Every day there are great opportunities to introduce and reinforce ideas about equality and fairness to our children, and to challenge gender stereotypes. Reminding our girls and boys that they can be whoever they want to be, regardless of gender is important, but while we have advanced greatly, there is still work to be done on fairness and equality. Here are five ways that you can make a difference.
Be a good role model
Like with most things parenting, being a good role model is key.
Children's attitudes and beliefs are influenced from a very young age through watching and learning from their parents and carers. It is, therefore, our responsibility to nurture and lay healthy foundations for our children, and to educate them against stereotypes and discrimination.
While we should empower young girls to be strong, assertive, self-confident and self-reliant, we should also teach young boys to respect and value that empowerment.
Girls and boys should be treated equally by their parents and carers so that they can learn to live on an equal footing.
Not classifying toys as boy or girl toys, not dressing girls only in pink and boys in blue, and sharing household responsibilities equally, are some ways that can help.
Talk to your children about what they see and hear
While you might be raising your child in a non-stereotypical household, they will still be influenced by the world around them, in the media, school and wider family members. Talk honestly to them about what they see and hear, how they feel about it, what it means and reinforce the message of fairness and equality.
Stop using gender as an excuse for behaviour
From saying that "boys are harder to potty train then girls" to "boys tend to be more physical," I hear gender stereotypes all the time in my job.
The truth is though, children are children, and all children are different. When we use gender to make excuses for certain behaviours or explain a particular preference or achievement, we are dividing them into different boxes and creating differences.
Show children a variety of role models
Children need to be exposed to both male and female role models. From everyday heroes to historical figures, talk with your children about how the world has changed and who helped to change it. Teach your children that both men and women shape the world that we live in.
Big boys do cry
"Stop crying like a girl" or "Big boys don't cry". There shouldn't be 'girl' or 'boy' emotions.
All children, regardless of gender, should learn how to be empathetic and compassionate, and should feel comfortable expressing their feelings - largely learned from how their parents and carers respond to them when they are sad and upset. So, model empathy, let them see you upset, reassure them and let them know that it is ok to cry.
While there is still a lot of inequality happening in the world, there have been great leaps forward and hopefully, with the right foundations being laid, our children can help create an even fairer, more equal future.
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