Decades ago people didn't discuss gender neutrality as much as they do now. People were expected to fit into whatever box society asked them to. Though some people found their assigned gender role and thrived, others didn't.
Now, people talk a lot more about gender neutrality and how to help children succeed. According to UN Women, it's important not to generalize thoughts about a person because they belong to a protected class. After all, no one chooses what they will look like or what gender role they will be assigned at birth.
Some people simply don't believe they fulfill all the traits required of the gender role people expect them to play. Times have changed and people are ready to be more accepting of everything.
Though parents certainly have the freedom to decide what is best for their children and homes, there is a lot of research that discusses how gender roles affect children.
Learning more about their options when it comes to teaching their kids about gender roles can also help parents be more open and let their children be free to choose how they want to perceive themselves. These teachings can start at a young age. Here are some signs toddlers may need a bit more gender neutrality in their lives.
20 Judging People Who Don't 'Act Their Gender'
A child can learn a lot from their surroundings. They will repeat things a parent or adult says because they aren't old enough to be exposed to too many points of view.
A toddler may seem to be judgmental if they see a man wearing pink or a little girl playing with cars. Before chastising them, try to examine what you're saying.
Remember that children are born without many of the expectations adults may have of traditional gender roles. They're at the perfect age to learn more about gender neutrality and to be able to question things past generations didn't get a chance to.
19 Making Comments About Appearances
Boys and girls are expected to look and act a given way according to what media, film, and television teach young toddlers. It makes sense that a young child might criticize a little girl for wearing a color traditionally associated with being a boy.
Toddlers may also make comments about little boys who choose to wear their hair differently than what is expected of them. Toddlers have no ill intentions. Instead, their little minds need to put the world into categories they can understand.
Gender is one category that can be more open-ended. Adults can help by saying that people can look however they feel best.
18 Playing Only Certain Games
Research shows that children start to express themselves in accordance with their gender role around the age of 2 and 3. At age three, they may start to play some games meant for "their gender" only.
This also means excluding children of the opposite gender and making assumptions about who can play a particular game. This can go for little girls who choose to play with toys thought to be feminine, and with little boys who don't want little girls to play with masculine toys.
Parents can teach children all games are okay as long as they're fun and safe.
17 Only Choosing Certain Clothes
Children begin expressing their gender at fairly young ages, but their gender expressions become more concrete around the age of 6 or 7.
In addition to choosing to play certain items or play gendered games, children may start choosing clothes they think they're expected to like. This could mean little girls may choose dresses or pink clothing. Little boys may start to favor clothing in "boy" colors, such as blue or green.
Thankfully some clothing designers are trying to have more gender-neutral clothing. This will hopefully give children more options to express themselves in ways that make them feel comfortable.
16 Rigidity About Colors
People today are a lot more flexible when it comes to children and their preferences. But go to a clothing or toy store and you'll see that some items are still heavily gendered.
Even if parents don't repeat these stereotypes at home, children still learn a lot about expected gender roles through film, television, toys, and books. It helps to have conversations with them at a young age that show them it's okay for people to enjoy certain colors.
This also lets your child know that they can ask you questions about gender as they get older when things start getting a bit trickier.
15 Believing They Might Not Be Good At Something
Everyone feels insecure at some point. It's hard for young toddlers to understand what to do when they're not feeling 100% confident.
Data shows that tweens need to learn more about how stereotypes can affect what they think about how their gender could affect their job opportunities. Of course, parents and caregivers can prevent these types of insecurities by having age-appropriate conversations at a young age.
Plus, starting a dialog with your young toddler will remind you both to deal with new obstacles as they come. Many toddler toys dealing with work are gendered, but parents can let their kids know they can choose whatever makes them happy.
14 Only Choosing To Play With Kids Of The Same Gender
The New York Times states that children's toys can have a lasting impact on their sense of gender identity. Such toys can even have an effect on what they learn, and this could even affect the types of jobs children's think they can get as adults.
Choosing gendered toys also makes it likely that kids will only want to play with kids of their own gender. This can be normal for a bit, but it can have detrimental effects in the long run.
It's important not to force children to play with kids of the opposite gender, but to teach them it's okay if they want to.
13 Only Watching Certain TV Shows Or Movies
Common Sense Media reports that it's actually hard to find gender-neutral media. Many TV shows today still teach children concepts that are dated and can make lifelong impressions on them.
Young children are flooded with images of tough superheroes who become dangerous as they get older. Young girls are constantly exposed to princesses who later becomes "damsels in distress."
The good thing is that many parents are concerned about this and making attempts to find media that shows different types of characters. Even when children only watch certain types of TV shows, it helps if parents make specific comments about a character's positive attributes.
12 Using Certain Types Of Body Language
At young ages, toddlers may simply use the body language they think is expected of them. This is a trend that spans the globe, as stated in findings from the Global Early Adolescent Study.
Parents worldwide raise children to value particular traits in girls and women while teaching boys and men completely different things.
This can change by teaching little girls it's okay to want to explore the world while teaching boys that sensitivity can be a good thing. Parents and caregivers encouraging all children to express themselves in many ways, or letting them know others can too.
