Child's Painted Fingernails
Q: My little boy wants to wear nail polish. I'm not sure if I should be worried?

A: Only if he keeps dipping into your favourite OPI nail polish colours without asking! Sometimes nails are just canvases to paint, as are popsicle sticks and rocks. Other times, children paint their nails to play "grown up" or "dress up". They observe adult behaviour and replicate it in play. It's a form of rehearsal and part of the socialization process.

Children also begin to discern gender roles: "What do boys/men do?" And, "What do girls/women do?" It takes time and some children develop faster than others when it comes to picking up social clues. Social equality between the sexes is making some of the differences more nuanced for children to discern, and perhaps even continue to challenge! Just watch an episode of Mad Men and you'll see what I mean.

Whether your little boy eventually learns that nail polish is largely a "girl" thing according to gender norms or he is gay or transgender (and that nail polish was but one of a long trail of clues about his sexual orientation), it's all normal!

Non-heterosexual kids face tremendous pressures in our society. Anything we can do to ease their psychic stress is helpful. All children should hear messages that prove to them that they are loved unconditionally -- gay, straight, geek, active, bookish -- what ever! If you know you are loved as you are, then you will develop the resilience required to embrace the challenges of growing up and becoming your authentic loveable self!

I want that for all boys and girls. That's good parenting. Paint on, brother!

Are you wondering if something your child does is "normal"? Send your questions to Parentdish's parenting expert, Alyson Schafer: (we'll keep it anonymous!). Each week, Alyson will choose one question to answer on Parentdish!

Susan Sarandon on Gender Roles and a Person's True Essence