Gender-neutral parenting has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. The fact that even celebrities such as actress Angelina Jolie or singer Pink openly talk about the way they are raising their children in a gender-neutral manner has definitely put this kind of upbringing under the spotlight. And while some parents believe in the concept of gender-neutrality, they may not know how to go about raising their child.
That is exactly where we come in handy. We've assembled 10 basic do's and 10 don'ts of gender-neutral parenting as a simple guideline of what to focus on and what not to pay any attention to. At the end of the day, gender-neutral parenting certainly may not be every parent's cup of tea, but no matter what their parenting style is, the focus should always be on the child's happiness and wellbeing.
For those who do believe that gender isn't necessarily defined by birth, there are some easy ways to let children be their true selves. So here they are, 10 things parents should try to do if they want their child to be raised in a gender-neutral environment, and 10 things they should stay away from.
20 Do: Tell Them That Boys Can Cry And Girls Can Be Tough
Making sure your child knows that gender doesn't define their emotions is extremely important. They are growing up in a world where some people believe that boys aren't supposed to cry and girls are weak, and it is a parent's job to make sure their child understands that this notion is complete and utter nonsense.
Everyone can be tough and everyone can be vulnerable because everyone is human. So if a boy cries parents should never tell him to "man up", and if a girl is tough she should never be told to be more girly. Just let them be human.
19 Don't: Let Gender Norms Stop Them From What They Want
Kids face a slew of many gender stereotypes on a daily basis. But the least parents can do is make sure their home is a safe environment. This is why they should let their children do activities that they want without their gender interfering.
So if your little girl wants to play with tools and be crafty, just let her! And if your boys happen to want to bake with you, welcome them, teach them and make sure they know that they can do whatever their little hearts want.
Gender norms should never stand in the way of their passions and dreams.
18 Do: Teach Them That Toys Have No Gender
This one is so important for anyone who wants to bring their child up gender-neutral. Or honestly, anyone who has a sane mind and wants their kid to be happy. Toys are toys, and nothing defines their gender or who can play with them.
Whether the toy is a doll or superhero shouldn't stop anyone from being allowed to play with it.
Besides what is wrong with a boy wanting to carry around a baby doll and pretend he is its parent? Why is this only okay for girls, when, chances are, one day that same boy will have a kid of its own?
17 Don't: Have Mom Do The Dishes And Dad Mow The Lawn
Kids tend to pick up a lot of things from their parents. And it's somewhat natural that girls tend to look up to moms and boys look up to dads. But even when so, it is the parents' job to make sure there are no designated tasks in the household.
Everyone can and should do anything unless they're of course physically unable to, in which case they should make it clear to their child that "mom can't mow the lawn because she's not feeling well" and not because she is a woman.
Kids copy their parents, so make sure to show them that all genders do everything.
16 Do: Let Them Pick Their Clothes
This one is kind of a given but once kids are old enough to know how to dress weather-appropriate, they should also be allowed to chose what they want to wear and to express themselves through their fashion choices. So make sure the kid has a say in their day-to-day options.
And while letting your little girl wear a suit or your boy wear a dress might not be easy, start slow. Let them wear it in the house at first. And once they are old enough to understand that they might get weird looks and comments outside and that those shouldn't get to them, let them wear whatever they want wherever they want.
15 Don't: Protect Them From Gender Stereotypes, Point Them Out
One thing that is crucial for raising a gender-neutral or even just more aware child is to point out gender stereotypes as often as possible. The child should know to recognize them and not just blindly accept them without realizing what the mean.
Next time you go for a walk with your child and you see a girl with a red backpack and a boy with a blue one, point that out to them.
Sure, sometimes that can be the kids actual choice, but generally, that choice has already been made for them on behalf of the society. The society we're trying to change, one kid at a time.
14 Do: Seek Out Gender Neutral Communities For Kids
Now this one might be a more difficult one, but parents should still try to seek out a gender-neutral community. For example, kindergartens that put a focus on gender-neutrality are on the rise, and parents should see if one is in the vicinity. Also, researching what a school's views on this are should definitely impact their school choice.
Even finding communities, such as gender-neutral or gender-inclusive dance clubs, sports clubs or art clubs can be very beneficial for the child's upbringing. As a bonus, parents will also find like-minded people they can share experiences with and potentially learn from.
13 Don't: Stress About Giving Them A Gender-Neutral Name
Giving your child a gender-neutral name really doesn't have to be on top of your priority list. Sure, gender-neutral names are cool and serve a purpose, but at the end of the day just name your kid a name you like, it doesn't matter if that's Jessica or John. A name certainly won't define their gender, which is exactly why you shouldn't stress about it. And honestly, if they really don't like the name, they can always change it once they grow up. But for now, relax and give them that name you love without any regrets.
12 Do: Show Them Gender-Neutral And Gender Fluid Role Models
One thing that can be useful for bringing up a child gender-neutral is to show them role models. Especially when they're in their teens, show them stars like Prince or Ezra Miller, people who are great artists that don't let gender define their passions or lifestyle. Chances are your kid will get to a stage where they look up and obsesses over a celebrity, and while that celebrity may not be gender-fluid, it is important that you show them that some are.
