A boy or a girl? It’s the main question all parents want the answer to. The truth is that gender labeling occurs already in the womb and it’s no surprise that baby shower parties are either pink or blue. Sadly, some parents prefer sons over daughters and on the day of the Big Reveal one can hear them scream “Aww, it’s a boy!”
Decades after the suffragette movement, women worldwide still fight for equal rights. That said, men also face social pressure and emotional frustration as they’ve been forced to believe that boys do not cry.
Therefore, gender-neutral parenting is becoming more and more popular among parents, including celebs. Just look at Shiloh Jolie Pitt! Psychologists claim that gender-neutral parenting styles can help kids reveal their full potential and succeed in life. Neutral clothes, different toys, and team games can only help kids explore their own identity. What’s more, cognitive psychologists claim that a child’s brain is flexible, and it’s only experience and environment that draw differences between men and women.
At the same time, other psychologists believe that gender differences should not be erased as they help kids find their own place in the world. In fact, some professionals say that such parenting trends can result in kids starting gender transition before their first day of kindergarten.
So, here are 20 interesting stats about raising kids gender-neutral.
20 The Battle Of The Sexes
Childhood is a colorful journey full of new adventures, bouncy castles, and sweet lollipops. All kids should be equal, with safe access to education and healthcare. Nevertheless, the battle of the sexes is a dangerous game that divides kids. Sadly, surveys show that the whole world is not predisposed to girls: stats presented by newparent.com, reveal that only in the US, 54% of couples would prefer a boy over a girl.
Thus, by raising gender-neutral children, parents can reduce the impact of gender stereotypes and erase inequality practices. As Dr. Gina Rippon, professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging, says, "It is probably better to emphasize the irrelevance of gender by making sure choices and opportunities aren’t restricted by gender." No more battles!
19 Who’s Doing The Dishes?
Biological differences exist and there’s nothing wrong with being a male or a female. However, it’s labels and stereotypes that can cause a lot of damage to kids and societies. From ads and fairy tales to toys and clothes, our world is designed to believe that boys are from Mars, and girls are from Venus. In the end, we are just human beings. Thus, parents should be powerful role models who can show kids that daddy can cook and mama can change a flat tire.
As clinical psychologist Angeline Dharmaindra told the Forbes magazine, "Highlight the idea that there are lots of different ways to be male and female." We are all unique!
18 Raising 'They'bies
The battle of the sexes has led to another parenting trend: raising theybies. According to womenintheworld.com, a growing number of families refuse to reveal the gender of their kids. While this practice may lead to various problems, such as school bullying, parents of theybies say that this is the only way to avoid gender stereotypes.
Jane Ward, a professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, says, "Raising a child under these strict gender guidelines is denying them an entire world of colors - they become tracked into the characteristics of their biological sex." In fact, now, her own son identifies with being a boy but doesn’t want to give up on girls’ clothes. How cool is that?
17 getting Creative with Parenting
Boys, girls, or theybies – kids simply need a creative environment and emotional support to develop their individual and unique skills. Raising gender-neutral kids is a creative form of parenting. It’s a technique that can help families erase gender labels and explore a wild range of activities and hobbies.
Developmental psychologists claim that dressing up and role-playing can help children reveal their full potential. As a matter of fact, according to the Forbes magazine, kids should be able to explore their gender from an early age. So, do not be ashamed to let your boy be a princess and your girl a pirate.
16 Mighty Stars
We all know that celeb parents influence parents worldwide. It’s not surprising that many celebs have embraced the challenging gender-neutral parenting style in order to help their kids explore their gender identity. For instance, Paloma Faith is one of the celebs who is raising a gender-neutral child. On the other hand, Adele, Megan Fox, and Pink are among the cool celebs who allow their kids to experiment with boys’ and girls’ clothes all at the same time.
Interestingly enough, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt has been exploring her identity since the age of three. Her mother, beautiful Angelina Jolie, told independent.co.uk, "She wants to be a boy… She thinks she’s one of the brothers."
15 Give It A Go!
Celeb influence is inevitable; it’s no surprise that many parents have adopted the gender-neutral parenting trend set by celeb parents.
