Walk into any toy store and the first thing you get asked is, “Is it a boy or a girl?” Though this question may seem normal and ordinary to some, many others see that it is the result of how our society feels the need to gender everything. From clothes, toys, feelings, career choices, movies – nothing is left.
And in such a world, you would think to make gender-neutral parenting a reality would be impossible. But there are numerous parents out there who are doing it, from celebs to young parents everywhere. Read on to find out how.
Open up possibilities
Gender roles and stereotypes only weigh us down. So if you want to parent your kid in a gender-neutral way, let them know all about the world that exists beyond these norms. As your child grows and pays attention to the world around them, do not limit them to pinks and blues.
For Arlo and her mom, Jesse Sullivan, this kind of parenting came about naturally. Jesse knew that she wanted to let her child experiment with and experience everything from Disney movies to the Star Wars franchise – and that’s exactly what happened. She never gendered things for Arlo.
It is not just about clothing or toys
As much as toys and clothing for kids are heavily influenced by gender – there is so much more to gender-neutral parenting than that. This is because our perception of gender affects how we handle emotions, how we talk to people, and the things we do around the house as well. So, to truly bring this style of parenting into effect, you need to look at what you do or say around your child critically. Statements like “boys do not cry” or “girls do not sit like that” must be abandoned – they are harmful to children in any household. When talking about the future and the life ahead, use terms like a partner instead of wife or boyfriend, to let your child know they can be with anyone they want. Do not divide chores around the house based on gender – let boys work in the kitchen and girls help out in the garage.
Let your child take the lead
Parenting has to be all about the child. Gender-neutral parenting is no doubt, great for your kid. But let them define what growing up as gender-neutral means for them. If your boy likes to wear pink hairbands and watch The Avengers, grab some popcorn and take part in the fun. If your daughter does not like wearing dresses but asks for one, later on, show her your support. By doing this, you can make your child feel in control of how they express themselves.
Find a way to connect with the larger society
Gender-neutral parenting is great – but it might take a while for the rest of the society to adopt it as well. Many parents who follow this style have shared instances of being ridiculed in public by fellow parents, that their child has been bullied for stepping outside of stereotypes, etc. Even teachers and family members have their rude and ignorant comments to make about it. Your child is not oblivious to these things – they hear, see, and observe. This kind of conflict between what goes on at home and at school can be a source of the issue. So, it is best to have a conversation with your child whenever something like that happens. Do not laugh it off or ignore it. Tell your child the difference between what others think a girl or a boy should be, and what you think. By doing this, your child will understand things better.
Let your child know they can decide for themselves
As a parent, there would be certain decisions you would have to take for them in the early years – like their names and pronouns. But just because you chose them, it does not mean your child will necessarily be comfortable with them for the rest of their lives. As kids grow up, they begin to know themselves more and more. Your child might realize that she/her suits her better than he/him, or that they/them pronouns feel most comfortable for them. Whatever it is, respect your child’s reality and uniqueness and be there for them along the way.