Raising a daughter who is highly competitive, and likes dolls AND cars. How do you nurture a gender non-normative child? 

Yesterday, Scout spent 30 minutes playing legos with her Papa. She was building a ship whereas Papa opted to build a car.   At one point, Scout looked over at Papa’s car and said , “Mine is prettier than yours!”

Her candor got us giggling a bit but then it hit me: how did my daughter become so competitive?

Scout is a funny, fearless, resilient, and independent 3.5-year-old girl who loves competing.

“Race you to the door,”
“I win!” *sticks out tongue*
“My car is prettier than yours!”

The present-moment part of my motherly mind loves her fun and competitive nature. The pensive part of that mind, however, looks into the future and thinks about what is best for my daughter. Is there anything wrong with a little competition? Does this go anywhere? I read an article recently titled, “4 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Raising a Daughter,” and I felt like it spoke directly to me:

  1. Encourage Emotional Expression
  2. Compliment More Than Her Appearance
  3. Encourage Physical Strength
  4. Model Empowered Behavior

That’s it! Number one spoke the loudest to my intrinsic core, “Encourage Emotional Expression.” To Scout, competing was her super power. She allows herself to come face-to-face with another person to compete for a title she works hard for. This was her “emotional expression” and whether she won or lost, it was her way of playing with others; a friendly game to showcase her talents.

We tested this theory again last night and pulled out a family favorite, Classic Legos.

Adventure Scout Lego 1

Scout is very by-the-books. Our LEGO set comes with a manual on how to build cars, ships, flowers, and many other wonderful things, which Scout reads and tries to construct from. True to her independent nature, she inserted her favorite toy, a horse, and farm gates to build an entire community of Lego cosplay!

We recently took a trip to Alaska and were kayaking on the seaside, so it was still fresh in Scout’s memory. She wanted to build a boat similar to the ones we rode on the trip. Even though Papa was building a car, Scout wanted to make sure he didn’t have any wandering eyes to plagiarize her work.

‘No looking, Papa!’ she demands.

Adventure Scout playing with LegosBuilding LegosScout Legos

She then placed the boat on the “water” and the car outside of the gates before announcing that they were both finished.

Scout Legos

‘Mine is prettier than yours, Papa!’

Both Papa and I nodded, knowing that all she wanted was encouragement and affirmation for the effort she put forth in piecing the magnificent ship together. She then told Papa that his car was fast. It was no doubt a little consolation of her own for her play partner. *smirks*

Number two: “Compliment More Than Her Appearance.” We’re not perfect parents but we do our best to praise and give our daughter the reinforcement she needs to instill her confidence. Because we are her rock, if our kindness were to be spread anywhere, it would be to her.

“To ensure a strong sense of self, praise your daughter’s values and the activities she excels at and enjoys. Don’t be sparing with high fives, hugs or other small acknowledgements.”

After 30 minutes of play, it was now clean up time. We engage with her as often as we can but there are still times when she wants to get our attention by encouraging a bit of competition, which is why we have Papa!

Adventure Scout Dancing

No matter what the normative behavior is, Scout is outside that paradigm box…and we love it! At the heart, she can be girly when she wants to be and equally be as competitive when she has to be.


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