In a preschool in Sweden, the staff filmed themselves during a working day in order to observe how they behaved from a gender perspective. It turned out that, without being aware of it at all, they treated girls and boys differently. And it started at a very young age. They made several unexpected discoveries.
They realised, for example, that they were more likely to talk in long, complicated sentences with the girls while giving short, easy commands to the boys.
No matter how educated and aware we are, we still have many behavioural patterns, that make us treat girls and boys differently, solely based on their gender from an early age on. Girls are cute, boys are restless, and so on. It affects how we talk, what we say, how and what we play and much more. Which in return affects the children as they grow up, what characteristics they develop and what relationship they will have towards themselves.
It’s good to think through and consider these things before becoming parents. It may not be something you can follow in every waking moment. But it helps to read, think and reflect.
And it’s important to think about it and be aware of it from day one.
1. How do you talk to your child and about what?
Reflect on what you say and how you speak to boys and girls. Do you speak cool and excited with your son? Sweet and gentle with your daughter? Variety is good for everyone. Yell wow to your girl and play with toy cars, hug the boy and cuddle. Talk calmly about animals and pretty colours, talk about competing, about winning and adventures. Discuss different things with all children, regardless of their gender. And try to pay attention to how you behave around who.
2. How do you play with your child?
It’s easy to fall into patterns: girls want to chill, guys love sports. Expose your child to a wide variety of activities and encourage them to try many different kinds of things to do and play with. And then be receptive to what the child seems to like. Do not take the football from your son or the doll from your daughter just because you want to be “equal”. Let them develop in the way they choose but show them many different directions.
3. How do you dress your child?
Let them wear different things and think beyond sex. How children are dressed also affects how other adults in the area encounter them. It may be good for a boy to hear that he looks cute when wearing a dress and for a girl that she looks cool in jeans and flannel shirt just as it may be too much for a girl to hear every day that she is a sweet princess in her ballet dress. Vary what they are wearing, think about comfort. At the same time: pink is not dangerous for girls, blue is not harmful to boys. It may be unnecessary to prohibit certain things and create a battlefield during the dressing process.
4. What do you encourage?
Encourage your child to do things, to try and dare to take space. Regardless of gender. Encourage them to try different things, to be courageous and tell them to value themselves and not care about what other people think about them. Think about whether you encourage what you like and want or if it is based on what your child does and likes? Classically, for example, boys are encouraged to be loud, put on a show and joke around while girls are encouraged when they do something smart and cute.
5. How do you become better at it?
Try to perform less gender-stereotypical tasks and chores at home. Think and act outside the box. Mom can change the car tire, while dad does the dishes. Demand to be treated equally and try to treat others around you equally as well. Stand up for yourself and be a good example!
Read our tips on how you can reach gender equality when entering parenthood.