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  • How to Raise a Child Who Knows Boys Are Not Always Better Than Girls and Vice Versa

    Dear parents, don't limit the activities of your child based on their gender.
    by Kat Patiño-Marquez .
How to Raise a Child Who Knows Boys Are Not Always Better Than Girls and Vice Versa
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Gender stereotypes have always been present because society and our culture expect us to fill certain roles because of our gender. There’s a long list of expectations for girls and an equally long list for boys. Looking back, I found it hard to understand why I need to wear those frilly dresses and why I couldn’t join the rough-and-tumble activities of my male playmates.

    Thankfully, many parents of today’s new generation of parents have sworn to raise their children in more gender-neutral environments. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because numerous studies have pointed out the negative effects on performance development when children are introduced to gender norms especially on girls.

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    How to raise children without imposing gender

    We should strive to lessen the impact of gender stereotypes on our children by allowing them to explore all opportunities, hobbies, interests, and career paths. Celebrating their individuality, steering clear of gender-themed products, and being open to them about sexism can help us avoid instilling gender stereotypes in our children. Here are tips to guide you:

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    Avoid gender-themed products

    Many of us are guilty of buying things based on the gender of our babies. Girls’ essentials are mostly in pink while boys get a ton of items in blue. It may seem harmless to most, but these actions can already give heavy emphasis on the difference between girls and boys.

    We have to remember children’s minds are malleable until the age of 7. During this period, we make use of toys, puzzles, physical activities, and role-playing games to develop their skills, cognitive abilities, behavior, and interests. If we put a limit to the toys and activities our kids are exposed to based only on what’s supposedly appropriate for their gender, then we are limiting their growth in all those areas including their psychological development.

    We need to be mindful about whether we are unconsciously providing toys or things that are “gender appropriate” because this will eventually have a huge impact on their interests growing up and even on their choice of career in the future. Expose them to all kinds of activities to give them a broader range of opportunities and experiences.

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    Girls should be allowed to participate in role-playing games where they can be a doctor, a mechanic, or a police officer. Boys should also be free to explore roles such as being a cook, a baker, or a dancer.

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    Don’t give too much emphasis on gender

    Often, we fail to notice our habit of identifying them as being a boy or a girl. While this feels inconsequential, it has an impact on how our child understands his or her place or role in the world. Sometimes all it takes is saying “you’re such a bright kid” instead of “you’re such a bright girl.”

    We can’t prevent them from being exposed to gender stereotypes. But making sure they know what stereotyping means, and they see the effort we make to avoid labeling gender, it helps opens their eyes.

    Be open about sexism

    Just as important as it is to avoid using gender labels, it’s also imperative to talk about sexism more with your children. We can’t shield our kids from it — so let us educate them about it.

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    Allow your kids to understand that these gender norms aren’t based on differences in intellect, abilities, and characteristics, but it evolved from cultural stereotypes. Show them how to handle these situations; teach them how to stand firm in their identity even if they receive pushback from society.

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    Celebrate your child’s individuality

    People are often hesitant to go against gender norms because they fear criticism. If you’re a child still trying to understand how the world works, judgment from others bears a lot of weight. Thankfully, regardless of the number of people they will welcome into their lives as they grow, the feedback they get from family is still the support and recognition they value the most.

    Build up their confidence by encouraging their uniqueness and showing them that being different is a positive attribute. Teach them that they don’t have to comply with any gender standards if they feel it’s not right. Similarly, encourage them to inspire others to be themselves.

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    The support of family is vital to a child’s self-esteem. They learn to value themselves and who they are when the people they love accept them for who they are. They will never feel compelled to be someone different just because society has told them so.

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