Gender, equality, rights, freedom, discrimination, stereotyping are becoming words used in common parlance. Pick up the paper and some of these words would most certainly pop up. In a society and world where such concepts are being talked about it becomes imperative that as a parent you too determine how you talk to your children about them.
Helping your child develop the right attitude, beliefs and values is a must and your primary responsibility as a parent. But with the discourse shifting to more nuanced issues like gender, stereotyping and discrimination the responsibility has enhanced multifold. Decoding these aspects is an essential and a task which requires your utmost attention.
How Gender Stereotypes and Discrimination Percolate into a Child’s World
From being narrowly conceptualized as something which perhaps impacts females mostly specially when contrasted and compared with their male counterparts, be it at home, at school, in social groups or within workplaces, gender stereotypes and discrimination have broadened to encompass other populations as well, be it the men in the society or those belonging to the LGBT category.
This broadening of the concepts has brought to the forefront the entire population which can potentially be engaged in perpetuating gender based stereotypes and on account of them discriminating against people of other genders. This makes the issue far more complex than what meets the eye.
It is no longer about how a child performs or what he wears and how he talks. Gender stereotyping can happen across a broad spectrum of situations and through the hands of multiple stakeholders who frequently inadvertently if not intentionally end up propagating some of these undercurrents that flow within the community and the society at large.
Your Role as a Parent
Being a parent in these times is tough. Add on to this the responsibility of ensuring that your child is not a bigot and not someone who discriminates against others around him, is not the one who is being a bully and creating an unpleasant environment in the social situations he is an integral part of. At the same time, you need to ensure that he is not on the other side of the spectrum where he is at the end where he is being made fun of, is being typecast into some mold that he does or does not represent and is being discriminated against on account of these factors.
I believe that it all starts at home. How we are as parents, the way we react and respond to people and situations very strongly determines the kind of attitude our children develop. As a result, if you do not want your child to be a perpetuator of gender stereotypes or one who discriminates then you too would need to stop. This would involve greater cognizance of what you do as there could be many subtle ways in which you may be sending out this message to your child. So stop to think and figure if this is happening.
Talk to your child and discuss with him what all of these things mean. Use simple language and do not complicate it. Based on the age of your child modify your content. And most importantly use examples. Children, particularly when young, tend to be concrete thinkers and as a result using examples helps.
Know how your child’s day goes and gather from him knowledge about his interactions and the language he and others use. If you find an instance of behavior which is unacceptable then don’t wait for him to grow out of it, instead be proactive and address it by discussing it.