There are many ways parents can promote healthy gender development in children. It helps to understand gender identity and how it forms.
What's the difference between gender and sex?
Being a boy or a girl, for most children, is something that feels very natural. At birth, babies are assigned male or female based on physical characteristics. This refers to the "sex"or "assigned gender" of the child. Meanwhile, "gender identity" refers to an internal sense people have of who they are that comes from an interaction of biological traits, developmental influences, and environmental conditions. This may be male, female, somewhere in between, a combination of both or neither.
Self-recognition of gender identity develops over time, much the same way a child's physical body does. Most children's asserted gender identity aligns with their assigned gender (sex). However, for some children, the match between their assigned gender and gender identity is not so clear.
How does gender identity develop in children?
Gender identity typically develops in stages:
Around age two: Children become conscious of the physical differences between boys and girls.
Before their third birthday: Most children can easily label themselves as either a boy or a girl.
By age four: Most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.
During this same time of life, children learn gender role behavior—that is, doing "things that boys do" or "things that girls do." However, cross-gender preferences and play are a normal part of gender development and exploration regardless of their future gender identity. See The Power of Play - How Fun and Games Help Children Thrive.
The point is that all children tend to develop a clearer view of themselves and their gender over time. At any point, research suggests that children who assert a gender-diverse identity know their gender as clearly and consistently as their developmentally matched peers and benefit from the same level of support, love and social acceptance.
What parents can do:
All children need the opportunity to explore different gender roles and different styles of play. Parents can make sure their young child's environment reflects diversity in gender roles and encourages opportunities for everyone. Some ideas would be to offer:
Children's books or puzzles showing men and women in non-stereotypical and diverse gender roles (stay-at-home dads, working moms, male nurses and female police officers, for example).
A wide range of toys for your child to choose from, including baby dolls, toy vehicles, action figures, blocks, etc.
By age 6, most children spend most of their playtime with members of their own sex and may gravitate towards sports and other activities that are associated with their gender. It is important to allow children to make choices regarding friend groups, sports and other activities they get involved in. It is also a good idea to check in with your child to learn about their preferences and to make sure they feel included without teasing or bullying.
How do children typically express their gender identity?
In addition to their choices of toys, games, and sports, children typically express their gender identity in the following ways:
Clothing or hairstyle
Preferred name or nickname
Social behavior that reflects varying degrees of aggression, dominance, dependency and gentleness.
Manner and style of behavior and physical gestures and other nonverbal actions identified as masculine or feminine.
Social relationships, including the gender of friends, and the people they decide to imitate.
While a child's gender-specific behavior (i.e. gender expression) at any time seems to be influenced by exposure to stereotypes and their identification with the people in their lives, the internal sense of being a girl, boy, in between or something else (i. e. gender identity) cannot be changed.
How have gender stereotypes changed over time?
Our expectations of "what girls do" and "what boys do" have changed. Many female athletes excel at their sports. Girls increasingly pursue subjects traditionally thought of as "masculine." There are many famous male chefs, artists, and musicians―fields traditionally thought of as "feminine." Over time, society has recognized that stereotypes of "masculine" and "feminine" activities and behaviors are inaccurate and limiting to a child's development. Such interests also do not determine or influence one's gender identity. Furthermore, our ability to predict who a child is based on early preferences is not very accurate and may be harmful if it leads to shame or attempts at suppressing their skills, talents and genuine self.
Still, when a child's interests and abilities are different from what society expects, they may be subjected to discrimination and bullying. It is natural for parents to have gender-based expectations for their children and to want to protect them from criticism and exclusion. Instead of pushing children to conform to these pressures and to limit themselves, parents can play an important role in advocating for safe spaces where their children can feel comfortable and good about themselves.
If your child doesn't excel in sports or even have an interest in them, for example, there will still be many other opportunities and areas in which they can thrive. Regardless of gender identity, each child has their own strengths that may not always conform to society's or your own expectations, but they will still be a source of current and future success.
