How Parents Influence Kids’ Gender Roles

My boys are growing up in a world where I don’t think they’ve ever questioned whether or not a woman could be a doctor or whether or not a man could be a dancer. They’re not assigning roles to gender because that’s their reality. But unfortunately, outdated stereotypes are still very much alive today. So we as parents need to be raising kids that are aware and mindful, that just because they are not hearing these sorts of things on a regular basis, that they are very real.

One day when my boys were younger we went to a popular fast-food restaurant and the person working the drive-through asks me, “Is that for a boy, or is it for a girl?” We were quiet in the car and my boys are like, “Why does that matter?” So we get to the window and they give us these kid meals, and it turns out the reason that they were asking is because there are two very specific toy options: one of which is for boys, one of which is for girls. And my boys did not want that toy that was for the boy. We had to park the car and go inside to make them give me the toy for a girl.

These conversations are important because what they see from me and from their mother and from society, that is going to shape their view of gender roles. In our home, I take on a lot of responsibilities that previous generations would have scoffed at — the idea of a man doing laundry, and dropping off the kids at practice, and going on field trips, and changing diapers. Conversely, my wife, she’ll fix the dryer. She’ll put in a ceiling fan. Frankly, she’s better at that than I am, so why wouldn’t she do that? For our boys to grow up seeing that in action and know that it’s not staged, that it’s our reality, that’s going to open them up to so many other possibilities.

I’m not saying, “Oh, you can’t ever talk to your girls about bunnies if they love bunnies. You can only talk to them about science”. Meet them where they are, and same with boys. By no means do I want to imply that it’s wrong for kids to embrace things that they enjoy just because it falls on one side or the other; just that it shouldn’t be mandated by us. Kids can be anything. Girls can be strong, boys can be strong. Girls can be sensitive, boys can be sensitive. And everybody loves glitter. To see kids grow up embracing that, it makes for such a brighter future, a healthier environment for everyone.



Related Articles