Your son can learn to play with dolls.

Five Ways Parents Can Reduce Gender Stereotyping In Children

by Maggie McCormick

You may have imagined raising a child who didn't make a big deal of gender, who thought boys and girls were equal. If that was the case, then when you hear your little boy say, "Pink is for girls," or your little girl say, "Trucks are for boys," you will likely feel your heart sinking. Gender stereotyping can start in the toddler years, but you can also start fighting them at this tender age.


Books can present a variety of ideas to young children, including those that go against the grain. Counter the stereotyped images your child gets from watching TV or hanging out with Grandma by choosing books that feature strong girls or sensitive boys. Some good choices, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, are "The Paper Bag Princess," "Nessa's Fish," The Chalk Box Kid" and "The Story of Ferdinand."


Companies heavily market toys to gender stereotypes, with many of the girls' toys focusing on looks and the boys' toys focusing on actions. Instead of purchasing dolls or trucks, try to choose ones that encourage creative play in a gender-neutral way, such as blocks, art supplies, games and animals.

Encouraging Cross-Gendered Play

Rather than discouraging your child to play with the toys made for her gender, try encouraging her to play with toys "made for boys." Girls can learn that it's just as fun to play with trucks, superheros and trains as it is to play with dolls, cooking tools and dress up clothes. The same goes for boys. Note that it's normal for boys to dress up in girls' clothing for fun and that allowing him to do so is not going to affect his sexual orientation.

Gender Neutral Language

Take note of your own language and use gender neutral words when you can. You'll be surprised how often the words policeman, fireman or mailman come out of your mouth. Better choices are police officer, fire fighter and mail carrier.

Correcting Stereotyping

Try as you might, stereotyped views are bound to slip in. When you catch your child making a statement like, "Boys are strong," gently correct the notion with a statement of your own, like, "Girls are strong too." Sometimes it's an uphill battle, but every time you do this, you chip away at the harmful assumptions.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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