Gender development is a normal process for all children. Some children will exhibit variations―similar to all areas of human health and behavior. However, all children need support, love and care from family, school and society, which fosters growth into happy and healthy adults.
Additional Information & Resources:
Gender-Diverse & Transgender Children
Parenting a Gender-Diverse Child: Hard Questions Answered
Sex, Gender Identity & Puberty
How You Can Help Your Child Avoid & Address Bullying
Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents (AAP Policy Statement)
About Dr. Rafferty
Jason Rafferty, MD, MPH, EdM, FAAP, is a "Triple Board" residency graduate who is pediatrician and child psychiatrist at Thundermist Health Centers, a Patient-Centered Medical Home in Rhode Island. He specializes in adolescent substance use disorders and gender and sexual development, and also practices in related specialty clinics at Hasbro Children's Hospital and Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital. Dr. Rafferty is an advocate in his local community and on a national level through work with the American Academy of Pediatrics on issues including the emotional health of young men, access to care for LGBTQ youth, and prevention of childhood homelessness.
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Children's Gender Roles & Stereotypes
Tough boys and caring girls
Our Good Childhood Report showed what young people across the UK think about traditional gender roles and stereotypes, and how it can affect their happiness.
We asked children what features they thought their friends would say are the most important in boys and girls.
For both boys and girls, ‘being good-looking’ was the clear standout characteristic. For girls, ‘being caring’ was second most important, whereas for boys, it was ‘being funny’.
how many young boys feel like they need to be tough?
of girls said being good-looking was most important
1 in 8
of the young people we interviewed said that ‘being tough’ is important in boys
What's the harm in gender stereotypes?
It is clear many young people are living in gendered environments, and are affected by traditional male or female stereotypes day in day out.
These perceived gender norms impact on young people's well-being. Children who chose ‘being tough’ as the most important trait for boys, or ‘having good clothes’ as the most important trait for girls, are shown to have the lowest well-being across the group.
On the other hand, children who chose ‘working hard at school’ as the most important quality scored highest for well-being.
Appearance and expectations
Gender roles in society can create certain expectations, and the pressure of gender stereotypes can often get ugly. Almost all the young people we spoke to said they have heard jokes or comments being made about other people’s bodies or looks.
It’s like girls are expected to fulfil certain ridiculous expectations.
The more a girl is exposed to these kind of jokes or comments, the more unhappy they are with their appearance.
Time for change
It’s clear that gender roles and stereotypes are engrained in children’s lives from a young age and accordingly forced to fit in with society’s expectations of them.
We all have responsibility to build a more inclusive and accepting society. Growing up should be about discovery and diversity. By challenging gender roles and stereotypes, we can build a brighter future for new generations.
* To note: the study shows trends only in young people who identify as male or female. A small number of young people interviewed (0.3%) identified as trans or preferred not to say, which is too small to analyse separately.
How are gender roles changing? Sociologist Irina Tartakovskaya explains
Dementieva. Today I have the role of an ignorant but very inquisitive non-specialist, and I cannot help asking a question about Trump's victory (the conversation took place on the day the results of the US presidential election were announced. - Note ed. ). One point of view is: Trump is sexist, horror, it's a shame and disgrace, progressive gender politics will roll back.
Tartakovskaya. Trump's sexism cost him some female votes, but as we can see, nothing fundamental happened. They chose a Republican president because there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the rule of the Democrats. I think the motives of the voters were pragmatic. Will it stop the development of gender relations that we can observe today in the United States? Unlikely. The President of the United States is a very influential politician, but not necessarily a sex symbol and role model.
Dementieva. Until last night, Hillary's victory seemed to have been decided. In Russia, can you imagine a strong presidential candidate in the horizon of 10 years - a woman? If at all it is possible to present any candidate other than the one already known to us.
Tartakovskaya. This is a very important clarification. In order to present a woman as a presidential candidate, one must first imagine a political competition in which new or perhaps well-known, but not so influential figures will emerge. This is the first condition. In general, before a woman was seriously considered as a candidate for the US presidency, for several decades there were female heads of the State Department, for example, Condoleezza Rice. If there were more such major players in Russia and people in general with political independence and political influence in principle, a woman could be considered. There is nothing in Russian society that could make this assumption absurd and impossible.
