How Parents Can Defy Gender Stereotypes

4 simple ways to free our children from bias.

How Parents Can Defy Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are a big topic in the media these days -- from Jaden Smith wearing gender-bending fashion to Target no longer categorizing toy aisles by gender. The moment we see the sex of the baby on the ultrasound, gender stereotypes creep in, and traditional gender roles -- though not always harmful -- can limit our children's developing personalities. It can be challenging to break the boundaries of the pink-and-blue box without bias. So how do you go about raising gender-neutral children and empowering them as individuals?

Here are 4 ways to break gender stereotypes and encourage self-expression at home (and beyond).

1. Focus on benefits.

When buying a toy, consider how it will contribute to your child’s developmental growth. Is it role playing? Building and creating? Motor skills? Linguistic and communication skills? For example, a doll can help both boys and girls learn vocabulary for body parts and can teach them to care for others, which is important in preparing for a younger sibling or even a family pet. Plus, being selective and focusing on benefits, may help you keep your child’s toy collection to the essentials, thus curbing your spending.

2. Dress your child for success.

Your 6 month-old may not need to wear a suit to daycare, but what your child wears can echo stereotypes and shape the way others behave and interact with him or her, ultimately influencing the way your child identifies in society. So it's never too early to be mindful about your child’s wardrobe selection. Choose colors, patterns and characters that aren’t aligned with a gender, and remember that both girls and boys can appreciate a diverse color palette. Once your children start to express their own preferences, make a habit of presenting a range of options. Finally, if you want to foster equality at the playground, let little girls dress in practical clothes so they can comfortably climb alongside the boys.

3. “Equal opportunity” playtime.

Whether you are exploring after-school activities or planning a playdate, ask yourself, “is this something I’d suggest if I had a daughter or a son?” Encourage activities that teach girls to be active and brave, like skateboarding and climbing. Read stories and make a point of discussing emotions to help boys express their feelings. And if they want to do ballet or gymnastics, that’s ok too! Planning mixed-gender playdates is a great way to let children figure out what they gravitate towards naturally.

4. Mind your tone.

The way you discipline your child, or react to a fall, can reinforce gender stereotypes and condition your child’s behavior. For example, if you panic over your daughter's scraped knee but shrug at your son's, you'll likely get different reactions from them, and your son may end up moving on much faster. So try to eliminate gender-driven tonality. This will allow your children to be true to themselves and not behave the way society expects them to.

Remember that there is no black-and-white answer for how to eliminate gender stereotypes in your household. The point isn’t to eliminate gender, but to free your child from bias as much as possible.

How do you bring mindfulness to your child’s life and minimize stereotypes in your household?

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Keep reading Show less
Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less