Other parents simply do not want to limit their child and obey old stereotypes. For instance, as mom Lisa Cohn told parents.com, "We definitely avoid stereotypes about Mom doing the dishes and Dad mowing the lawn. That's not what our kids see at all. I generally let my youngest son wear pink if he wants to, and he often appears in public wearing a headband. And I'm very careful about how I talk about girls and boys - and don't choose books that stereotype men and women." So, would you give it a go?!
14 Your Child Is Unique
Our world is unfair and many people become a target of political, financial, and racial hatred. While parents should not worry about what others think, moms and dads should consider social pressure and peer support. Sadly, according to womenintheworld.com, a study revealed that only in the US, one in four kids said they saw gender-nonconforming classmates being bullied at school.
As Dr. Axelrad told parents.com, "raising a gender-neutral kid shouldn't be done to make the child an agent for social change. It should be done to help the child develop his or her own identity, regardless of what his or her gender is." Simply because each person is unique!
13 Boys Vs. Girls
Gender inequality is a fact, especially in many developing countries. From the gender pay gap to mansplaining, the West is not immune to unfair practices. Therefore, many supporters of gender-neutral practices agree that gender-neutral parenting can help societies erase sexism and improve human rights. We should admit that social changes should start from within the family, which has always been perceived as a sacred unit.
Experts agree; as clinical social worker Israel Martinez says, "A major pro to raising a gender-neutral baby is that you will be allowing your child to develop without the artificially created limitations that society has placed around gender."
12 Participation Before Winning
Playing is important to child development. It helps kids express their creativity and learn new skills. It’s not a secret, though, that little kids enjoy exploring the world and toys are not necessary for play. In fact, researcher Carly Dauch told telegraph.co.uk, "When provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."
For older kids, on the other hand, team games are very important, so girls and boys should be encouraged to play together. In the end, participation is more important than winning.
11 Pink For Girls, Blue For Boys
Pink is for girls, and blue is for boys, right? However, in the 19th and 20th century, pink was a masculine color, a boyish version of red, and blue a feminine color because of the Virgin Mary’s outfit. Color expert Gavin Evans told businessinsider.com, "It gradually started to change however in the mid-20th century and eventually by about 1950, there was a huge advertising campaign by several advertising agencies pushing pink as an exclusively feminine color and the change came very quickly at that point."
So, parents can practice a lesser form of gender-neutral parenting and keep clothing and decor neutral. Also, let your kid pick their own clothes.
10 Toys Are Unisex
Games foster child development. However, a study revealed that kids show preferences for playing with certain toys as early as nine months. Psychologists claim that this behavior is reinforced by parents. Professor of psychology Lisa Dinella says, "Toys teach kids skills. Blocks and board games teach counting and spatial skills, dolls let children role-play nurturing."
Therefore, parents who are willing to encourage gender-neutral practices should provide a wild range of toys and let their kids choose what they want. As Dr. Axelard told parents.com, "Parents also want to encourage imaginative play on all levels." Simply because toys are unisex and boys should not be ashamed of playing with Barbie dolls with family and friends.
9 Males And Females Are Different Because Their Brains Are Different… Really?
While it’s true that males and females are different, the belief that their brains are also different is just a myth. Cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon told BBC, "You couldn’t look at a brain scan and say, ‘Oh that’s of a boy, or that’s of a girl. Structurally, there appear to be very few differences, which is quite a surprise to people, who have assumed for hundreds and hundreds of years that males and females are different because their brains are different. The brain is very plastic – it’s moldable. We know that different experiences will change the brain."
Therefore, gender-neutral parenting may help kids develop different areas of their brain and realize their full potential.
8 Nature Vs. Nurture
The nature versus nurture debate in psychology is perhaps one of the most challenging topics ever. We know that biological differences matter, as well as evolutionary changes and social learning. As explained above, our brains are plastic, so gender stereotypes can only stress a child’s brain and behavior. The things we learn can shape the differences in brain anatomy.
We should mention that Dr. Javid Abdelmoneim conducted a fascinating experiment. The team revealed that girls underestimate their potential and lose faith in their talents at the age of six. By creating a gender-neutral classroom, they managed to reduce boys’ bad behavior and increase girls’ self-esteem.
