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Raising Gender Neutral KIds

March 6th, 2023
Chrissie
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Raising Gender Neutral KIds
Gender where babies are concerned is certainly a current hot topic! On one hand, gender reveal parties are already very popular in the States and increasingly so in the UK. On the other hand, A-listers like Angelina Jolie and Pink are declaring that they will be raising their children gender-neutral and the trend for festooning new parents with either pink and blue baby outfits is definitely waning. Gender is definitely important to many. How many times for example does a total stranger peer in a pram and say ‘ Ooh what a beautiful baby – is it a boy or girl?’

Other signs that times are changing include the fact that Sweden has had the gender neutral pronoun ‘hen’ in its everyday vocabulary for more than ten years and in six American states, it is not necessary for the baby’s sex to be written on their birth certificate. While gender – neutral parenting is said to help a child’s individual character develop naturally, many child experts believe that this approach can be very confusing to a child and affect their confidence.

What does gender-neutral mean?

Gender-free parenting covers a wide spectrum. For some parents it means dressing their child in colours and styles that are non- binary (neither male nor female) while many parents view it is breaking free from stereotype toys and activities so that boys can cook, clean and play with dolls and girls can do DIY, car maintenance and play with what were typically viewed as ‘boys’ toys’.

In a nutshell, gender -free parenting means giving your boys and girls equal opportunities ( traditionally it was always sons who went to better schools and had more career opportunities) and not preferring one sex over the other and that your parenting style is exactly the same for box sexes. .

Christia Spears Brown, Ph.D. is a gender-neutral parenting expert in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky and firmly believe that gender-free is best for the future -
"Our society that is so gendered is not really setting our kids up for success. Gender-neutral parenting thinks about fostering good skills or traits for all humans to grow up with, so that then they'll be successful no matter what society is saying they should or shouldn't do."

Interestingly, Dr Brown feels that it is not good to completely de-gender a child because it could leave them open to criticism because this concept is so new to many people.
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When should you start with the gender-neutral approach?

Ideally, if you decide that you like the ideas of gender-neutral parenting, these should be adopted as early as possible. Choosing colours for the nursery and your baby’s clothes that are deemed neither male or female and offering your baby a selection of toys that are totally unisex are the first steps.

The early years of a child’s life and their experiences help shape their lives and affect their thoughts, health and sense of well-being. Dressing your baby/toddler in the popular ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ colours will affect their concept of who they are – even if you do not talk to them about why you chose these colours. When you are being a gender-neutral parent, you are happy for your child to play with toys that are not usually associated with their sex – such as a boy playing with dolls. You are are happy to let them explore and pursue their own interests. You will also mention 'head teachers' rather than a Head Master or Head Mistress and refer to a Police Officer rather than a Policeman or Policewoman.

What about when your child is older?

Gender identity usually begins when a child is about three years old and the recommendation is to let your child decide which clothes and toys they would like rather than steering them straight to the girls’ or boys’ section. In conversation with your children avoid using any ‘labels’ such as son, daughter, girls and boys.
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Helping your gender-neutral children deal with negative comments

It is true to know that as gender-neutral children get older and go to school they will face some opposition to their approach to life – especially if they openly discuss such topics. Anything that make a child ‘different’ from the mainstream be it hair colour, any special needs and same-sex parents will mean that the child could be bullied and the same too, sadly applies to gender-neutral children. Best to discuss things openly at home and teach your children strong coping strategies.

The foundations for gender-neutral are positive as there is a desire to allow children to be the person they want to be without the constraints that their sex imposes Allowing your child to wear clothes and colours that are not the usual choice for their sex, playing with a different selection of toys and choosing different activities than usual for their sex can all help them to develop into their own character with their own independent range of skills. As they grow older, it is important to discuss with them the reason and motivations behind their choices and to let them choose which route they feel most comfortable following.

For most parents, who have been brought up with strong beliefs about what girls and boys should do, gender-neutral is liberating as they fully appreciate that just because their son likes the colour pink and wants to take ballet lessons, it does not affect his sexuality. Following the path of neutral gender parenting will help your child grow freely with a broader mentality and greater passion and ensure that they forge their own unique identity – without being constrained by convention.

Further reading:

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220929-the-parents-raising-their-children-without-gender

Chrissie x

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