When a child is born, the parents’ initial reaction is to find out if it’s a boy or a girl. Children belonging to a certain gender is a powerful social identity that shapes their lives. It’s parents who give them their first lessons on gender and socialization. Obviously, everything starts with the parent’s knowledge and education. Have you been raised with the idea that a girl has to take care of children, clean, dress and feed her family and her man? Maybe you were told (as most have been) pink is a girl’s color and blue belongs to boys. You were taught as a young girl that men are supposed to be providers. That proves he’s worthy as a husband. And of cours boys play with trucks and ridiculed if caught playing with dolls. You’re not wrong if you think these are antiquated ideas from the 1950’s!
However these stereotypical values have persisted over time no matter how progressive the world has become. Parents and teachers are way more aware of switching up gender roles and assumptions– allowing girls to play with trucks and other toys deemed masculine while boys can wear pink and play with dolls more openly. However, parents who were raised with strict ideas of masculine and feminine can still feel awkward even though, they’re supposed to be ‘politically correct’. Fathers especially, don’t want to see their sons cry as that stereotypically means weakness. Girls are the ones who cry and need protection!
Parents influence the development of their children’s gender in a variety of ways, including their example and the different activities and behaviors they encourage in children of each sex. These reflections lead us to really look at the way we perceive our children, as boys and girls who are unique beings. They possess emotions that are unique to them, regardless of gender. We must look at what we want to leave as values to our children. Is it wrong to dress our boy in blue and our girl in pink? Not at all! Is it wrong to want our boy to be strong in the face of adversity and to protect our daughter from hardship? Not at all!
The most important thing is to look at what’s best for them, respect their emotions and accept how they express them. Again, we serve as models for our children. They imitate us in our way of being, thinking and functioning. So, what values would you like to leave to your children? Do you want your daughter, as well as your boy, to be strong in the face of adversity? Do you want to protect both your boy and your girl from hard knocks? I am convinced your answer is yes. It is the most cherished desire of all parents.
Maybe it’s necessary to speak to your man (in private) if he says that a boy does not cry or gives more time to his daughter thinking that it’s necessary to protect his little princess. You may have to explain to him that his little boy needs as much as his daughter, to play with his dad and to be protected. Likewise, you may want your boy to start doing some chores in the house to make him more responsible. It’s okay to make small changes over time. Remember, it takes a little over three weeks to change habits but even longer to change beliefs rooted in you! So, if you repeat a stereotypical behavior, cut yourself some slack because now you have self awareness.
You’re winning and fulfilled when giving gender neutral love to each of your children. You’re increasing their self-esteem, the feeling of being loved and most importantly giving them permission to feel safe in expressing who they really are!