Dolls are for girls, and trucks and guns are for boys, right?
We teach them this. We assign preferences based on gender. While children innately recognize that boys and girls are different, it is we who teach them that each gender is treated differently. If we live in such a “woke” society, why do we still do this?
Toys are just toys
We all “know” that boys play with things like guns, trucks and cars, action figures, etc. And girls’ toys have always been dolls, babies, and baby care items.
Honestly, my daughter brought my attention to this. She loves playing with cars and trucks, babies, princess dolls, superhero action figures, and toy guns. She watches anything with The Hulk in it, as well as Princess Sophia. It surprises and amazes me.
When kids are young enough, there are no boys toys and girls toys; There are just toys. And that’s the way it should be. As long as they are playing and learning, the boy toy or girl toy label is not relevant.
Gender Does Not Assign Personality
We still assume our child’s different personality traits are partly because of their gender. Boys are rough and loud, and girls are seen as fragile and typically quieter than male children.
A study showed that, after learning a baby’s gender, people instinctively complement them differently. We call baby girls “pretty,” but what about smart, tough, or resilient?
Treatment Based On Gender
We treat our kids differently based on gender. It’s still unclear scientifically whether this is innate or learned. Studies showed that dads are more responsive to the emotions of their daughters than of their sons. Men don’t roughhouse with their daughters. We pick colors for children based on gender. Pink is for girls, blue for boys (Although, fun fact: Almost a century ago, it was the reverse.).
I’m grateful my daughter likes to rough-house. I love that she enjoys playing with toy guns and still takes care of her baby dolls. It lets her personality shine through and helps her figure out who she is and what she truly enjoys. Even if he likes and interests change, she still gave different things a try. And that’s all I’d ever ask of her in that respect.
Undo Your Programming
To create a well-rounded human being, we have to undo the way we’ve been programmed to see gender in our kids. It’s a single characteristic, not the sum of who they are. They need to experience everything available and genuinely find out what they like, even if it’s not what we think of as typical. With the concept of gender and gender roles changing, shouldn’t our parenting reflect these changes?
I think these types of assumptions and assignments affect kids negatively. We stifle their development and make them ashamed of their personalities, likes, and dislikes. If they don’t match the gender stereotype, they are called “weird” or told they shouldn’t like it.
After I thought of this, I remembered my childhood. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I liked Ariel, the Disney mermaid. I had an Ariel “doll,” and my favorite color at the time: pink. Those preferences changed as I grew, but I’m grateful my parents didn’t tell me I shouldn’t have had them.
Men, if your son likes dolls and babies, he’s no less of a man. Learning and playing with a baby doll may influence him to be a better father when he’s older. Women, there’s no shame if your daughter likes guns, cars, or superhero action figures. Personally, I think it’s cool, and I’d bet I’m not alone. I married a woman who’s watched more Marvel movies (and DC movies) than me.
This is not new behavior, and we’ve labeled aspects by gender for centuries. We’ve finally made progress with recognizing that it’s ok for men to stay home and nurture their children. It’s ok to be a man and a master of the kitchen. We need to pass on this improvement to our children and allow them to continue it.
Pick random colors, roughhouse with your daughter, allow boys to play with dolls if they’re interested. You may be surprised by what you learn about your offspring. Your daughter is tougher than you thought, and your son can be caring and nurturing with a baby doll, given a chance.
It’s not going to damage our children, but our reaction to their choices at that age could be.
Previously published on Andrewak.com.
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