What (really) is Gender Neutral Parenting?

Shubhreet

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!

Gender Neutral Parenting | Raising KarmaNone 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. 🙂


 

15 Comments

  • Being the mother of a girl and a boy, I completely understand your perspective on this subject. Sadly, our society and economy is driven in a way that there are hardly any products that are not segregated by gender.

    • I agree…. but a good way around it to expose our kids to all kinds of toys and colours regardless of how they are segregated. That way, even though they might know something is segregated for a boy or girl but doesn’t actually have to that way! 🙂

  • I’ve grown in a gender neutral home and am trying to raise my boy and girl in a similar manner too. The habit to respect each other irrespective of gender must begin at home.

  • Gender neutral.parenting starts at home with a change of mindset for family members and other adults. Open ended toys ,also tasks management or chores division at home should also be on rotation to show kids that everyone does all tasks.

  • While raising a child giving her/him equal opportunity to choose a toy or dress and everything else too. Show them role models to actually realize that all are equal, irrespective of gender. Give respect to all without being judgmental.
    While we do all this at home, the outside factor also matters. And that’s real hard to change. The people in park who tell my son shame-shame as he cried on falling. Or a kid’s friend who keep saying girls can’t do this-that. But, yeah let start with small steps from home and make foundation strong.

  • I too believe that it actually begins at home and feel we parents can only bring change …I am so happy that I am trying to give equal parenting to my kids..

  • I am so happy to read this Shubhs.

    I was slightly disappointed when at the turn of my daughters 5th birthday, pink color and princesses appeared in our lives. For a moment, I thought that all my efforts at GNP went for a toss. It took me sometime to realise that at the core of GNP lies ‘choice’… to give them GNP information and environment, but ultimately the freedom to choose.

    Another interesting thing we learned was that even if our kids stick to the gender stereotypes, we can spin the conversation around it. Instead of talking about how pretty they look in their princess wala dress, we can talk about what are powers of the princess. Move the narrative from attire to abilities.

    Keeping a lot of non-gendered and open-ended toys (blocks, legos, rainbow stackers) helps in keeping off the stereotypes.

    I have personally observed that the higher the exposure to screen time (cartoons etc) leads to increase in awareness about gender stereotypes.

    • Neha, you have nailed it! There is nothing wrong in being princess. Countries have been run by princesses who became queens. GNP is more about teaching equality at the base with equal exposure to everything so kids can find what they resonate with without it being forced on them in any way! 🙂

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