As a very proud feminist, parenthood has been an interesting time over the last three and a half years. My husband will tell you I think way too much way too early about my kids and what I want to teach them. For instance, you might not truly consider teaching gender equality to your kids until their older, like teenagers, but really the lessons that your child needs to learn should start way before that.
When you have a teenage boy keeping a girl from joining their team because “she’s a girl and can’t shoot a basketball” then you probably missed a lesson that could have been taught earlier.
I know and it cannot be denied that no matter how hard we teach our kids an important lesson it may not be picked up. It’s also impossible to deny the strong influence society, school, teachers, mentors, coaches, television, movies, advertising, all have on our children.
Ultimately, change needs to happen more than just us teaching our kids, but what do we have control over in this moment? Raising kids that think differently that is something we can strive for.
Then how do we teach kids about gender equality?
Is the lesson different for boys and girls? No. I have seen, recently in fact, article after article online about gender equality and the headline reads “How to teach your son about gender equality” or “How to teach your daughter about gender equality” and I really want to comment that they perhaps missed the lesson themselves. Teaching kids about equality means we need to teach kids, boys and girls, the same lessons.
No One is Special
Everyone is equal means no one person is better than another. This goes even into what you say to your child that many seem like giving them special treatment or teaching them perfection. For instance, my husband and I DO NOT call our daughter a princess. We purposefully avoid any such sentiment. Why? Because she isn’t a princess. She is a wonderful, intelligent, beautiful little girl, but she is not perfect, and she is not better than anyone else, like a princess would seem. The same goes for our son, he is a smart, cute little boy, but he is not in any way special or better than his sister.
Counter the Stereotypes they see Publicly
Realizing you cannot hide your child in a bubble for the rest of their life you have to be vigilant about what they are learning from outside sources. Talk to your kids. Make sure you have an open relationship where they can discuss what went on during their day. Do not refrain from certain fun activities just because it may have the wrong lesson, learn and teach them counter lessons. For instance, do not avoid princess movies because it’s they show some damsel in distress but counter princess movies with movies with a strong female lead like Wonder Woman.
Help Them Critique the Gender Messages They Receive
Help them understand those messages they receive and help them decide for themselves how they feel about them.
Explore Gender Neutral Toys and Clothes
Find all kinds of toys that are gender neutral. Avoid toys marketed just to one gender. For instance, Fisher Price has their Little People toys. My kids love Little People and I love getting them for my kids. However, Fisher Price feels there’s some sort of need to make a separate toy in pink for it to be a “girl toy.” For instance, they have a train then they have the exact same train in pink.
Watch How You Describe Your Child
There are many different words that tend to be used for specific genders descriptors, try to avoid them and think about how you utilize them when describing your child. For instance, would you only use “sweet” to describe your daughter? Do you use “handsome” or “strong” only to describe your son? You do not have to completely stop using these descriptors but switch it up. Make sure if you’re describing your son as “strong” and “resilient” that you describe your daughter the same way.
Teach both about consent early. Consent is an amazing lesson because it does not have to be centered around sex. If your kids are playing, make sure they know when the other is done. If one begins to cry, then that means they’re done and the other should stop. When one says “stop” or “no” then listen. Consent is the most gender-neutral lesson. Both boys and girls need to understand when it’s okay and when to stop.
You are Able to Do Anything Yourself
Teach your children to be independent on an equal basis. Do not sit back and do everything for them. Teach them how to do the essentials they will need to get by to succeed as an adult. This includes, no matter the gender, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, getting a job, speaking to their boss on their own, making doctors appoints, quitting a job, paying taxes, etc. Don’t coddle one gender over the other.
Be the Example
Teach your children that you and your spouse are equals and do this by showing them. Every lesson you want them to learn will be reinforced by seeing the strength and equality you portray.
How do you feel about gender equality? What is your greatest wish for your children in the future?