Yesterday, my little children and I were shopping when I heard another child crying loudly in the next hall. Immediately, I heard a man whistle, "Stop crying right now, only the girls are crying, are you a little girl now, should I go buy you a little pink dress, cut it NOW!" I stopped short in this exchange while my children looked at me with wide eyes. "Mom, why did she say that?" Everyone cried, not just the girls, "said my 4-year-old son. He looked at his older brother to confirm it. My 6 year old son hesitated and looked at me. "Are you crying only for the girls?" When I explained that crying is not limited to a specific sex, I realized that we have officially arrived at the key place in all childhood where gender stereotypes begin.
I can tell you all day that one's genitals or sexual disposition do not inherently limit a person to specific rules, but how can I make them believe it when our current society is fighting so hard against that? When television shows consistently portray parents as dead husbands or imbeciles, you can not trust even the simplest of domestic chores or raising children. When the warnings of colonies and pants over-sexualize them, they send the message that they need to have a pack of six and a girl-looking woman next to them to look masculine. When commercials tell them that there is a particular standard of manhood, they should be loved and respected among their peers. How can I fix what apparently can not be fixed?
According to the article "How to avoid gender stereotypes" at www.Parents.com, "research shows that babies can distinguish between men and women from the first year, what is more, they begin to form gender stereotypes as soon as they know they are boys and girls. "
In other words, it is normal for children at this age to try to explore and understand the rules of the world: what it is and what it is not. Our job as parents, however, is to help them navigate the muddy waters, so they can grow up and become healthy adults emotionally and mentally.
Let's start from the beginning. Gender is defined in the dictionary as "the state of being a man or woman, used with reference to social and cultural differences instead of biological ones". This means that gender is not about whether you are a girl or a boy as defined by your reproductive organs. Gender is what society considers appropriate for men and women when it comes to toys, clothes, movies, colors, sports and academic activities. For example, society in general does not welcome the boys 'use of pink and girls' soccer because of gender issues.
It is important to understand, however, that gender stereotypes can be harmful for the child to learn his sense of himself and his place in the world. The author William Pollack, PH.D, writes in Real Boys: Rescuing Our Children from the Myths of Childhood, "Boys are made to feel shame again and again, in full growth, to Through what I call the process of hardening the shame of society, "he says. "The idea is that a boy needs to be disciplined, hardened, made to act like a 'real man', to be independent, to keep emotions under control." A child is told that "big kids do not cry", that he should not being a "mother's child." If these things are not said directly, these messages subtly dominate how children are treated, and therefore how children come to think of themselves. "
Boys are not only told to hide their vulnerability and emotion, refrain from playing certain games and wear certain colors, but they are also given a set of rules that are expected to be met by women.
Kansas City mother Heather Birdwell feels that one aspect of gender stereotypes that bother her is that children are taught to do certain things for girls. "Children are always told to do special things specifically for women, and in our family, we teach respect for stereotyped roles, I hope my daughter opens a door for someone behind her, as much as I hope my son holds the door of a person with full hands, it does not matter if that person is a man or a woman, the rule should still apply. "
Although I think the gender lines are blurring as society begins to understand more about the emotional, mental and physical needs of children, it is important that we work to lay the foundations for our children as they grow up. . How do we do this? There are several ways to avoid gender stereotypes:
- Encourage shared play dates.
- Reinforce behaviors that break stereotypes. For example, a father may say to his crying child: "Sometimes I also feel like crying."
- Question all generalizations. Janice Garfinkel, a teacher in South Bellmore, New York, constantly tries to probe generalizations in her class. "In the preschool, the girls say to the children: 'Imagine you are the father, and it is time for you to come home from work, I am the mother and I take care of the baby.' I always ask the children:" Do you know any mother who goes to work every day? "
- Tune in to your own prejudices. "Parents should review their behavior to make sure they are not doing or saying anything that becomes harmful," says Charles Flatter, Ph.D., professor of human development at the University of Maryland.
The above tips are useful, but only the beginning. We have to improve for our children. We have to teach them that it is OK to express their emotions and that doing so does not make them less people. That it is okay to be themselves in whatever capacity that entails.
"Children can not …" is not part of my vocabulary. "Be a kind and honest person" is. I think it's a good lesson for everyone.