Gender-Neutral Parenting: What’s it all About?

gender neutral parentingWe’ve all heard the saying, “blue is for boys and pink is for girls", but with gender-neutral trends on the rise, will things like blue and pink gender stereotyping eventually disappear altogether?

These days, the term “gender neutral” has become fairly commonplace. However it’s not yet universally practiced or fully understood, so it’s still up in the air for parents to decide how much of it we should or shouldn’t infuse into our day-to-day parenting methods.

The term gender neutral, when used to reference language, aims to equalize the sexes by “neutralizing” the terms we use to describe people. For example, you would use the term “firefighter” instead of “fireman” and avoid referencing terms like “he” or “she”, particularly when addressing children during their formative years.

So what does the term gender neutral mean when it comes to raising kids?

Change in anything is never easy and in the beginning it’s often not openly embraced either. So when discussion comes up about raising children in a gender-neutral environment, the room can become very divided on how different people feel about this topic.

The Role of Gender Neutral in Education

Egalia pre-school in Stockholm, Sweden is a taxpayer funded school where each detail is carefully planned to avoid having kids exposed to sexual stereotypes. The core goals and curriculums within these national pre-schools is to break down gender roles of the past that have been thought to have given boys an unfair advantage. While Egalia’s approach is much more radical than most, and not without controversy either, the idea behind it is to increase equality between the sexes and also to foster more tolerant attitudes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Gender-Neutral Toys for the Holidays

With the holidays just around the corner, chances are you might have a toy or two on your holiday shopping list. Many toy stores literally draw a line down the aisles as a means to separate the “boys toys” from the “girls toys”. Items like Dollhouses have previously been thought of as a “girls toy”, but it you think about it, all the activities that go on inside a dollhouse are everything that encompasses a child’s life, and it doesn’t really matter whether you are a boy or a girl. So it’s not so much about buying a specific toy for a boy or a girl, but more about changing our own mindset regarding that particular toy and who we deem appropriate to play with it. The main idea behind providing gender-neutral toy choices is more about making all kids feel comfortable playing with any toy, be it a truck or a doll, without regard to the sex of the child.

You might have heard that Hasbro Toy Company recently released a gender-neutral, black and silver colored, Easy-Bake-Oven last Fall. The development for this new product came about from a petition started by a 13 year old girl, who wanted to buy her little brother an Easy Bake Oven, but felt limited because it was only available a pink color. This example clearly illustrates how easy it can be to make simple changes in our attitudes by becoming aware of past stereotypes and helping to make change for the future.

The Jury’s Still Out

With Sweden already forging ahead with taxpayer funded gender-neutral pre-schools and secondary schools and countries like Britain claiming to already be essentially gender-blind, it still remains to be seen how these attitudes will end up for us here in the United States. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about the subject you can check out psychologist Michael Gurian’s Nuture the Nature or Leonard Sax’s Why Gender Matters to give you more food for thought on this subject and how it might contribute to your parenting style.