11 Feeling Like Sports Aren't For Them
The Women's Sports Foundation says that girls drop out of sports teams at age 14 at twice the rate of boys. Of course, discouraging girls from playing sports starts at a young age.
With so many conflicting messages about gender and innate abilities, it's logical that some children may think some sports aren't for them. In some cases, girls still feel uncomfortable about sports because they're still associated with things only boys can do.
Some schools also don't offer decent facilities for girls to play sports. This means young toddlers are less likely to even see other girls play sports.
10 Or, Feeling Like Sports Are Only For Them
Things can also be the reverse. Sometimes people pressure little boys to participate in sports even if they don't want to. An article on The Good Men Project also shares why it's okay if young boys don't want to play sports.
The article mentions that encouraging young boys to compete in sports puts a lot of pressure on them. Some boys don't want to play sports and making them feel they should sets them up for failure. On the other hand, there might be young boys who love sports and decide not to include little girls who want to play as well.
9 Expecting Not To Do Things Around The House
According to The Guardian, there's still a gender gap when it comes to doing chores. There are many opinions, but we do know that children imitate what their parents do.
Psychology Today says that some children don't want to do housework because they notice how bored their parents are when doing it. Because women still end up doing a majority of the housework, it would help if children saw a more even division of labor.
At the very least, it's good to let children learn how to do house chores, even if they don't know how to do them well yet.
8 Refusing To Share Certain Feelings
In many parts of the world, girls are still expected to be quiet and submissive. Young boys are still expected not to cry or show sensitivity. Both of these expectations can cause problems later on.
This may mean some children don't feel comfortable expressing anger even when they have a good reason to do so. Some children may refuse to cry or express basic empathy out of pressure to be tough.
The good news is some parents—such as Beyoncé—are raising their young children without a gender. This can give children more freedom to explore a wider variety of emotions in a healthy way.
7 Shyness About Playing Certain Games
Many cultures have opinions about what games boys and girls should play. According to the National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement, little girls and boys start to play with toys according to their presumptions about gender roles.
But what happens if children want to play with something else. Young boys who might want to play with dolls or play house might be told they can't. Young girls who play with cars may be told that it's not for them.
Sometimes adults do this automatically, but children will feel less stressed if they think of toys as just toys.
6 Trying To Apply Some Rules They've Learned
Young children who are exposed to ideas may try to repeat them to others because that's all they know. Toddlers between the ages of 18 and 24 months, for example, use categories so they can make more sense of their surroundings.
That's why when someone acts in a way that isn't in accordance with what they know, a toddler may quickly begin wagging their finger and repeating something they've heard an adult say.
Giving children a flexible understanding of gender expression can make it easier to accept differences between what they think and what they see. Thankfully, most people don't take a toddler's words personally.
5 Saying This Type of Comment To Other Girls
Statistically, adults are more likely to compliment girls on their looks or good behavior. Toddlers may also begin doing this in an effort to fit in and feel more secure about their place in the world.
Children might make comments about girls who want to play sports, for example. Adults can help toddlers understand that sports are for everyone.
Some little girls may also not be interested in fashion. In this case, it's good to avoid comments about their appearance that might make them feel bad about themselves. Adults can help by teaching toddlers how to see other positive attributes in little girls.
4 Saying Certain Comments Just To Boys
Little boys with strong opinions are often praised for their leadership. In contrast, little girls who exhibit the same behavior may be told they're being "bossy" or too aggressive.
Adults can help toddlers comprehend that it's good for anyone to make up their minds about something. Even educators who want to create a supportive environment for all children may also face pushback from parents who have good intentions.
It may help to talk to parents and let them know that all children deserve the opportunity to explore gender roles, a variety of games, and wardrobe choices. The same goes when parents want to talk to teachers.
3 Staring At People Who Don't Conform To Well-Known Gender Expectations
Today's young adults and teens are exploring a variety of gender expressions. Some people may identify as non-binary, transgender, or may be comfortable expressing themselves in their assigned role.
Seeing someone who does not conform to their standards may cause them to stare. Of course, not all parents want their child to act this way. Even parents who want their children to be accepting of everyone could do with answering a child's questions as they come up.
It always helps to let children know that some people want to be seen as one gender, and others prefer not to be seen as anything at all.
2 Desire To Do Only Certain Jobs
The toys available to a child can have an effect on the jobs they think they want to do when they grow up. For example, plastic hammers and carpentry objects are associated with toys for little boys.
Little girls are often given dolls or babies. Though some people don't think much about buying toys for children, there's research that toy availability can have an impact on a child's career options as they get older.
The Guardian says that toys that focus on engineering and technology are more likely to be associated with boys. This may dissuade little girls from becoming interested in STEM careers at a young age.
1 Seeing Their Gender As An Obstacle
Children often understand the limitations of gender obligations before they can express how it makes them feel. To get a better perspective, National Geographic conducted a worldwide survey of 9-year-old children.
Although 9 years old is clearly not the same age range as a toddler, this is the age in which children can dole out opinions. They can discuss the results of what adults have taught them since toddlerhood.
Little girls were more likely to mention that their gender was an obstacle for them. Young girls talked about wanting to do sports and other activities that are "only for boys," and how gender sometimes limits them.