Dementieva. We have women politicians - or at least women in positions of responsibility. There is Elvira Nabiullina - I don’t know if she can be called a politician, but, of course, Irina Yarovaya can be called a politician. There is also a powerful minister, Olga Golodets, and the new Olga Vasilyeva. There is an ambitious politician Oksana Dmitrieva, there is a bright figure - Maria Zakharova. Maybe our government is more progressive than business?
Tartakovskaya . Firstly, women in the government are still a clearly expressed minority, and secondly, Golodets and Vasilyeva represent industries that are traditionally associated with female labor. Most of the employees of the pedagogical corps are women, medicine is the same. Nabiullina is a slightly different case.
In fact, there are still few women in the government - despite the fact that they basically make up more than half of the population of Russia, and their level of education is still higher than that of men. This is a Russian specificity that appeared in Soviet times.
When it comes to business, the picture is also changing there. Now everything is focused on efficiency. If a person successfully occupies a certain position, then it does not matter whether it is a man or a woman. As one respondent in my study put it: “Let it be at least it, as long as it drags work.” Of course, the glass ceiling still exists, but it is loosened.
Dementieva . What companies did you study? Are these some well-known brands whose products we use every day?
Tartakovskaya . I was interested in women - middle managers, although there were also several top managers and members of the board of directors. These are Russian and Western companies that are present not only in Moscow, but also in provincial cities. I wanted to get the big picture.
I asked both women and men because I was interested in men who are in the same social status as the control group, how they got to life like this, how they chose their profession, how they combine it with other aspects of life, with family first of all, with private life (working conditions - a very long working day, business trips, a high degree of return, competition).
What did you find out? Women who made a career existed back in Soviet times, in the 90s, etc. Then they had to make excuses all the time for devoting so much time to work and career, and talk about whether this was going to the detriment of the family. In interviews given by various public figures, this could often be heard. Ella Pamfilova, when she was still a minister, said: "I still iron my husband's shirts." It was important to say it.
In the last 7–10 years, the situation began to change. The young women I spoke to who have reached high positions in business no longer experience this feeling of guilt. They normally relate to the fact that a nanny takes care of the child, they expect their husband to participate in private life, they are highly career motivated.
Dementieva. Does this have some purely Marxist explanation? Roughly speaking, if you receive 10 thousand euros a month, then you are not so ashamed.
Tartakovskaya. 10 thousand euros is, of course, very good. Now a fairly pragmatic civilization, and the possession of resources is a plus in any case, including for the partner of a girl with such a salary. But at the same time, gender culture itself is changing. The concept of female success is changing, which previously for many women was associated primarily with the family, with what is called female self-realization. Now more and more it is the definition of success in the same sense as it is expected of men: a career, the ability to influence events, the possession of resources. A woman who has all this is now no longer perceived as a rare case, she is perceived as a successful, bright woman, an attractive example.
Dementieva. I would like not only to protect women in their striving for success, but also to support men in the absence of such striving. After all, there are probably a lot of men who do not want to achieve anything superhuman, but dream of pouring coffee or selling vinyl records, but then playing the notorious tennis with their children every day, and not on Sundays.
Tartakovskaya. Modern society is still more or less merciless towards such men. This is a very important topic, because the norm of masculinity is very rigid. In this sense, in the modern world, the number of acceptable, attractive models of female behavior is much greater than that of male ones. If a woman pursues a career that is considered traditionally masculine, she is at least respected, and if she retains certain traits of traditional femininity, she is admired. If a man makes a career or other life choices that are traditionally considered feminine, he will not cause either respect or admiration - moreover, he will be subjected to quite strong psychological pressure, including - with a high degree of probability - from his wife or partner . Most women are not ready to accept freedom of choice, gender equality in this aspect.
Dementieva. Many of us come from the October and in general from the 20th century, a very tough time of world wars, communist repressions, prison culture, kid culture, etc. This is what we jumped into early capitalism with. What kind of people were we then? Is it possible to compare us with the current 15-18-year-olds, who seem to be much easier and more pleasant people?
