We now have parents that are learning different concepts like conscious parenting. We can identify different styles of parenting based on how parents approach it. Another rising concept is that of gender-neutral parenting.
Gender-neutral parenting is a kind of parenting where you do not box your children in the girl or boy box. This means parents try to move away from the gender stereotypes that exist within our society. These stereotypes may include the colour of clothing we buy our kids or the kind of toys that they play with.
Gender-neutral parenting allows children to explore themselves as human beings without the limitations of the gender they are born with. This means that one does not impose gender stereotypes on their child. The child decides whether they want to be a girl or a boy.
Kate Hudson and Pink have chosen to raise gender-neutral kids.
Gender-neutral or gender-fluid parents describe this form of parenting as one that allows the child to fill in their own canvas early on in their lives. The child is allowed to explore what it feels and looks like to be a boy or a girl.
Critics are calling this extreme, and roll their eyes at the very idea of this concept. It’s described as extreme because not only does it attempt to eliminate gender stereotypes, it also attempts to eliminate the labelling. This means regardless of the gender your child is born with, you do not call them boy or girl. You call them ‘baby’.
Gender-neutral parents are being criticised on the basis that parents can raise fully accomplished human beings without the extremities of not putting them in a bracket.
So is there a way of unboxing our children with regards to gender, without eliminating the labelling?
I feel that this is possible.
I was buying toys on an online store once and came across building blocks that I thought she would enjoy very much. The packaging had a boy on it, and it was labelled ‘building blocks for boys’. Which made me wonder, “are girls not meant to build?”. Or if they are meant to build, are there different, more feminine blocks for girls? Perhaps they are just pink and not as multicoloured as the ones marked for boys.
Needless to say, I went ahead and bought the boy toys.
The reality is that our kids do not exist independently. If they are going to school, they will be subject to society’s gender norms, especially when they are still too young to stand their ground. When they are young, they do not completely understand why mommy is dressing them in tan or grey all the time. So they will inevitably engage with other children that choose to play separately, with toys that are labelled for girls and boys. So is gender-neutral parenting completely possible? If your child is home-schooled and hardly has social interactions with other kids, then it is.
In as much as you are teaching your children to not allow themselves to be defined by society, you are also running the risk of them getting teased, and possibly bullied. Boys can be teased for wearing pink and having long hair. Girls can be teased for having no hair and wearing ‘boyish’ clothes.
Research continues to show that gender-neutral kids are more creative individuals because they do not allow themselves to be limited by the gender they were born with. It also teaches them about the freedom to choose who they want to be. This means they will grow up as individuals that can make decisions that suit them and them alone.
Some argue that we are raising a generation of confused children, especially in a case where your son has shown interest in being a boy, but you insist on raising him as a gender-neutral child.
There is no perfect parenting style. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Parents just need to choose what works for them and their families and have the confidence to stick with it regardless of the external noise.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.
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