Recently, my four-year-old daughter told us that boys couldn’t wear skirts, tie their hair in a ponytail, or like unicorns. She said that the boys at preschool play with transformers while the girls dress up LOL dolls, neither mixing unless it’s a game of chase, and it’s usually the boys after the girls. She was adamant that only girls like pink, and she said blue was a horrible colour, but the boys like it.
By so-called definition, she is quite possibly a "girls girl" who would choose a dress over jeans and doesn’t understand why her older sister loves Power Rangers, heavy metal, and black t-shirts so much. Lately, because of these insightful revelations, many of our conversations have been centred around gender stereotypes and personal choice by not being guided by social convention. The point is that she grows up knowing that the same opportunities are open to boys and girls, that we can choose to be who we want to be and what we like and not simply because we are a boy or a girl.
These conversations are dropped in almost subconsciously as kids are curious by nature and ask questions without worrying about misunderstandings.
No topic should be off-limits as we allow our kids to explore their likes and dislikes. they should understand that we all have a choice. By encouraging their curiosity, we give them space to express themselves and see what others choose, regardless of gender.
Our eldest has been fascinated by Lily Hevesh and her incredible domino creations. She intently watches as she knocks down not only dominos in extravagant ways but also stereotypes as she takes on physics, maths, problem-solving, and so much more. Encouraging kids to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and MATHS) helps kids to break stereotypical boundaries.
At the end of the day, we can help our children navigate away from gender stereotypes by exploring what is available to them. But, we all have the opportunity to make choices. If your daughter is drawn towards anything pink and sparkly, and if your son naturally chooses the bucket full of dinosaurs, remember that it is their choice.
As our kids grow up, they may be swayed by teachers, friends, and peers, which may go against what we have tried to teach our kids in navigating gender stereotypes. At this stage, all we can do is continue the conversation at home, encourage our children to see beyond the labels which are often placed on us and guide them to make choices that naturally reflect who they are.