It is always easier for us to accept things if we see that famous people are doing it as well.
11 Don't: Buy Pink Or Blue Based On Gender
The pink and blue craze seriously needs to stop, so making sure you as a parent don't fall into that trap is pretty much a given. The whole concept of it is so utterly stupid, that it seriously makes us question the human population's IQ.
Besides, just the fact that in the 19th century it was boys who were generally dressed in pink with loads of ribbons (seriously, look up some paintings if you don't believe us) shows us how silly and ever-changing this concept is.
A color is just that: a color and it in no way defines a person's gender.
10 Do: Put The Focus On Individuality
Instead of putting to much focus on gender or neutrality, the focus should instead be put on the individual kid.
Instead of picking a toy for them because it's gender-neutral, try to pick a toy that your individual child would enjoy - even if that toy is targeted for boys or girls separately.
You don't want your kid to get lost in this whole gender-neutral thing, you want your child to find themselves in it. If sometimes, the answer is non-gender-neutral, then that is totally fine as well. Just let the kid be exactly what it's supposed to be, and always encourage that.
9 Don't: Use The Terms "Boy" And "Girl" Often
People always seem to have the need to specify a kids gender, such as saying, "Oh what a pretty girl" or "Look how cute that boy is!" Instead of falling into that, try to minimize the usage of those words. Just use "kid" or "child" instead.
Oftentimes, it's totally OK to say "boy" or "girl" but it's just as easy to substitute those words with "kid."
Next time you child comes home, instead of asking them if it was fun playing with the other boys, ask them if it was fun playing with the other kids. Sometimes the little things can make a huge difference.
8 Do: Let Them Express Themselves
Kids will naturally be talented at expressing themselves. It is usually the society that unfortunately takes that talent away from them by putting the focus on all the ridiculous norms. It is a parents job to let the kid express themselves in every single way they want to, at least in their own household. A child who can be themselves is a happy child, and that's all parents really want, isn't it? So if the boys want to dress up as fairies who are we to judge them? Fairies are actually totally awesome, and who wouldn't want to be one?
7 Don't: Let Extremism Take Over
Here's the thing: no one approves of extreme parenting, in any sense of it. This also means if you're trying to raise you child gender-neutral, don't let that go to the extreme. Too much of anything can become a burden, both to you and to your child. The key is to make the kid understand the concept that genders aren't defined by what they look like or the society, but instead, by what they want to be.
If a girl still wants a pink room, let her have it. Chances are she just absolutely loves that color because it's pretty and not because it defines her as a girl.
6 Do: Let The Child Be Happy
Look at Angelina Jolie above. She raised these two kids, Zahara and Shiloh, and while one of them loves to rock pretty dresses, the other clearly feels comfier in shirts and suits. But you know what? They both look happy.
And that is the ultimate gratification for good parenting. Let the kids grow up in a free environment, don't put any gender-related pressure on them, and they are bound to end up finding themselves. At the end of the day, we all seek happiness and parents need to create an encouraging environment for their kids to find it.
5 Don't: Let Grandparents Interfere
We sure all love our parents, but sometimes they can be a notch too difficult to handle, especially when they have their own, dated opinions on how you're bringing up your children. And if this is the case, it is part of your parenting job to sit down with them and try to make them understand why you're doing what you're doing and why they cannot contradict that.
At the end of the day, you want your children to have a good relationship with their grandparents but you also need to make sure the grandparents are on your page.
4 Do: Encourage Boys And Girls To Play Together
Regardless of whether your household is gender-neutral or not, it's a given that kids should all play together. Encouraging boys and girls to play together not only creates stronger bonds, but it also ensures they don't get trapped in that concept that a girl's best friend can only be another girl, and if a boy wants to be her friend he must want something more.
Teach kids from a young age that anyone can be their bestie and that no gender can or should define that. Friendship is definitely about other things, and gender plays no role in it.
3 Don't: Emphasize Labels
There's a constant debate on whether labels bring us more harm than benefit. And frankly, nowadays humans seem to have this constant need to label everything. In order for your child to not fall into that trap, you might want to strive to use fewer labels.
This covers any labels, whether it's defining someone according to their orientation, or simply labeling someone as a partner, boyfriend or husband. Labels will always exist, but there's no need to stress them so much. Instead of using labels, try to use people's actual names and put the focus on their personality traits because that is all that matters.
2 Do: Let Them Know They Have Options
Raising a gender-neutral kid is all about showing them that they have plenty of options, and nothing is off-limits. This is the essential and the only thing gender-neutrality should really be about.
And once your child knows that the sky is the limit, they can decide what they want to be or not be. So tell your little daughter that she doesn't have to take a ballet class. She can take soccer if she prefers, and if your little boy wants to do ballet, let him do it. No discussions and certainly no discouragements. Kids need options so that they can make their own choices.
1 Don't: Try To Erase Gender
Lastly, gender is something that will probably always exist, and even gender-neutral kids need to understand that just so that they can accept the world they live in and find their own happiness in it. Not everyone is same, and some people feel the need for their gender to define them, as ridiculous as that may sound to some of us.
And that is fine, as long as it is their choice and it makes them happy.
After all, people are and always will be different and teaching your child that is an essential part of raising them in a gender-neutral manner.