Before learning about gender neutral parenting, let’s have a look at what is gender neutrality. Simply put, it means to avoid differentiating and distinguishing roles on the basis of the gender of a person. The differences in gender have been seen for quite a long time now and it has impacted many aspects of society. You can see basic differences in terms of children right in front of your eyes. They are quite open in society such as differentiating between the girly toys and boyish toys, dress code and dress color differences, even the names of the children, and so on. Gender discrimination and gender stereotyping go hand in hand. In order to cope up with these differences and to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender, parents are approaching the new trend of gender neutral parenting. Parents are taking baby steps towards this style. The reason could be any, it can be because parents were brought up in a gender-discriminatory environment or if the parent’s upbringing is done in a neutral way. In both, the reason, the win-win situation in this genderless parenting is taking up the pace in India. So, what exactly is raising children away from gender stereotypes?
All about gender-neutral parenting
This type of parenting style has different forms. It can go from moderate to extreme and the effects of gender neutral parenting can differ on these bases. Though it sounds a pretty amazing and right way of parenting, it does have its own good and bad sides. Basically, raising kids gender neutral means raising them up without defining the roles that are differentiated by the society. The parents who opt for a gender neutral parenting style opt for raising their children with genderless parenting. They try to teach their children skills and characteristics irrespective of what their gender is.
So, moderate gender neutral parenting style means that parents avoid discriminating toys as girl toys and boy toys in front of their children, they do not associate colors with gender such as pink for girl and blue for a boy. They also avoid throwing baby showers with a gender reveal party. However, there are a few cases of such strict gender neutral parenting, they avoid disclosing the gender of their child to society. They believe that to know a person and to befriend a person you do not need to know the gender. This can subject to extreme social and behavioral problems for the child when he or she goes out in the same society. So, we can infer that avoiding and eliminating gender completely is not the right way of gender neutral parenting, however, to avoid discrimination of any activities due to cross gender lines is the right way.
Gender-neutral parenting starts at home. Household chores can be divided equally between a girl child and a boy child. It starts from no-gender-specific roles at home to avoid the concept of the weaker sex and stronger sex to creep in and treat every gender equally. These kinds of parents also leave the decision of picking the toys and dress colors on the kids to further inculcate the power of equality. They try to make their kids feel the confidence in their choice and expressions regardless of their gender. With this change in the parenting style, even society has started to accept it. Instead of discriminating against the boy and girl toy aisle, they have introduced just the toy section without any tag of gender.
The right time to start with the gender-neutral parenting style
The gender-neutral parenting style allows the child to set free from the binary and have a breather. So, raising children gender-neutral has its own impact. So, if you are planning to raise your kid in such a way, then you might be wondering what is the right time to start with it. Psychologists say that this style of parenting starts early. However, the kid is unaware of gender at such a tender age, but choosing the nursey color, the baby toys with a slight hint of gender at the start itself will hinder this approach. Thus, it is believed that starting early is the best way to start. Another reason is that a child’s brain, body and the believes are built up at the early stages itself. So, this approach right from the initial stages will surely have an impact.
Another most important part that doctors talk about is choosing the right type of clothes. Such that generally, baby girl’s cloth will come in pink and it will have quotes such as daddy’s princess while the boy’s cloth will be different and have a hint of masculinity in it. This is what psychologists say to avoid if the parents are preferring this new approach to parenting.
Tips for genderless parenting
Though we already talked about various ways the parents can start with it, we will sum it up for being precise about it.
When the child turns three, that’s when the understanding of gender will be prominent. So, the parents should not limit a girl child to prefer clothes from the girl section and vice versa. The liberty should be given to the child itself.
Not using labels such as come on girls or get it done boy while conversing with your child.
At the age of 10-15, they learn to combat gender stereotyping if parents give them the liberty to choose activity options without keeping gender in mind such as playing sports, and so on.
Gender-neutral parenting pros and cons
Every style of parenting has its pros and cons. There are always two sides to it and so does this type of approach has.
Pros of gender neutral parenting:
Kids are more expressive and have the freedom to express more.
Kids are more creative.
Kids avoid stereotyping other kids.
Kids have a broader list of hobbies and interests.
Kids have high self-esteem and more acceptance for who they are.
Kids vouch for equality.
Cons of gender neutral parenting:
Kids can be puzzled about their identity and face serious issues in dealing with it publicly.
Parents feel that their kids are pushed towards being homosexual and thus refrain from this approach.
Parents find it challenging and tough to deal with the vocabulary.
Parents end up pushing children too hard towards gender neutrality giving rise to behavioral problems in the child.
Facing the bullies
One of the major struggles a kid that has been brought up in a gender-neutral environment can face is bullying. As the schooling periods start, the classrooms and the environments contradict the settings of gender neutrality. Generally, parents who are strictly following this approach stop it when their kids reach schools and start facing these issues. Psychologists believe that instead of giving up parents should devise ways to come up with some strategies to combat the bullying. What the doctor suggests is to bring in the role-playing exercises and it has proven to be positive against these practices. Make your kids understand that what they like or choose to do should not be on the basis of what others want them to do. If they love a certain color or certain toys, they should stand by it. Parents should teach their kids good ways to comeback and positive points of gender neutrality instead of giving up on it.
Effects of gender neutral parenting
The main effect of this approach is on the personality and sexuality understanding. Even before picking up this approach, parents should have a clear understanding of gender biases, its implications, and its effect. For example, the idea of being nurturing and caring should be inculcated in both, girls or boys. However, psychologists say that this idea is fed more to girls than boys. Another thing is the mindset. As in marketing oink clothes to girls is easier and set marketing norm than to market to a neutral target base. Secondly, if the boy plays with dolls or chooses to wear pink color, it is considered homophobic nature, and they are restricted from doing it so.
There has been a positive effect too as we talked about it earlier that many stores have decided to keep a gender-neutral toy section. This will have an impact on fighting gender stereotyping from a young age. So, as the world is slowly taking baby steps towards this approach we can expect a positive growth in it burning the unnecessary mindsets and taboos down and creating a gender-neutral world in the future.
The key takeaway from this is to create a world that accepts each and every gender roles, activities, and actions irrespective of what gender they belong to. To create a world free from gender-based expectations of the society. To not restrict the child from expressing their liking towards certain activities or things that was previously been done by the opposite gender. If not completely indulging in this idea, then every parent can try gender neutral parenting at some level to contribute to the future world of gender neutrality.