Tartakovskaya. Here we need to start from the Soviet era, because the gender relations that we have now are to a large extent the product of a targeted gender policy of the state. Sociologists Elena Zdravomyslova and Anna Temkina wrote a very good program work about this at one time. The main model of behavior, the gender contract, as sociologists call it, is the working mother. She must have children. As you know, abortion was banned for a long time in Soviet times, and now this topic is being raised again. The woman had to work. She had to deal with both.
And what side of life will be the main one, it was not she who decided herself, but the social cell in which she found herself at the moment. If society needed working hands, then all mothers worked, maternity leave was very short. At the beginning of the Soviet project, there was such an idea that children were sent to a nursery almost immediately, motherhood was very politicized. There was a very interesting Soviet magazine “Protection of Motherhood and Childhood”, where they wrote a bunch of political articles: they say that the first word for children who are born in our country is not “mother”, but “Lenin”.
Dementieva. Decree is a very interesting topic, which the new Russian capitalism deals with in its own way. It is believed that in Russia soft legislation, the employer must pay one and a half years of maternity leave. That is why girls who come to a new company are asked: “Are you 23, when are you going to give birth?” If someone says that in a year, she is answered that she is not in their company. There is a state that offers the employer to pay for this long maternity leave. There is an employer who does not want to do this - accordingly, does not hire a girl. It turns out some kind of vicious circle: everyone suffers, but the girl is the most.
Tartakovskaya. This is also a question of legislation, although gender equality is constitutionally enshrined in Russia and labor legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but there are no real legislative mechanisms that would guarantee the implementation of the ILO convention, etc. A special law on gender equality, which was developed by the previous parliament, has not been adopted in Russia, although it has been adopted in all CIS countries. A man can go on maternity leave under Russian law and receive money for it. There is a law on employees with parental responsibilities.
Dementieva. Do many people use it?
Tartakovskaya. Few, these are individual percentages. The simplest reason is that, as a rule, men's earnings are higher than women's, and stopping the career of the main breadwinner is simply unprofitable for the family. On the other hand, the child needs to be taken care of, and the mother is more competent in this regard. Girls are brought up to have these competencies, or at least they are expected to be better at it. Of course, stereotypes also play a role. Saying “I am a man and will be on maternity leave” is a courageous act so far.
Paternity also changes. Now there is a much greater degree of involvement of men in relationships with children, many are present at childbirth, take part in the lives of children from an early age, this is a value for them, an important emotional resource. From here, there are a few steps to being on maternity leave, if it is more convenient for the family.
Dementieva. Russian traditionalist deputies like to cite Scandinavia as an example, where many take maternity leave, while women continue to work. And they usually talk about it in the sense: “Why are you looking at the West, where women open doors for themselves and pay in a restaurant. Do you want that too?" At the same time, it is always silent that, in addition to doors and restaurants, there are completely different compensations, for the sake of which I am personally ready not only for a door and a restaurant, but also for many other things. Could you explain what an equally cynical but more enlightened European employer is doing to uphold women's rights?
Tartakovskaya. If we are talking about the Scandinavian countries, there, despite the cynicism of employers, there is still very strong social legislation. This is the role of the state, the role of society, which actively influences this state. These maternity leaves and certain pressure, encouragement for men to go on these holidays too. In the Scandinavian states, there is some idea of what kind of relationship is right, these are egalitarian relations, these are relations connected by great attention to children and good conditions for them. In addition, there are excellent children's and preschool institutions, that is, a lot of things are invested both in children and in fair, comfortable social relations. This is an element of the welfare policy.
Dementieva. Which labor relations problem do you think will be more serious in the coming years? Is it harder for women to find a job than men, or will it be harder for both women and men to find a job after age 45 or 50?
