Do you hesitate when your baby girl pulls you towards the superhero section in the toy store rather than the barbie section? Do you feel like you need to do something when you see your boy crying at the littlest things?
Gender stereotyping: We all do it without even realizing we’re doing it.
Gender stereotypes are ideas all of us are ingrained with by default about the type of behaviour that is considered culturally appropriate for men and women. It might seem insignificant when your child is still young, but it affects them more than you think. Read on to know how.
The Reason We Gender Stereotype
Thousands of movies, books and shows on TV all show the same thing, eventually we believe that’s how it is supposed to be, right? We are so influenced by what is considered the norm in the society, that we impose them upon our children without giving a second thought. A child's earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents. It can start as early as painting your son’s nursery blue and your daughter’s pink, and move on things like treating sons and daughters differently, dressing infants in gender specific colours, giving gender differentiated toys, and expecting different behavior from boys and girls - all of these feed this stereotype.
If you want an upfront example of gender stereotyping that you probably never even thought twice about, look at your kid’s textbooks. Do you find things like ‘He was carrying a block of cement’ , ‘He was pushing a vehicle’ and ‘She was picking up the flowers’ ? Did you ever ask yourselves, why?
Do not ignore it thinking it must just be a coincidence. Your son/daughter will pick up all such small cues and it will have a huge impact on the life-choices they make later on, limiting themselves by ignoring their abilities.
What Can You Do?
It is only by the age of 4 or 5 that kids are able to identity themselves as a boy or a girl. Everything they see and hear in this age largely sways them towards how they are expected to be when they grow up. So, they need to be shown that there are alternatives to the classic stereotypes.
Think of it this way - Your daughter who always plays with Lego blocks might develop a keen interest in becoming an architect and this is possible only if you tell her that she can. You need to tell her that there’s nothing she can’t do if she puts her mind to it.
Introduce her to career-oriented women like scientists and businesswomen and show her movies with strong female leads. This will reinforce her confidence and will keep her motivated.
Benefits of tackling gender stereotypes while raising your kid
1. They will genuinely begin to believe in mutual respect and equality among human beings.
2. They will develop realistic expectations about relationships and the opposite gender’s role in them.
3. They will be unbiased in their opinions when it comes to things like sports and career choices.
It is impossible to control every little thing your child is exposed to, but all we ask of you is to leave it up to them to make their own choices. If he wants to become a cook when he grows up or if she wants to be an athlete, then do not do anything to discourage them or make them aspire to be what the society considers as ‘gender appropriate’.
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