Why gender stereotypes are so harmful for boys and girls, and how can we avoid them?

  • Avoid the opposition of both sexes and their characteristics, do not judge them, and highlight what they have in common. Do not highlight the differences between the two sexes; do not set the children of different genders against each other, even by initiating a simple game: the boys against the girls. Instead of criticizing the characteristics “typical” for boys or girls, highlight the common features so that the child is not developed from an early age in the belief that he/she participates in the ongoing gender war – try to encourage your child to cooperate rather than compete.

  • Do not vary the requirements towards children because of their gender. Often, parents treat their son and daughter differently from early childhood and have different requirements to them. A classic example: the girls are taught to maintain tidiness at home and to help with cleaning up, and the boys are not. The situation when out of two siblings a brother is exempt from such duties, while his sister is expected to do this is disastrous – she gets the message from the very beginning that she has an ancillary role to her brother only because she is a girl, which is not acceptable.

  • Do not attach excessive importance to your daughter’s appearance, dress your child appropriately for the occasion. Unfortunately, it is quite often observed that parents of girls excessively dress up their children even when going to a regular walk. It most often results in the fact that the dressed up princess cannot do anything because all she hears is: watch out, do not get dirty, and do not fall down. While the boy dressed in a comfortable, sporty outfit can freely run and have fun. In addition to this, we instill in a girl a belief that the most important things for women are the appearance and clothes. In the future this can lead to excessive, unhealthy focus on appearance and related pathologies (anorexia, bulimia, addiction to aesthetic medicine).

  • First, notice a person in your own child, and only then a boy or a girl. Each child is an individual and needs to be treated individually. The research has shown that on the playground parents earlier stop a girl who is climbing the ladder too high rather than a boy. If parents do not allow the girl to climb as high as her brother or colleague, they teach her fearfulness and being cautious. The girls who are discouraged to take risks are scared to take up challenges and, as a result, they have less chance of sports or professional success. It cannot be assumed in advance that the boys have more strict minds and are better at mathematics, while the girls in the humanities.

  • Let the boy play the “girls” games and vice versa. Division of toys and games into those “for boys” and “for girls” is really obsolete and there is no reason to stick to this rigidly. Buy and give your child sexually neutral toys or toys of various kinds. Do not set strictly what your child can play with. The fact that the son starts playing with dolls, walks with a pram or cooks something on the stove is definitely not the reason to be concerned. After all, he will be a husband and father one day and such fun gets him perfectly accustomed to this role. Playing with dolls is a great lesson of human relationships and communication – it teaches a child empathy and caring for the other person. The same is with a girl – let her have her dolls and a kitchen with pots, but also blocks, cars, train set or workshop with tools, and in a few years, microscope or telescope. Maybe thanks to such toys, she will discover her passion for science or motorization? Do not prohibit it!

  • Do not say to your son: boys don’t cry. The belief that crying is a reaction to evil, that you have to hide it or be ashamed of, does not bring anything good to your child. Crying is a natural human response to fear, sadness or strong emotion. It is also much-needed because it is relieving. The boys who are forbidden to cry and show weakness become men who are prone to addictions and depression. They also more often tend to be aggressive because they are not able to relieve difficult emotions in a different way. Reluctance or inability to express feelings also results in various problems in relations with people and in relationships with women.

  • Give children a good example.  It is known that a small child learns best by watching their parents and imitating them. If a child is brought up in a house where not only mom but also dad cooks, cleans up, does the laundry, changes diapers and does not panic when he must stay alone with a baby, then such child’s will think that it cannot be different. The child brought up in a partnership relationship is likely to repeat this scheme in the future, for the benefit of his/her, a partner and their own children. Because they will take advantage of it as well: they will have for themselves two involved parents.


Source: compiled on the basis of an article by A. Roszkowska