Dear Savvy Auntie,

I live right next door to my sister and brother in law so I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew. I'm basically the nanny.

My nephew is two. He has all sisters and he's obsessed with shoes, especially his sister's princess dress up heels. His sisters also love to dress him up. My sister and I are 100% okay with this and take pictures and let him play. My brother-in-law is religious and thinks this is just setting my nephew up to be gay.

Little back story: our family can't stand him for so many reasons, but we love my sister and stand by her. My family and I are hard core California liberals. He's not. The other day my brother in law went as far as to yell at my nephew to take off the heels, poor little boy thought he did something wrong. He and my sister got in a huge fight over this. I took the kids to my place while they cooled off.

He's only two, but how do handle this? I'm with these kids everyday and I see them more than their own parents (self employed.) I honestly fear he's going to end up like his father. I know I'm just the Aunt but I don't know if me telling my nieces and nephew that their daddy is wrong, is appropriate. Help!

BIL Trouble

Dear BIL Trouble,

I am responding with bullet points in case your brother-in-law can be educated.

1. No, do not tell the children their father is wrong! You can explain that  grownups have differing ideas and beliefs and that it is o.k. to agree to disagree.

2. Homosexuality is not created by activities such as dress up; people are homosexual from birth and become aware of it at different stages later in life.

3. Children are unaware of gender differences until they are 3 1/2 years old and later. Your nephew is enjoying the attention and inclusion of his sisters in their play, having nothing to do with girls/boys and what suits him. He doesn’t know he is a boy and different than the girls.

4.No child should ever be yelled at unless they have done something wrong and even then a reprimand and an explanation are called for. Since most 2 year olds are like puppies and don’t know right from wrong they just want to explore and have fun let him enjoy his innocence.

5. Children take in the energy of their disciplining in a neutral tone is effective. A big reaction, negative or positive reinforces the behavior.

6. Your nephew and nieces are growing up in a society that is more accepting of differences in gender and sexual choice (as can be seen by the recent supreme court decision on same sex marriage) and need you, your sister, and family to support respect and tolerance of differences for them.
Your nieces and nephew are very lucky to have you be such an integral part of their lives.
Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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