We tend to buy dolls for girls, trucks for boys. Pink for girls, blue for boys. Here’s why we need to stop raising kids to conform to gender stereotypes.
I support the balance between genders (call me a feminist if you will). I want girls to pursue ambitions without limits and boys to never feel like they have to “man up.” I scoffed when I overheard a dad discourage his son from taking a cupcake because it was pink.
Stop raising kids to conform to gender stereotypes
It would suit society if every child acted how he or she was “supposed to.” They would fit right in and wouldn’t feel isolated or different. It’d be easier to conform to social norms.
I don’t think think parents need to challenge gender roles all the time. Parents should feel free to dress their boys in blue and girls in pink without feeling like they conform to gender stereotypes. I don’t want to dress a boy in a tutu just to make a point if he has no interest in tutus or ballet.
That said, true equality is allowing your son to play dolls and your daughter to play messy sports. It’s not easy or typical, but our first priority should be supporting our children’s interests, not succumbing to gender roles.
The path to gender equality isn’t shielding your kids from stereotypes (“I’ll never let my daughter play with a Barbie doll”). Instead, it’s opening opportunities to everyone (“My son can play with a Barbie doll”).
Just as women should be CEOs, so should she also be free to take a more discreet role (or not work at all). More women CEOs would help balance the gender gap, yes. But so should we support stay-at-home dads without the negative stigmas.
No more tomboys
We’re more likely to encourage a girl to play in the mud than we are to encourage a boy to paint his room pink. Somehow, boy ambitions are still more acceptable than girl ones. We are, despite the strides we’ve made, still a male-centric world. Tomboy girls don’t get as much grief as boys who play with dolls.
Avoiding gender altogether doesn’t solve the problems of feeling defined or limited by it. We can’t erase what sets boys and girls different and would do better to accept those differences. A child should feel free to identify with a gender and still feel like he or she can do anything without limits.
In other words, girl should be able to like princesses and build forts just as a boy can play soccer and bake cookies.
I dress my boys in boy clothes and buy them trucks, but we still do what every parent can do to teach gender equality: by example. Our boys see their dad cooking in the kitchen and folding laundry. They see their parents treat each other with respect. We honor both our careers and enjoy taking the day off to stay home with the kids.
And we don’t discourage them from “girly” things like eating the pink cupcake.
Get more parenting tips:
- How to Deal with Gender Disappointment During Your Pregnancy
- Do You and Your Partner Share Parenting Duties?
- How to Involve Dads at Home: 8 Effective Ways
- “Are Dads the New Moms?”: The Generation of the Hands On Father
- The Pros and Cons of Brand Name Toys
Your turn: Do you think you raise your kids to conform to gender stereotypes? Do your kids play with toys of the opposite gender? What are the benefits of not focusing on gender (like Storm’s parents)?
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