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The Power of Mom: Six simple ideas for raising gender-fair kids

May 7, 2010 – 10:45 AM

By Katie Culver

We have made loads of progress since the 1950’s, but gender inequities persist — first and foremost in the language we use and stereotypes we parents (even Moms!) often unconsciously perpetuate. In celebration of Mother’s Day, here are simple things we can do to raise our children to be balanced, fair people in sports — and in life:

1.  Insist on inclusive language ALL the time, i.e. “good sports” rather than sportsmanship; say mail carrier, fire fighter, workers—instead of mailman, fireman, workmen; avoid always using “guys.” Do not to always say “he” when gender is not apparent. Language is powerful, and girls as well as boys need to be able to visualize themselves in many different roles.

2. Buy a range of toys for girls and boys. Do not get stuck with toys that are traditionally for girls or boys. Girls love trucks and balls. Boys love kitchens and—yes—dolls. Insure that girls, as well as boys, play in ways that develop coordination and gross motor skills—right from the start. Don’t wait for them to show interest. You can’t be interested in a toy you don’t have! And please, please don’t ever discourage a child from playing with a toy or acting out a role that is not considered gender-appropriate.

3. Dress girls in clothes they can play in—all the time. Just because girls have dresses, doesn’t mean they have to wear them. Save dresses for special occasions (or slip on a pair of leggings or shorts underneath). A girl cannot crawl in a dress. She cannot climb or hang up-side-down in one, either. Girls cannot run or ride a bike in sandals or crocks — and neither can boys, for that matter!

4.  Avoid using and/or reinforcing gender stereotypes. Girls don’t have to look like princesses and be afraid of bugs. Boys don’t have to like dirt and football (and might be afraid of bugs!). (My daughter loves to dig for worms in the back yard!) All children can like all colors. Talk about and deconstruct gender stereotypes. Teach your children to recognize and challenge them — it’s empowering for them.

5. Take girls to watch women’s sporting events. And take brothers and dads, too.  Girls need athletic role models and to see that women’s sports are compelling and fun to watch.

6. Encourage children to play with friends of the opposite gender, even as they get older.  Girls and boys can learn so much from each other.

  1. 4 Responses to “The Power of Mom: Six simple ideas for raising gender-fair kids”

  2. Wonderful suggestions! All were discouraged in the 1950s! You hit the
    nail on the head! I was remembering recently how discouraged we were in the 1950s and 1960s to take the driver’s seat when there was a man in the car who could possibly drive! It was so unusual …
    Fathers played an important role. If they fully or even partially backed their daughters in sports and academics, they had fighting chance for the future.

    By Davi-Ellen Chabner on May 8, 2010

  3. On a recent Saturday morning, a little tow-headed
    boy could barely contain his excitement as he watched his new battery powered dirt buggey barrel down the length of his street. This same little guy was equally excited when called to don his leotard and tights for his 10:00 am ballet class.Later the same day, covered with persperation, he couldn’t wait to show Dad his new soccor kicks.Parents on the right track? I thin so!

    By Sylvia Leeds on May 12, 2010

  4. If only all parents and child guardians were as thoughtful of the impact small gestures can have on a child’s awareness, the next generation of leaders would all be as well-adjusted and articulate as Katie Culver.

    These are excellent guidelines. Let’s hope they are applied often and everywhere.

    By Perry on May 13, 2010

  5. These are such simple but profound suggestions that I can actually implement in my household easily, without spending a dime or turning myself inside out. I’m going to start right now. Thank you Katie!

    By elise a miller on May 19, 2010

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