How To Stop Gender Stereotyping In Toddlers
Don't think in pinks and blues.
8 July 2017
Kids, between the ages of 2-4, learn and adapt the most from their settings and while you, as a responsible parent are doing everything to ensure their positive upbringing, as adults, we unintentionally teach young children to gender stereotypes.
It’s almost instinctive for parents to choose pink for girls and blue for boys, to expect girls to play with dolls and for boys to prefer trains. While these seemingly normal acts are harmless, they do leave an impression on your baby’s thought process.
What they learn from their environment and adults at the age of 2 to 4 shows up when many preschoolers begin adopting stereotypical behaviours. Girls, for example, may spend most of their time in the dress-up or kitchen corner of their preschool classroom. Little boys may engage in activities that make them feel powerful, such as constructing block towers and then knocking them down with a toy truck.
These involuntary actions create a long term effect in their character building and it’s important for you to make sure that your toddlers don't end up with lasting gender ideas based on stereotypes.
Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate your child’s thought process toward a positive and healthy society that isn’t guided by common stereotypes.
1. Try not to see the world in pinks and blues.
The majority of parents tend to gender stereotype their kids long before they are born. Pinks for girls and blues for boys is a given.
This colour-based gender representation is hard to skip because apparently there's no harm in it. Dig a little deeper and you'll notice how pink represents beauty, delicacy and subtlety while blue stands for machoism, power and worldliness.
By restricting your kids to the specific colour palette, you're actually restricting their imagination. Despite what you’re told, open your mind to the idea that both genders can appreciate a diverse palette.
2. Never say NO based on gender.
We've all got some biases to deal with — but kids can pick up on them from a young age, so it's important to watch what you say.
A lot of times, parents stop their kids from doing solely on the basis of their gender. For instance, girls are often stopped from climbing trees NOT because it's dangerous but because they may not be able to do it. Similarly, boys are often frowned upon for playing with dolls only because they’re ‘not supposed’ to.
Before you tell your toddler ‘no’ think about a valid non-stereo reason. Allow reasonable freedoms, even if they breach unwritten social norms.
3. Encourage mixed-gender playdates.
While it's common for kids to be friendlier and open to the same gender, boys and girls who play together tend to engage in more varied activities.
Boys who spend time with girls are sensitive to the environment. They learn about creative and imaginative skills. Whereas girls who regularly play with boys may spend more time outdoors, building their bodies through vigorous exercise.
4. Teach them the difference
The world is riddled with sexism. Books, movies, TV, cartoons, commercials - it's everywhere. While you may not be able to do much about the society, you can make sure that your kid doesn't get any preconceived notions. Point out sexism to your children, where you see it.
For instance, let them know Barbie's thin waste has little to do with beauty. Or it's not always the boy who gets to save the girl in the movies.