What (really) is Gender Neutral Parenting?
Gender Neutral Parenting (GNP) is a term that is often used by millennial parents and it’s picking up popularity in India. But there is still some lack of in-depth understanding on what GNP really means.
GNP is not about making boys wear pink or making girls wear blue. Nor is it about blurring the lines between genders or ‘forcibly’ ensuring your child doesn’t follow the norm. It runs much deeper than that!
What is Gender Neutral Parenting?
This is my personal take on Gender Neutral Parenting – It’s about Gender Equality as a foundation & an #EqualForAll platform where kids are exposed to aspects of ALL genders and shared gender roles as a way of life in order to bridge the ‘stereotyped’ gap between genders so they are comfortable being who they are.
And it all begins at home!
It includes creating an environment where ALL IS EQUAL FOR ALL and it comes naturally.
Research indicates that kids start developing their attitudes toward societal groups as early as age 3. Between 3 & 6, they can recognise discrimination. Between 6 & 10, they might even apply it. At around 10, kids start relying on their own experiences & opinions of their peers to form their own beliefs & prejudices.
So it’s imperative that we create a Gender Equal & Neutral environment at home as early as possible in order to overcome the influences that they’ll face later. It’s also easier to explain it to kids once they’re older if they’re already inclined towards Gender Neutrality because of their initial upbringing.
But how do you do that?
Gender Neutral Parenting – A Way Of Life!
It’s actually a lot easier than it seems to incorporate Gender Neutral Parenting in to your daily life and your style of parenting. Here are a few things that you can start as a family from the day your baby is born. Remember, it’s less about teaching and more about creating the right environment. Kids (even as babies) learn more from our actions than words.
1. Play is a great GNP tool
Play is a great GNP tool – Give them all kinds of toys from the time they are babies including toys that break gender stereotypes. Cars, trucks, building blocks, dolls/stuffed toys & kitchen sets should be given to both boys & girls. Toys with wheels & building blocks are great for STEM learning. Kitchen sets & dolls teach personal & sensitive social learning. Learning has no gender!
Same applies to colours. Colour stereotyping (blue for boys & pink for girls) is the first stereotype that kids learn rather early. Don’t get me wrong! There is nothing wrong in girls liking pink or boys liking blue. Karma loves pink. It’s one of her favourite colours along with blue and orange at the moment. But till age 3, she didn’t associate any of these colours to a gender. Read this Instagram post to know more. What matters is an overall exposure to all colours with regards to clothes, accessories, drawing activities etc that not only aids mental development but also prevents a very basic form of gender stereotyping.
2. Practice gender equality & neutrality every day
How you behave with each other as parents and partners will have the maximum impact. That is why the two of you should play every role. Kids learn more from our actions than what we tell them. They see it in how we behave with each other & outsiders. What we do at home creates a ‘normal’ for them. That is what they will expect from their partners tomorrow when they grow up.
Hence, parenting responsibilities, chores, hobbies & breaks should be visibly (if not totally equally) split between partners. That way, we set a mindset for them to expect & work towards the same equality in the work & personal relationships they form later. If you’re going to harp to your about being independent and finding an equal partner, then be that kind of partner yourself! What dad can do, mom can do and vice versa.
3. Talk to your ecosystem
Speak to your parents, close friends & your kid’s school/daycare about Gender Neutral Parenting & how to consciously make an effort towards it. We spoke to Karma’s school/daycare about Gender Neutral Play. We did the same with her grandparents & asked them to avoid any kind of stereotyped gender talks in front of her. It takes some effort & gentle explaining (sometimes more than gentle) but it’s worth the effort.
Gender Neutral Parenting – Just Try!
None of us are perfect parents. The best we can do is try and set an example by ensuring our actions are in par with gender equality & neutrality in order to limit the subtle and not so subtle outside influences that might have negative implications. We all want our kids to be true to their natural personality and not have to give in to certain norms that have become common but are not necessarily positive. I believe just actively trying can result in world of difference towards our children’s freedom to be who they are versus doing nothing.
I also get a lot of questions from parents on why their daughter likes pink or wants to be a princess even though they practice gender neutral parenting. I will share my thoughts and views on the same soon in a new blog post. I strongly believe in the exchange of ideas, so if you have any tips that you would like to share, please write it down in comments and I will share some in my next blogpost on GNP with full credits to you. As parents, sharing information helps us all! Till then, I hope you found this post helpful and will try out the tips listed. 🙂