For most of our lives, we have been told that blue is for boys and pink is for girls; that boys don’t cry; that girls should play with dolls and boys with guns and cars. But now many of the new-age parents are following a ‘gender neutral’ approach to raising their children. It is still quite a controversial topic in many countries.
Gender neutral parenting is generally defined with three varying degrees. Some of the parents take an extreme approach wherein they refuse to reveal the gender of their child at the birth and allow the child to identify their own gender at their own pace. In 2016, a Swedish couple was in news for keeping the gender of their child a secret from all but their family members. But gender-neutral parenting can also mean simply to let the childfree to play, dress and express themselves without any societal pressure to behave in a certain way. They are free to play with either boys or girls’ toys, their room décor is neutral, and they pick clothes that they like to wear irrespective of the gender differentiation. So, it is perfectly ok for a gender-neutral parent if a boy wants to wear a skirt or a girl prefers pants.
IS IT GOOD FOR THE CHILD?
It definitely has its benefits like it will help the child to grow without any societal limitations. In order to make our lives simpler, we take the advantage of creating boxes and we limit our children to a particular box. But this can become too limiting and can make the children think that they have a pressure to become something that they are not. Also, most of the children become too obsessed with a single color and this can really limit their experiences. But many experts also believe that every girl or boy child should really have an identification of himself as a girl or boy. Else the child feels lost and confused about his/her own identity.
WHAT EFFECT DOES IT HAS ON THE CHILD SOCIAL LIFE?
Basically, it becomes quite a task to raise a gender-neutral child because he is exposed to all such ideas in school or daycare. If you are raising a gender-neutral child, then there is a possibility that your child is often faced with uncomfortable questions and nasty stares. His/her friends and classmates may often find his/her personal style difficult to get along as they identify themselves as a particular gender while they don’t. It is mostly a bigger issue for boys as they can be teased and bullied if they show their affiliations towards feminine things. So, the parent must prepare the child to deal with such situations.
HOW TO FOLLOW GENDER NEUTRAL PARENTING?
It can be done by making small changes in your everyday things. For example, you encourage your little girl to play with Spiderman or kitchen set or toy guns or cars in the same equal way. Also, boys are allowed to dress in pink and pretend play as a cook on their next play date. Also, you teach the boys that it is ok to cry and to express their feelings. This will teach them empathy and love for others as well. Basically, Gender Neutral Parenting is exposing the kids to an environment where all options are present for them to explore. It is also very important to talk about this approach with your child so that there is no doubt or confusion in his mind. When the next time you hear him/her say “You run like a girl” or “That’s a girl’s toy”, make that an opportunity to initiate a discussion with him/her.
Mostly there is no harm in following a gender-neutral approach of parenting except the issues that can crop up from other people who remain oblivious to the approach. Also, parents should keep in mind that they should not force any of such an approach on their kids. Else it can have a disastrous effect. Rather than following an extreme approach for or against such approach, it is better to follow a middle path.