“Breaking the norm of pink is for girls and blue is for boys.”
India, a country with a population of 1.380 billion within which 71.7 crore people are male and 66.3 crore people are female. Throughout the years it has adopted many social barriers based on gender, mostly known as “gender bias” and “gender stereotype.” Various studies have shown that today around 5-8% of people are focusing on gender equality and are turning their back on socially made gender barriers and stereotypes. One such step which is being taken by people in India to ensure this is “gender-neutral parenting.”
What is gender-neutral parenting?
Gender-neutral parenting means raising a child free from socially made gender norms. Basically, it means bringing up children by avoiding social structures and gender role. Dr. Brown says that “goal must be always on what are the good traits and skills to have.” Thus, gender-neutral parenting focuses on personal development.
Why is gender-neutral parenting important?
Now, as the question arises that why gender-neutral parenting is important? What are the effects of gender-neutral parenting? The answers to these are as follows:
- Varsha Makhija, a clinical psychologist says that it will bring confidence in children in making their choices. It will also make them open-minded individual which will help them to fight against social stereotypes and biases.
- Deepika K., a Bangalore based marketer says that gender-neutral parenting will allow the child to be away from gender biases, roles and stereotypes. This will make them look at the world in a different way which will give a path to equality around them.
- It will allow the child to respect people equally without any discrimination based on sex.
- The child will be able to be who he/she is as an individual and not what society wants them to become.
- Due to the unbiased mindset, the child will become a leader of their own, throughout their life and not a follower.
- It will enhance the interest and insight in children about everything which will ultimately make them work and think in an innovative manner.
- The child will become the agent of gender equality in both schools and outside school.
- The child will grow up as a gender-neutral person with the ability to never have a bias in any situation.
- This will ultimately help the child grow fully with an open mindset giving way and importance to the values and good habits.
When should parents start practising this mantra of bringing equality?
The right time is a child’s early age, that is, from the time the child is born and continue it throughout life. Children develop a habit and learn quickly at their early age which stays with them all their life.
What are the ways in which parents can be gender-neutral while raising their child?
Following are the 8 important and effective ways to ensure raising children through gender-neutral parenting:
- Focus on your psychology: First and foremost thing to keep in mind while gender-neutral parenting is your own psychology. Analyse yourself by asking questions like- Are your thoughts gender-biased? Are your thoughts and actions limited to gender stereotype? Are you open-minded? Self- analysing and knowing your thought process is very important because you are going to teach your children, they are going to learn from you through listening and seeing your actions.
- Get knowledge: If you want to practice gender-neutral parenting and don’t have much knowledge as to how to raise a child then read books and articles on the same or ask from a friend who is raising a child by parenting in a gender-neutral way or from someone who has knowledge about the concept. Having knowledge about the subject may also help you to make other people or parents understand the importance of gender-neutral parenting.
- Be careful with your language: While speaking keep in mind that your words and sentences may not reflect gender bias. Try making it free from gender norms. For example, don’t use sentences like “you are a boy, don’t cry like a girl.” Also, don’t base your comments on the basis of looks for the girls and smartness for boys. Like, “aww you are so pretty girl,” “I must say the boy is very smart and intelligent.” Try not to be a stereotype, remember girls and boys both are smart and intelligent individuals and also both are pretty and beautiful at the same time.
- Gender-neutral colour clothes: Stay away from gender stereotype by regarding pink for girls and blue for boys. Choose any colour clothes for the child irrespectively or let the child choose whichever colour they want to wear. For example, if you go shopping with your son and he likes a pink colour outfit then don’t stop him by saying pink is worn by girls, not boys. Similarly, when you go shopping with your daughter then don’t put pressure on her to wear only pink clothes or only frocks, skirts and sandals. If she wants to buy clothes from the boys’ section then let her have them.
- Toys have no gender: Let your child play with whichever toy they want. Buy them toys being unbiased. If your son wants to play with a doll, let him play with it. If your daughter wants to play with cars, let her play with them. Don’t limit the toys and games for your child. This will help them to build the personality of respecting both male and female and they will not regard any sex as weaker or dominant. For them, everyone will be equal and they will judge the person on the basis of their activities and not on the basis of being male or female, being stronger or weaker.
- Let your child play with opposite-sex child: Try not to limit their surrounding and friendship only to same-sex children. For example, let your child play with both, boys and girls. Don’t limit your daughter to play only with other girls or don’t limit your son to play with boys only. Through this, they will understand the opposite sex better and this will help them in future relations like in schools or office. This will also help them to be comfortable around others.
- Focus on raising your child as an individual: Focus on raising your child as an individual by teaching them good habits. Try not to restrict the child’s opportunities and choices based on gender. For example, don’t stop a child saying “this is done by girls,” or “this is done by boys.” Instead, help the child to recognize gender stereotypes in society. Talk to children about the role models like female pilots, male nurses and so on. All this will help the child grow up as a strong and confident individual and they will love themselves for who they are.
- Activities at home: At home make an environment where the domestic work is done equally. Don’t regard it as gender-specific roles saying “domestic work is done only by girls, not boys and “taking care of everyone is the duty of girls, not boys.” Make sure that you and your partner have equal participation in domestic works because children learn from what they see. Also, don’t make jokes on men or women respectively. Instead, talk about an individual’s personality.
Thus, parents must make sure to focus on the child as an individual and not on the basis of the gender they belong to similarly, focus on gender equality and not on gender stereotype or gender roles.
Although, there will be certain challenges for the gender-neutral parents and children but focus on raising the child as a strong, independent and confident person. Thus, gender-neutral parenting is a nice concept to ensure equality and make your children strong enough to make decisions free from social barriers.