Tartakovskaya. Unless there is some serious conservative turnaround, age discrimination will be stronger than gender discrimination. Although this situation is changing. In the 2000s, and especially in the 1990s, people over 40 were perceived as unpromising - of both sexes. This devaluation of a worker, a person over a certain age, occurred critically early. Now it has become better - again, because there are not enough specialists, nevertheless, there is such a trend.
Dementieva. Are there other areas where women are simply reluctant to take - I'm not talking about very hard physical labor now?
Tartakovskaya. There are fewer of them. The army is the simplest traditional field, hypermasculine, and it remains so to a greater extent, although in some capacity women have always worked in this military machine.
Dementieva . Evgenia Vasilyeva, for example.
Tartakovskaya. Yes. There is some infiltration of women there. Not so long ago, I flew on a plane where the crew commander was a woman, also a very unusual phenomenon. I even remember the name, Tatyana Romanova, she landed the plane perfectly.
But with men who would be engaged in women's professions, everything is worse, society is not ready to accept them. Babysitters, for example, are not very sure that there will be many such families who will be delighted if a young man comes, they will immediately begin to suspect him of something: at least in incompetence, at most in something worse. On the other hand, traditionally women's professional fields are always less paid, they are still less prestigious, so there is not much point for men to strive there either.
Dementieva . Just like in the army.
Tartakovskaya. It's different in the army, you can make a career in the army, there is a good social package, pension. What makes the army attractive to men is not only masculinity, not only the opportunity to show oneself as a real man, but also pragmatic motives.
Dementieva. There is a thing that has always surprised me. On the Internet, the main argument is: "A woman can never be equal to a man, because she is weaker, runs slower, etc." Okay, the physical parameters are different, although with the current level of fitness service, I would not be surprised if this changes in 20 years. But there is another argument about psychological characteristics. Most often, this means that a woman is not so calm, more emotional.
Tartakovskaya. First, there are many men who react emotionally to various situations at work. On the other hand, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Research in the corporate world shows that there is an individual style of communication. It may differ for women and men, but both women and men make a certain resource out of it. In the same way, it is stereotypically believed that a woman can be a better communicator - this is a moot point. The point is not that someone is inclined, due to their upbringing or according to the models that are accepted in society, to express emotions more freely, the question is how to manage these emotions. This may well be to the benefit of the case, this is not necessarily a problem.
Dementieva. From the point of view of feminism, is it correct to condemn a man who left a family with children, or should I say that it doesn’t matter, a woman is her own mistress, can she get out?
Tartakovskaya. This is always a case question. Relationships and situations are very different. Speaking in the most general terms, what is the point here? There are common children in the family, the responsibility for which is borne by both parents. They must somehow agree that after the people parted, the responsibility for raising children still lies with both parents.
Dementieva. Again, women also cannot infringe on men's rights to see their children, as is often the case in Russia?
Tartakovskaya. They shouldn't do that. In a number of countries, there is legislation that obliges men who have left the family to pay alimony not only in favor of children, but also in favor of their wife, for example, if the children are already adults, based on the fact that, while taking care of children, a woman may have sacrificed her career. Each case is considered separately. There is no such law in Russia.
Dementieva. Now let's go to the very bottom. The bottom is old-fashioned radio stations like Humor.fm, where half of the jokes, rather vile ones, are about the fact that women are clumsy, loud, shrill clumsies, but "all the same, women, we love you." If you look at the VKontakte memes, which are also vile in many cases, there are no such stupid jokes. I have a feeling that today's children and teenagers don't joke so much about a stupid wife anymore. Why does Russian humor, which is especially popular with taxi drivers, who are shouted at by the dispatcher, exploit the gender issue in such a way?
Tartakovskaya. VKontakte is a very large field, you can find a lot there, including a lot of vile jokes. But what is the important difference? It's one thing when this program is staged, it focuses on being liked: its authors try to find those forms that are familiar to those who listen to it. In real life, people communicate differently. In social networks, real people communicate with each other, nothing will make them endure those jokes that they do not want to endure. A person who jokes unsuccessfully will receive such feedback that it will not seem enough. There is a kind of survival environment there, which forms those forms of communication that are closer to real life - in contrast to what is specially broadcast in some media forms.
