When I was a child my experience was that I had all "girly" items. Dolls, makeup, pink clothes, and barbies. While my younger brother had nerf guns, trucks, and blue clothing; that was in the late 1990s and that's all people knew at the time. Pink would be the color girls are associated with and blue would be the color boys are known for. Girls shall play with dolls, boys should play with truck gender equality was not an issue back then. But 22 years later here I am raising a 3.5-year-old girl. But I don't want her to experience that challenge in her life. So how can we teach gender equality to our children?
"Boys will be boys and girls will be girls." We usually use that as an excuse for our child's behavior. Don't do that. Girls roughhouse as much as the boys do. But since we often associate boys with aggressive behavior we rush to identify our girls as Mean Girls." Let's take that label off our children and guide them to be compassionate and empathetic human beings. Let their other caregivers, aunts, uncle's, cousins, grandma, grandpa, and even their teachers know you will not allow their gender to be an excuse for their behavior.
Let them share their feelings. We let our girls talk to us all the time about how they're feeling and we let them cry. But what do we tell our boys? "Boys don't cry" or "boys don't have feelings." But they do. He won't be any less of a human because he's a boy. Encourage your boy to share his feelings and let him cry it won't make him any less of a man one day.
Girls are timid, boys are wild. When my daughter and I plan a day at the playground I often notice that the mother of a son allows him to run off. She'll let him be wild and free. He'll jump from the top of the play fire pole and fall to the bottom. However, I also see a mother of her female offspring watching her closely. Her mother will also be seen standing next to her as she heads to the top of the play fire pole. Then the daughter alerts her mother that she's scared. She may also claim that she can't jump to the bottom like the boys did what does the mother do? Allows her daughter to come down off the structure and guide her down or maybe even climbs to the top and helps her daughter down. We have this idea in our head that girls are timid and fragile like a glass doll and boys are just rambunctious, loud, and crazy. Let's release that idea. Allow bravery in our girls and let them see that they can fall down and then rise back up. Encourage both of our boys and girls to engage in risky play such as climbing to the top of the tree because that will give them a sense of accomplishment, "Yes! I made it to the top!!" It'll also allow them to get a bird's-eye view of the world. Or let them ride their scooter down the big hill the'll love the feeling and the thrill of almost losing control.
Show them role models. Another surefire way to break this is by showing them that girls can do the same as boys. While boys can do the same as girls. Like a female police officer or a male nurse. Male or female the job will still be complete and the job is the same. A female police officer takes the criminals off the street just like a male police officer does. A male nurse takes care of sick people just as much as a female nurse does.
Education. Even in uteri, we have already exposed them to gender stereotyping. The doctor exclaims it's a boy or a girl parents will either go and get all the pink articles of clothing until they are tickled pink or they will go and buy all blue clothing. Let's change that. Give your kids books where both boys and girls are heroes and have big adventures. Or the next time you take a trip to the department store and your son tells you he wants a doll to let him buy that doll. If your daughter asks for a Spider-Man toy let her buy that Spider-Man toy. My daughter has a significant amount of superhero shirts and a convoy of toy planes, trucks, and boats and that's alright. Don't let society dictate what toys your child plays with or what clothes your child wears. Let your child express themselves and be who they want to be.
Trust them. Encourage them. Shower them with love, because in the end when they'll spread their wings and learn to fly. They will be our next generation of hope for a bright future. They'll turn out fine! At the end of the day, there is absolutely no difference between us.