From early childhood, people are taught by society to fit into boxes befitting their sex. As a result, they tend to believe that certain doors are automatically closed on them, simply by virtue of what they were born with. This means possibly missing out on many opportunities, and even not being able to pursue their interests because they’ve locked themselves into the notion that their world is restricted to what society dictates. A study published on Think Progress reported that this can lead to personal dissatisfaction and unhappiness, because people are forced to conform to a strict set of rules based on their gender.
There has certainly been a lot of progress in the last couple of years, with many males and females daring to venture into fields traditionally identified as the exclusive domain of the opposite sex. Parents play a critical role in this. Depending on how they raise their offspring, their children can grow up knowing that there are various opportunities that await them, or they can believe that they are only restricted to fitting into traditional roles. This article provides tips and suggestions for parents to help them bring up children who are not limited to such restrictions.
Allow them to choose their own clothes and toys
Regardless of age, a person’s own choices help define their identity. Thus, parents can encourage their children to make their own decisions about things that affect them. At a young age, this can be what clothes to wear and what toys to play with. A step up to helping them create their own identities would be to provide them with gender-neutral apparel and toys. Gender-neutral clothing label Tootsa suggests this doesn’t bind kids to societal restrictions, therefore allowing them to enjoy their childhood through fun, colorful clothes.
Expose them to different settings
One great way to teach your children to explore the world is to expose them to a wide variety of situations where they can see for themselves what men and women are capable of. For instance, you can take your child to watch a sports game, which features female athletes. If you’re visiting someone in the hospital, you can introduce your offspring to a male nurse. That way, they can see for themselves that there are those who pursue careers and hobbies based on their interests, not according to what society tells them they should do.
Talk to them about their feelings
Parents are more likely to talk to their daughters more than their sons about their feelings, simply by virtue of the fact that men are supposed to bottle up their emotions. Parents should strive to open communication lines with their kids, regardless of their sex. Not only will they be updated about their children’s lives, they also will have an idea of what their dreams and problems are, and provide the necessary support to them to address any issues.
Walk the talk
It may seem cliché, but modeling still remains one of the most effective ways of teaching children how to behave. Parents should take care not to show prejudice towards anyone. They should also take the initiative to show their children their stance on sex and gender through their actions. For instance, mothers should not just be the ones to perform household chores. Quick and Dirty Tips also advises parents to be cautious with their words, as they may unintentionally reinforce gender stereotypes. For instance, saying “boys will be boys” supports the message that they have a free pass to be rambunctious.
The bottom line is, parents should make sure that their household has an equal-opportunity setting, instead of one driven by stereotypes.
Exclusively written for Build and Imagine