Teaching gender roles to children
The question running in most new generation parents mind. How can I not be gender stereotypical ? Well, if you ask me, it's a lifestyle. A way of thinking. A natural order of things for you as an individual. An inbuilt system of being open minded. It's - a part of you.
There isn't a time or place to teach your children about gender stereotyping. Children learn different things from different people. Some by observation and some by listening to what adults tell them. Well then how do children learn about differences in gender when I don't specifically teach them about it. It's either nature or nurture introduced.
So now the question arises - how to ensure you don't nurture it and nature doesn't cause it. What is nurture introduced gender stereotyping anyway ? "Your a boy, don't play with dolls!" "Your a girl, stop jumping around" "Boys don't wear pink !" "Being a girl you want to play cricket?!" Sounds familiar?? When you put the seeds of stereotype in the small impressionable mind of your child. That's nurture introduced.
The only way to prevent it? A conscious effort by you, parents. An effort to provide a conducive, open environment for your child to choose what he wants, an effort to control the urge to push your child into the norms of society we live in, an effort to inculcate in your child an open, undifferentiated thinking.
Nature introduced stereotyping are more difficult to address as the sources are various. Although you can't really address all the sources, an obvious place they could be getting influenced is at schools or while playing with friends. If a teacher at your child's school or a friend/child of friend is propagating these ideas, and you have crossed the herculean task of finding out exactly who it is, there is no harm in talking to them about your concerns. If your child's playmate makes statements which evidently their parents say to them and you don't want your child to learn or follow the same, a simple solution would be finding a new playmate. But a more profitable one for the society would be raising your concerns to the respective parents. It may sound like you giving gyan and all, but you never know your efforts to make society a better place may actually pay off.
The lasting and important step on your part though would be to guide your child through it all. Keep communication constant and open. Listen to them and then teach them. Finally, live a life which doesn't portray a stereotypical thinking. Build a lifestyle for your child which teaches respect and equality to all.
This will be one of the things we are glad you are breaking !
Also read: Thinking Out of the Gender Box
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