Gender-neutral parenting can improve our gender-biased society. Specifically, to improve our children’s future that they grow into.
Just think about how gender-neutral parenting can support your children’s well-being.
In this article, I’ll talk about 5 Dos and Don’ts for Gender Neutral Parenting.
Why gender-neutral parenting?
First, I want you to take a moment to revisit your memories. How many of you were told to behave a certain way? Or prohibited from doing something because you are a girl/boy?
Next, think about the gender role of your parents, grandparents, and others. Did they look like they supported each other, or did one person make most of the income for the family while the other stayed at home and did chores?
One of my teachers in college told me that you can’t look at a person and judge. To understand a person, you have to look back 3 generations. Then you’ll have the full picture.
What you do is generally based on what your parents did, and that was based on what your grandparents did. Now you get the idea. If you want to create a better future for your children, you have to exit the cycle.
5 Dos and Don’ts for gender-neutral parenting
#1. Toys (This is for babies/early childhood.)
DO choose gender-neutral toys. Subconsciously we can send gender bias messages to our children. So toys should be chosen based on what you believe in. It can be as simple as choosing colours that are uni-sex.
The best place to find gender-neutral toys is in NATURE! So take your children outside. In nature, children use their imagination to create toys or games. Nature provides freedom to explore regardless of gender.
DON’T choose toys that carry gender-specific messages.
The movie “Frozen” can be a good example. How many girls wanted to be Elsa? – many.
One day I had a chat with a girl whose friend had Elsa goods and acted like Elsa as well. The girl looked at her friend and said, “I’m not pretty. I can’t be a princess…”
How do you feel about such a young girl already feeling not enough?
DO involve your children in housework, so boys can learn basic life skills like cooking, sewing, and cleaning, and girls also can learn things that tend to be male roles such as building or fixing something. Providing an opportunity helps children focus on who they are, not who they should be.
DON’T accept gender role expectations unless you are happy with them. Having strong gender roles can have a negative influence on children.
DO encourage your children to play sports (or any activity) in mixed-gender teams. Those girls and mom coaches on hockey teams have inspired me, and we need our children to be exposed to that.
DON’T say an activity is only for girls or boys. For instance, some may believe figure skating is a girls’ sport. Where in Japan male figure skaters are popular. That leads to gender bias toward certain activities.
DO encourage children to express their emotions. It helps children regulate their feelings. Sometimes the best way to regulate is simply crying. So make it normal to cry and support them with love.
DON’T tell boys “Boys don’t cry.” They need to cry and it’s a good thing. How would you feel if you don’t know how to express your feelings, yet you are not allowed to cry?
#5. Role Model for gender-neutral
DO become a good role model for your children and others. They watch you and grow, so more doing and less talking. Early childhood is the key for them to be exposed to a gender-neutral environment.
Additionally, we need to learn to unlearn. So start reflecting on your life, and make a change. Just imagine how beneficial it could be for your children & community.
DON’T believe that’s the way it is, so you can’t change.
Would you be happy if your daughter/daughter-in-law follows your path? If you say ‘no’ you have to take action, because change begins within you. And when you take a small action, things will start shifting for the better.
You may be wondering why that Hello Kitty picture was up there. That Hello Kitty was my son’s choice when he created his own custom-made stuffy. And I was quite happy to see his choice.
As you know when babies are born, they don’t have any ideas about gender yet. What we provide influences their perception of what she/he wants to have. That is something I wasn’t aware of, but now I know.
Once they get old enough, they know what they want.
With that being said, please give your children lots of opportunities through gender-neutral parenting.