It’s the year 2017, so most people have heard of the growing movement for gender-neutral parenting.
That being said, just because people have heard of it doesn’t mean that people understand it. Today I hope to talk about some misconceptions surrounding gender-neutral parenting and also talk about some tips on how to incorporate this parenting style into your own family.
1. Gender-neutral does not equal androgynous!
The main reason some parents cringe at the thought of gender neutrality is that they immediately picture yellow and green nurseries with bland oatmeal colored onesies.
This parenting style doesn’t demonize feminine and masculine qualities, it simply allows the child to chose without societal constrictions.
Gender-neutral nurseries don’t have to be the typical green and yellow colors and beige outfits aren’t the norm, giving a little girl a pink bedroom is not a problem! The problem only occurs when you deny her the ability to play with “boy” toys and to wear the typically “boy” clothing. The main point of gender-neutral parenting is to allow your child freedom to express themselves outside of the gender binary. This can mean a little boy playing with a doll or playing with a car set, the point is that they have the option to chose either.
2. Gender-neutral parenting is not just for LGBTQIA+ families!
Though some people tend to misunderstand gender-neutral parenting as a parenting style meant strictly for families with transgender members, neutrality can positively affect all families! In fact, many more traditional families can benefit greatly from the accepting attitudes that are passed down to children raised neutrally.
Additionally, this form of parenting helps resist gender-based discrimination from a young age. Gender neutrality holds boys and girls to the same level of accountability for their actions (no “boys will be boys” here!) and encourages them to pursue their dreams without bias (girls can be superheroes and boys can be mermaids!).
Another perk of gender neutral parenting is that it helps promote more trust in parent-child bonds that can continue into teenage years. If your child knows they are accepted and loved without worrying about social norms, they are more likely to feel comfortable talking about taboo subjects like sex and sexuality, therefore limiting the harmful affects of hiding parts of their lives. Studies show that LGBTQIA+ children who feel comfortable and accepted by their families are 8.4 times less likely to attempt suicide.
Tips on how to parent your children without societal gender constructs:
Allow your children to move throughout the “girls” and “boys” sections of clothing and to pick whatever appeals to them.
Encourage discussion if your child refers to something as a “boy” item or “girl” color, ask them why they think this and reassure them that they are allowed to express themselves in both ways.
When talking to your children about their friends, try to emphasize each friend’s traits and personality attributes instead of gender.
Promote displays of emotion in both girls and boys. All children should feel safe showing emotion and receive the same level of parental support.
Focus your compliments on your child’s actions and personality rather than physical appearance. Studies show that focusing on your child’s physical appearance can increase their risk of developing eating disorders and body image issues later on.
De-gender adjectives, boys can be beautiful and girls can be handsome. Allow them to describe themselves in whatever way they want.