When Rhea turned five, her mother hosted a grand party for her. Guests came in with loads of gifts. And most of the gifts turned out to be in either shade of pink or beautiful dolls. On the contrary, as Rishi turned five, the gifts were mainly video games and racing toy cars.
The world is making Rhea and Rishi develop their preferences, colored by gender.
We live in a world, wherein our child’s life is continuously being infiltrated by books, toys, movies, television shows, games, clothes and so on. Each telling them how a particular gender is and should be. This constant reinforcement leads to Gender stereotyping in children.
As parents, it becomes very important to not reinforce this stereotyping at home and be extra careful of the messages that we send out to our children.
5 ways to avoid gender stereotyping in Children:
1. Encourage mix gender play dates and expand their pool of activities
When boys and girls play together, the range of activities that they are willing to try becomes larger, and they can form their own likes and dislikes, without being influenced by gender. Encourage your child to participate in both outdoor and indoor activities equally.
2. Educate them regarding the messages society throws at them
Whenever you spot a message re-enforcing gender stereotypes, coming your child’s way, take a minute, and educate your child about the message. Tell them, why the message is wrong and should be discarded. Don’t let them believe that “Blue is for boys” and “pink is for girls”, or that “a hero is needed to save the girl” or that “the girl has to be a damsel in distress” or that “boys should only like racing cars and girls should like pretty dolls”, and so on.
3. Encourage questioning the generalizations
Encourage your child to interact with every other child as an individual, regardless of their gender. Don’t let them buy generalizations or even make generalizations. Encourage usage of the word “Why”.
4. Encourage reading gender neutral books
Encourage your child to read books that do not lay down gender stereotypes. Let the book give wings to your child’s imagination irrespective of their gender.
5. Watch the messages that you are sending out to your child
Children are watching you very closely and they are absorbing every message that you send out – both direct and subtle messages. Are you encouraging your girl child to try her hand at sports? Are you asking your boy child to help you with activities at home? Are you addressing your children as “my strong boy” and “my pretty girl”? Watch your messages, even when they are not noticing you.
Gender Stereotyping is everywhere, and it is easy for your child to fall into the trap. Hence it is so important to educate your child about its perils. Don’t let Gender stereotyping limit the possibilities for your child.