Dementieva. That is, if the Comedy Club comedian were to seriously write this on his Facebook, he would immediately be pecked at by a diverse community of his friends and not friends?
Tartakovskaya. Most likely, yes. And strangers who would come to him there. When you get an answer, it always brings you back to real life.
Dementieva. It's 2016 and we're still seeing articles in "How to Tame Him Forever" magazines, or invitations to "How to Breed Him to Make Million Gifts" courses. Why is it still popular?
Tartakovskaya. This manipulation is a very big topic in gender relations. Manipulation is the power of the weak. When resources are unevenly distributed, then the person who has fewer resources develops a certain strategy to improve his life chances in order to live better. Observing public morals, one can come to the conclusion that it is more difficult to earn some amount of money by competition and a fair fight than to find a partner who will earn money for you and share it with you.
No one gives away resources for nothing either. Because they do something good to you, they expect you to do something good too, and it’s not a fact that you will agree. This is an unhealthy message for relationships that creates a lot of gender tension that we see in Russia. We have a very high divorce rate, one of the highest in the world, with more than every second marriage ending in divorce. The mutual dissatisfaction of representatives of the genders with each other is obvious. I think that communication through manipulation plays a big role in this.
The next lecture as part of the I Can Speak project (historian Andrey Zorin will talk about how Russian emotional culture has changed) will take place on December 8. You can register here.
How to raise a child outside of gender boundaries? The father of a five-year-old girl argues
Scotland is the most popular country in our family. Not a day goes by that I don't talk about kilts while arguing with my daughter about "skirts are just for girls." Gender stereotypes have taken a firm place in five-year-old Eva's view of the world, and my wife and I fight every day to change this. With the birth of children in millennial families, a light of other shades appeared at the end of the pink-blue tunnel.
A Brief History of Color
Gender and sex are different concepts. Sex is a biological fact. Gender is a social phenomenon. In other words, a gender stereotype is a simplistic, boxy representation of the male and female way of life that has historically developed in a particular culture. One of the clearest examples of how gender stereotypes penetrate our lives is the division of children's clothes and toys by color according to gender. But it was not always so.
Until the First World War in the United States, for example, it was customary to dress both boys and girls in white cotton dresses, which was dictated by practicality: cotton could be washed many times, no matter what the baby got dirty. In those days, parents did not focus on the field, but reasoned like this: I will put on a cotton dress, whoever it is.
In 1904, Mellin's Food Company, which made products for babies, held a curious contest: participants were asked to guess the sex of children in photographs. No one has been able to give the correct answer. At 19In the 1920s, the Baby Bobby paper doll, popular in the United States, came with pink clothes, even though Bobby is a boy. Another boy doll's wardrobe in 1910 included a pink coat, hats, skirts, knickers, and tunics. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart of colors suitable for girls and boys according to leading fashion stores. It turned out that they recommend pink for boys and blue for girls.
And even in the 1960s, children's clothing catalogs were filled with gender-neutral items. And a decade later, the situation has not changed.
Until the mid-1980s, children's clothing was quite neutral. Everything was changed by prenatal diagnostics, which made it possible not only to identify hereditary diseases at an early stage of pregnancy, but also to determine the sex of the baby.
Marketers from the world of children's fashion quickly realized how to build a new business, and parents, having learned the gender of the child, ran to the stores for things "for a boy" or "for a girl".
Now you can find color dictates in everything - from a pink car seat to a blue train. In many countries, the process of determining the sex of a baby has been turned into a ritual: all over the world, Gender Reveal Parties have begun to be held, when the gender of an unborn child is announced to the assembled guests. The interior, menu and dress code at such parties are created in only two colors.
Another major reason for this color separation is the increase in consumption among children. Psychologists believe that children at the age of 3–4 are just beginning to realize their gender, and such ideas become stable only by the age of 6–7. But already at an early age, babies are the subjects of advertising and therefore they accept stereotypes that a woman, for example, should have long hair, and she should also be dressed in a dress.
