Three different things happened recently that gave me pause and made me ask, “Why are we doing this to our kids?’
I was in a cafe working when I overheard a boy around 7 years old saying that pink was his favorite color. A woman in her 30s discouraged him with a smile and asked, “What does your dad think about that?”
Everyone at the table was smiling and it may have all been a joke, but the message was clear. Boys shouldn’t like pink. If they do, surely their father will be disappointed.
My family was at a children’s museum when a 3 year old girl joined us at a table with coloring supplies. She grabbed a crayon and the first coloring page she saw. A woman who looked like her grandmother walked up, saw that the little girl was coloring a picture of baseball players, took the coloring page away, and handed her a coloring page with flowers on it instead.
Come on, grandma. Don’t do that.
Grace and I were at a frozen yogurt place. The lady working at asked grace what color spoon she wanted, “Do you want blue, green, or purple?” Grace said blue. “Oh! I thought you were going to say purple!”
Grace is a sensitive girl who delights in doing the right thing. I am confident that if I hadn’t have made a point to reassure Grace that she is free to choose any color that she likes, Grace would have walked away thinking she made the wrong choice.
There are gender stereotypes for a reason, right? Girls and boys are very different. They usually are naturally drawn to different things, but we don’t need to freak out when children take a small step outside of the box.
We don’t need to take away our girls’ baseball player pictures and give them flower pictures instead!
How We Are Handling Gender Stereotypes With Our Kids
My goal is to encourage my children to express themselves in a variety of ways. Most of the time they will align with traditional gender stereotypes, but sometimes they won’t. That is okay in my book.
Grace is a girl who loves pink, purple, princesses, and all things Frozen, but I still encourage Nate to do sports with her (I stink at sports so it is all up to hubby). I am delighted when she plays trains with her little brother. I also make a real effort to expose her to different types of videos and books, rather than always showing her princess and fairy themed media.
Noah is a boy who loves getting dirty, wrestling with Daddy, and playing with anything on wheels, but Noah’s deep love for his big sister means that he tries to be like Grace. He loves cooking and often plays with Grace’s dolls.
Noah went through a phase where he was obsessed with wearing Grace’s shoes. I assumed he was attracted to the bright colors of her shoes, so I took him shopping and showed him several brightly colored boy shoes. Noah was not impressed and we left the store empty handed.
Occasionally, Nate and I forced him to wear gender appropriate shoes (like when we were going to church), but the majority of the time we let him wear what he wanted. We chose to be relaxed about Noah’s shoes. It wasn’t worth the fight.
Thank You, Target!
I am thrilled with Target’s recent decision to create a more gender neutral atmosphere in their toy aisles. Target will no longer have gender specific signs, like the one shown in this tweet that went viral, which shows a sign for “building sets” and “girls’ building sets.”
Target isn’t trying to erase gender from their toys. Instead, they are creating an environment that allows children and parents to shop more freely without the subliminal messages that girls should only pick from toys in this section and boys should only have toys from that section.
This is especially empowering for girls. For the girls with an interest in science kits, Legos, and Minecraft, this is a good thing.
However, if you walk down the toy aisle of Target, I doubt you’ll walk away feeling like it was a completely gender neutral environment. Toy manufacturers are still the ones controlling the toy packaging. There will still be a aisles predominantly filled with pink boxes and others with blue boxes.
This is still a step in the right direction. Thanks for that, Target.
I’m Talking About The Small Things
Playing with certain toys, wearing certain colors, or coloring pictures of baseball players are small things. This post is meant to address the small ways that we are forcing our children into gender stereotypes. Many people associate going against gender stereotypes with homosexuality and transgendered issues. Those concepts are much bigger and more complex than what I am addressing here.
Noah was 2 years old when he wanted to wear Grace’s shoes. Would Nate and I have responded the same way if he was obsessed with Grace’s dresses instead of her shoes? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m just trying to take things like this moment by moment and hope that my husband and I are making the best choices for our little ones.
All I’m saying is, let’s stop assuming that all boys want blue and all girls want pink.
Am I Being Too Sensitive?
Sure. You could probably argue that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill when I’m complaining about someone commenting on the color of my daughter’s spoon.
However, as a mother who has a daughter and a son, I often see the different messages my children are receiving about what they should like and how they should act based on their gender. Sometimes I don’t give it much thought and other times it really rubs me the wrong way.
I guarantee there are moments I’m guilty of doing this myself! But I’m working on it.
I just hope my children know that they can color in whatever coloring book they want!
Quick! Before you go… I’m doing a reader survey, and I would love to hear from YOU! It will take you less than 3 minutes. It is a chance for me to get to know more about you and for you to share what you like the most and the least about my blog. Click here to take the survey. Thank you!
Have you ever experienced people trying to force your children into a gender stereotype? How did you respond?