatfridaylinky

    • Jo
      February 5, 2019 / 9:10 pm

      Glad to hear about Girl/boy friendships enduring!

  12. Morag
    February 2, 2019 / 5:05 pm

    She sounds like an awesome little girl. There’s too much pressure from authorities (especially schools) for kids to conform to the stereotypical girls should wear pink and play with dolls, boys should wear blue and play with cars or dinosaurs. I loved boys toys far better than girls when I was little. My 8 year old son loves sewing clothes for his wrestlers. Kids should be allowed to be kids, whatever their interests, even if it doesn’t conform. I would fight the school on the shorts thing, parents at my kids school did and the policy got changed.

    • Jo
      February 5, 2019 / 9:09 pm

      It’s great to hear about a school changing policy, the head seems like a reasonable guy so I’m hoping won’t be too much of an issue but I’m prepared to campaign if necessary!

  13. February 4, 2019 / 10:37 am

    Such an interesting post. Thank you for this. My eldest is not a typcial ‘girly girl’ either. She’s recently started to embrace her own fashion sense of black, and shorts or jeans and tights with ‘dull’ or ‘not sparkly!’ t-shirts. She won’t touch pink, but is quite happy to fight for the pink plate! It doesn’t bother me. I am more excited by the idea that she is making her own decisions on what makes her happy. #itsok

    • Jo
      February 5, 2019 / 9:12 pm

      It is lovely seeing them starting to express their personality.

  14. February 7, 2019 / 7:33 pm

    My sister mum was a real “Tom Boy” growing up (e.g. I remember my mum having to ask Santa for a present from the boy’s side of the sack when we went to visit him). I think we just need society to stop categorising everything – let’s just let people enjoy the hobbies that they enjoy. Why does gender need to even be mentioned?? I think it’s great that your daughter knows what she likes and has some lovely friends that have the same interests as her. Long may it continue #blogcrush

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