Who broadcasts gender stereotypes and how
There are parents who reject gender stereotypes, including in clothing, toys, and expression of emotions. These are millennial parents. But along the way, they meet resistance. In general, there are many people who influence the baby's ideas about gender.
First of all, mothers and fathers themselves
When we say that the social environment contributes to the development of gender stereotypes, we seem to relieve ourselves of responsibility. This faceless “environment” forbids boys to cry, tells girls that they must be able to cook, “environment” uses the words “girl” and “boy” in a dirty sense. But the main "environment" for a child under the age of 3 is the parents.
More than one hundred memes are devoted to grandmother's menu, but our relatives also influence the gender perception of babies. Gifts that are clearly separated by gender, stories like “I already herded goats at your age”, and most importantly, a personal example - all this affects the acceptance of gender stereotypes by a child.
Caregivers and nannies
A wonderful study was done in China. Toddlers aged 5–7 years were given toys of different colors and divided into two groups. The first was told that colors had nothing to do with their gender. The second is that toys are green for boys and yellow for girls. As a result, in the first group, the children took toys of all colors, and in the second group they chose colors according to the division they heard from adults.
This is a vivid example of how easily kids are influenced by gender stereotypes at this age, so the role of educators, nannies, and babysitters is very important. As a rule, children spend a lot of time with them and adopt their attitude towards gender.
It is not possible to place a child in a case in the likeness of the hero of Chekhov's famous work. The flow of information in the modern world is huge, and kids begin to get acquainted with it as early as the age of three. According to some data, 17% of children at this age use smartphones and 67% watch TV every day.
Change has already begun
The real world is far from a black and white concept. And our contemporaries seem to have begun to understand this.
According to the analytical report of the Grant Thornton International Foundation, the number of women leaders around the world is growing every year, and Russia is the leader here: 47% of high positions are occupied by women. The gender pay gap, that is, the amount by which a woman's average wage is less than a man's average wage, is also declining every year. For the European Union, this figure is 16.4%, in Russia 27.4%.
Changes also apply to mass culture. The #MeeToo movement has affected many areas of life, and men have also begun to tell their stories related to discrimination and share their experiences under this hashtag. Some companies, including those influenced by the movement, have begun to produce catalogs of goods for babies, where boys and girls do housework together.
Characteristic changes can be seen in the Disney cartoons of recent years. If you look at female characters, they are increasingly asserting their right to choose, individuality, independent decisions (Rapunzel: A Tangled Story, The Princess and the Frog, Brave, Moana). And male heroes learn to take on more responsibility (Ralph, The Princess and the Frog). The cartoon "The Incredibles-2" is indicative, where the main topic was the distribution of roles in the family: dad stayed at home with the children, and mom went to save the world.
Is a future without gender stereotypes possible and what can a parent do
Do all these changes mean that the generation of parents born at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries will be able to completely eradicate gender stereotypes? Probably not.
One of the first works on the influence of gender stereotypes was the empirical research of the American psychologist Inge Broverman. Back in the 1970s, he confirmed the deep cultural roots of gender stereotypes. One generation of even the most responsible parents will not be able to defeat them. But in Sweden, for example, they tried.
It was here that two gender-neutral kindergartens were opened last year, where it is forbidden to call children “boy” and “girl”. Educators are instructed to address babies only hen, or "it".
Behind the news that stirred up the Russian media so much, other details of the educational process in these institutions were hidden. They do not provide separate areas for playing dolls or constructors. The toys are mixed so that girls and boys can play together. However, even in Sweden itself, most experts agree that gender-neutral kindergartens are unlikely to solve the problem of stereotypes. After all, during the transition to primary school, children will still face the delimitation of social roles based on gender.
But that doesn't mean we parents shouldn't try to change things. Every day, waging this struggle in ordinary everyday situations - in communication with kids, games, disputes - we bring closer the moment when children will be able to grow, express themselves and achieve success without regard to what gender they are. What can parents do to combat gender stereotypes? Here are the rules that I personally try to follow.