7 The Dark Side Of Gender-Neutral Parenting
While sex and gender have become a source of inequality and hatred, experts claim that still, these are two characteristics that define people all over the globe.
Psychotherapist Fran Walfish disagrees with gender-neutral parenting and its extreme sides, "Every boy and girl child must make a strong identification as a male or female person. Without it, the child feels lost and confused about [his or her] own identity. Gender and sexuality are only aspects of a person's identification. The goal is for clarity. Without male or female gender clarity, the child is not a full person." So, it’s not about erasing gender but gender stereotypes.
6 Extreme Approaches Of Gender-Neutral Parenting
As explained above, there are many parenting styles, and gender-neutral parenting involves different degrees of parenting methods. While some people try not to comment on girls’ physical appearance before other qualities and avoid gender labels, such as 'What a strong boy you are!' there are parents who take an extreme approach.
A couple from Toronto didn’t reveal the gender of their kid Storm. According to parents.com, they just sent an email to family and friends, saying that their decision was "a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand-up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place?)."
5 Is It Legal?
While psychologists agree that gender-neutral parenting can create an equal world, some experts claim that the extreme forms of gender-neutral parenting may have a devastating effect on kids and may be illegal to a certain degree.
It’s been reported that adults in the UK will be able to change their biological sex without a doctor’s diagnosis. This is a great way to improve transgender people's rights. Nevertheless, psychologists say that for kids, such topics are not clear. For instance, a mother revealed that her daughter’s understandings about sex and gender came from articles on Tumblr and YouTube videos. So, should medical professionals support such decisions?
4 Gender-Neutral Parenting & Real Transformations
Clear or not, it’s a fact that many Australian children, as young as five, tell their parents and GPs they are not sure if they want to be a boy or a girl. Thus, medical professionals say that encouraging kids to explore their gender identity may lead to emotional problems in adulthood.
Professor of pediatrics John Whitehall told dailytelegraph.co.au, "I think it’s a dangerous fad; a dangerous behavioral fashion trend fueled by the ideologues and fueled by the media." He describes "the spike in transitioning as an infectious trend" and says that there must be an age limit for immature kids with gender dysphoria before they undergo any treatment.
3 Do You Like Boys Or Girls?
Talking about gender-neutral parenting and gender dysphoria, we should tackle the problem of people’s sexuality. Sadly enough, although we are living in a liberal society, there’s still violence against LGBT people. What's more, same-sex marriages are still not well-received.
Interestingly, researchers and psychologists believe that homosexuality is the result of genetics and biology. According to parents.com, a study presented in the journal Pediatrics revealed some interesting stats: "85 % of gender nonconforming youth identify as heterosexual in adulthood." Gender-neutral parenting without its extreme approaches can only help kids reveal their full potential, explore their identity, and love the world around them.
2 From Around The World
Parents from around the world have started to adopt different and creative gender-neutral parenting styles. As a result, ads and shops have also started to catch on. The popular chain Target, for instance, eliminated their pink and blue aisles. Swedish parents and teachers have taken gender-neutral methods to a different level: they avoid using the pronouns "him" and "her" when talking to kids, and refer to them as "hen," which is a gender-less pronoun that originates from Finnish.
On the other hand, some sociologists believe that this gender-neutral neurosis is relevant only to the West – simply because less developed societies are way too occupied with other problems and can't enjoy the luxury to follow unnecessary trends.
1 Love Is In The Air
No matter what type of parenting style one chooses, the most important thing they can do is give love and set boundaries. Gender-neutral parenting within the norm can help kids develop their full potential and explore their own identity. It’s not about hiding your child’s gender or letting your toddler undergo a hormonal treatment. It’s about showing that dad can cook, mom can change a light bulb, boys can wear pink, and girls can exceed in Maths.
Personally, I don’t like wearing pink but I have to admit that my daughter has some pink dresses. At the same time, I hope that one day she’ll play soccer, just the way I used to. Who knows? It’s up to THEM. All I can do is give love.
References: BBC.co.uk, Forbes.com, DailyTelegraph.com, Independent.co.uk, NewParent.com, Parents.com, WomenInTheWorld.com, BusinessInsider.com