We put on pink headbands and blue bow ties on newborn babies to indicate their gender. I didn’t mention which color is for which gender, but I am sure you got which one is a girl and which is a boy.
Why is it that we are so eager to know the gender of a newborn? Why do we put a public label on them so that people don’t ask “is it a boy or a girl?”
Well, the answer is unclear but one could assume that it is because we foresee the future of a child based on their gender. We presume their behavior, hobbies, likes and dislikes ambitions, everything even before the first step and the first word.
This is why the newer parents are opting for gender-neutral parenting. Raising children in a gender-neutral way means nurturing a child while being unbiased by socially constructed gender roles.
Why Should You Raise Children the Gender-Neutral Way?
We are living in an era where we are perceiving radical changes in society. I am sure everyone has watched the video of a young girl questioning everyday sexism. If not, check it out here. Gone are the days when we were oblivious and silent against everyday sexism.
Raising children who do not comply with the classic gender roles escalates the process of freeing society from such a malady.
Gender neutrality is the foundation of gender equality. It is to avoid, and hopefully, abolish the gender stereotypes that we should resort to gender-neutral parenting.
Gender Specification in Children
For the last few centuries, roles have been assigned to specific genders. The men of the house are the stronger ones, the one who goes to the office and is the head of the family. The women, on the other hand, are considered the fairer sex, the one who stays at home and cooks and cleans.
Children mimic their parents. They observe their surroundings and subconsciously inculcate these assigned roles into their minds. So the girls take over their mothers, by assisting in the household chores and boys take over their fathers.
In the last few decades, we have observed the emergence of a wide spectrum of products based on gender. We have separate clothes, toys, bags, bottles, movies, books, for boys and girls. Even the most trivial objects — pens and pencils, school bags and bottles, lunch boxes — are based on gender.
How To Raise Gender Neutral Kids
Here are some tips which can help you raise children in a gender-neutral manner and crush those stereotypes:-
Hair and Clothes Have No Gender
No person is to be defined by the length of their hair or how they choose to style themselves. The clothes of a person should not define who they are. Use gender-neutral clothing.
Most importantly, let your child be a judge of what they want to wear. Children, being unaware and new to the gender stereotypes, choose whatever they find attractive.
Movies, Books and Toys Have No Gender
Why is it that girls are associated with princess movies and boys are associated with some hardcore action flicks? We have separate sections in libraries as ‘books for boys’ and ‘books for girls’.
Don’t label movies and cartoons with gender. We usually observe that the masculine and feminine qualities are already assigned to the characters. The female is usually the ‘damsel in distress’ and the male is the ‘knight in shining armor.
Read your children the stories which have neutral roles, so that they develop role models which are not gender-specific. Another key is to not to segregate toys and games based on gender.
Treat Your Children Equally
Household chores and dance classes are not to be assigned to only the girls of the house. Outdoor games like football and cricket are not just for the boys. We are living in a society with conventional roles so deeply inherited in it that we often forget that chores and games don’t have roles.
Cooking and cleaning, knowing how to fix the tire of a car — these are basic skills that every person needs to know, irrespective of their gender. Encourage and help your children to learn new skills.
Change Your Vocabulary
We often hear other people say “boys don’t cry”, “you run like a girl”, “girls don’t sit like this”, “boys will be boys” etc. There are many other phrases that we say in our daily life that reinforce gender-based stereotypes. We must absolutely avoid using such phrases which specify genders.
Using words like ‘child’ and ‘sibling’ instead of ‘son/daughter’ and ‘brother/sister’, respectively, is a good alternative. Switching your vocabulary might seem a trivial effort but it does have a drastic effect on the upbringing of a child. The language you use must be gender-inclusive.
Educate Your Children
Children often feel isolated and divergent if they don’t abide by the gender norms of society, especially in schools. Many of them are bullied because a girl has short hair, or a boy has a pink bag. Even the conservative older generation often comments over the clothing, hairstyle, or day-to-day errands done by children. It is your role as a parent to educate your child on this issue and tell them how to deal with such situations.
Children are too young to understand these differences and how they affect day-to-day life. But as long as the parents are educated, the child’s mind will know exactly what to perceive.
Podium School assists the parents in incorporating strategies that will help them raise children devoid of gender stereotypes.
We believe that through investing in everyone’s parenting skills, more and more children can thrive and bloom. Check out our updates on parenting advice on the Podium Blog and incorporate some positive parenting practices with Podium School as your friend, philosopher and guide.