Set an example
Children imitate and trust the model of behavior they see in the family. If you respect your partner, share household chores with him, do not tolerate the humiliation of others towards you or your spouse, the child will be less subject to gender stereotypes. My daughter will not faint at the sight of a man with a vacuum cleaner, she also always helps me with minor repairs. In truth, sometimes she does even better (but that's a secret).
Allow your baby to experience emotions and choose their own activities
Have your son cry while watching Mulan or The Lion King (I still cry myself) and your daughter play ball in the yard. Freedom of expression is important in combating gender stereotypes from an early age. And yes, it does not mean that the child wants to change sex.
Cut politically correct Barbie's hair and send her into space, and teach Spider-Man to take care of a pet. The more often you destroy gender stereotypes in games with a child, the less likely it is that he will succumb to them. When we play at home, the role of the grandmother from Little Red Riding Hood always goes to me, and the spouse can play the wolf. The daughter also often transforms into heroes of different sexes.
Use different colors
My daughter has a dark-skinned Moana who she plays with like she does with other dolls. The same principle works in gender stereotypes - buy toys and things of different colors, explaining that the baby can use them without restrictions.
“It is important to remember that sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things. The first is attraction to people of a certain gender (sensual, romantic and erotic), and the last is about realizing oneself belonging to a certain gender, taking on social roles, values and responsibilities that correspond to this gender.
By the age of three, a child already learns the roles for different sexes that the environment broadcasts: all the stereotypes about cars and dolls, pink and blue, and any other patterns.
If only mom cleans the house, then he will get the feeling that cleaning is only a woman's business.
We do not need to leave the child completely without boundaries, asking the little son whether he considers himself a boy or a girl. He wants to wear a skirt or trousers to the garden today. This deprives the child of a guideline, "drives him crazy", leads to emotional instability. But at the same time, it is important not to put labels about pushing a stroller, for example, only girls (after all, this is not true, men can also take care of children - and this is normal). Or to shame him for the fact that in the store he suddenly wanted to buy a coloring book with flowers, and not with cars. And even more so, do not associate his momentary interest in the doll with his sexual orientation.
The good news is that modern parents are actively interested in child psychology, trying to figure out what's what. And the more adequate, understandable information there is on this topic, the easier it will be for parents to cope with situations where their fear leads to education according to patterns and stereotypes.
“The problem with gender stereotypes is that they are so woven into everyday life that they don't feel foreign. And they are everywhere. Stereotypes seep even into families where parents attach great importance to education without stereotypes, refute them by their own example, and discuss these issues with children. Because already in kindergarten, the requirements for the appearance, clothing and behavior of boys and girls are different, and the stereotypical gender differences themselves are included in the curricula. At school, attention to differences is exacerbated by division into groups, intra-collective strict restrictions on behavior appear, which also reflect society's beliefs received through families and preschools.
Our whole world is arranged in such a way that a girl is expected to have long hair, a skirt, shyness, coquetry, whims, striving to please outwardly, readiness for domestic and reproductive work, non-resistance to violence, physical awkwardness, diligence, obedience. From a boy - short hair, leadership qualities, activity, dexterity, readiness for aggression, inattention to appearance, extreme emotional restraint.
I try to pass on to children the habit of attentive observation of what is happening around them, of direct opposition to gender stereotypes, of activism - discussing their observations with friends. Because there are only two ways - to be silent and support or not to be silent and resist.
I don't think Millennials will be able to completely eradicate gender stereotypes. But that doesn't mean you can give up. Changes are coming, and today's teenagers are already much freer than their parents. The contribution of each and every one of us affects what society will be like.”
“It seems to me that the influence of gender stereotypes in the modern world is no longer so strong. Most parents today are changing, constantly gaining new knowledge, trying to control what they say to their children. In addition, children themselves today are developed and oriented in their rights, from an early age they stop their infringement. From a professional point of view, we psychologists always tell parents not to become prisoners of preconceived public opinion.
The issue of gender stereotypes is very individual, and it is difficult to say what will happen in the future. However, the fact is that the current situation can no longer be compared with the one that was twenty years ago.