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The Tomboy or Tough Girl

If your girl is a tomboy, learn to appreciate and affirm her choice.

The Tomboy or Tough Girl


In medieval physiology, the four main fluids of the body—blood, phlegm, choler, and bile—were thought to determine character and disposition. Therefore, people were classified accordingly into choleric (bad-tempered), melancholic (depressed), sanguine (cheerful), and phlegmatic (sluggish) types of human beings.

No matter if you call her a tomboy or a tough girl, there is little that is subtle about her. If your daughter has tomboy tendencies, she makes herself seen and heard from early on. In most people's opinions, she acts more like a boy than a girl. From the moment she gets up, there is commotion since she rarely tiptoes. Usually she jumps over a chair on her way into any room. She prefers to play with a ball or a toy dump truck rather than with dolls. But if you insist on giving her a doll, she rigs up a catapult out of twigs and rubber bands, and sends her shooting through the yard.

Wilted Blossom

You should accept her with open arms and make sure her teachers do too. You tell her she makes you happy just the way she is. But watch out. If she has brothers, she may engage in rough-and-tumble play with them; not being as big and strong as they are, she may get hurt more quickly. Or she may best them in various kinds of physical contests, so be prepared for her brothers' expressions of dismay.

As far as your tomboy's appearance, she may get just as dirty as boys, or more so, and revel in the process. Often a tomboy prefers wearing blue jeans and T-shirts to skirts and dresses, which can be a benefit. Buy her the clothes she wants. They are usually easier to take care of than girly outfits, may be less costly, and last longer.


No matter how tomboyish your daughter is, instill in her the appropriateness of dress. Depending on the occasion, she should always wear a suitable outfit. That does not necessarily mean a skirt and blouse or a dress, but can be a dressy pants ensemble.

Many parents agree on a compromise when it comes to the clothing of a tomboy. They have an every-other-day rule in place. That means on some days they choose their daughter's attire. On others, she is free to wear her favorite sweatshirt and ripped jeans. For her birthday or holiday gifts, asks her what she wants. Whether it is overalls or a toolbox filled with the latest tools, fulfill her heart's desire.

Many tomboys go through developmental stages that may include:

  • A slow but steady increased liking for activities, clothing, and behaviors usually associated with boys.
  • A peak period when she may wear her hair in a boyish style, prefer to play only with boys, and insist on being called by a unisex form of her name, such as Alex for Alexandra or Sam for Samantha.
  • A switchback to more middle-of-the road behaviors such as acting like a traditional girl some times and like a boy at other times.

Be alert to the fact that tomboys can get teased not only by girls but also by boys. Teach her a few handy come-back phrases, such as, in regard to her outfits, "It's the latest style," or in regards to her rough playing, "I'm into acrobatics" or "Don't you wish you could be like me?"

Not all tomboys go through stages. Some tough girls stay the way they developed from early on and grow into confident, independent-thinking, success-oriented young women. As adults, former tomboys can be much in demand because they are usually strong-willed, are high achievers, and can do so many useful things from changing the oil in a car to installing a new sink, thereby saving money and time. Most of all, they are empowered in all situations. Wow—what an asset.

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