A number of parents have asked, “should I raise my child gender-neutral”?. In a word, no! Gender is a simple thing and parents should not try and complicate matters. Unless born with ambiguous or atypical genitalia, your baby is either a boy or a girl. At some point in the future, your child will become old enough to decide whether they are comfortable in their bodies.
The overriding fact is this: The vast majority of children grow up either male or female and remain that way for the whole of their lives. They may not like their body; some may want to be slimmer, some may want bigger boobs, most men will regret losing their hair, but on the whole, they remain the same sex as when they were born. So why is it now a big deal?
Why are some parents raising their child as “gender-neutral” or even worse, “gender-fluid”?
One answer to this is because of the desire in certain people not to cause offense and not to pre-judge a person based on sex, religion or color. This is all well and good, but as a parent, you have one duty in life, and that is the well-being of your child.
Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?
Of course, this does not mean you have to follow gender stereotypes. If you want to paint your little girl’s room gray and dress her in blue, that’s fine. If you want her to play with building blocks rather than dolls, that’s ok too, but if she sees her friends playing with Barbie and she wants to do the same, let her. Don’t force your political agenda on a child barely able to speak let alone express a view.
However, there are boundaries that should not be crossed, and that is in clothing. Once they reach the toddler stage, when they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings, it is not a good idea to put your little boy in a dress. This only serves to confuse him and others as they become more inquisitive.
So what is important?
A report published in 2016 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), states, “Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference.”
Another report published in Leisure Sciences states “Consistent and continued involvement in family leisure remains important to family cohesion, adaptability, functioning, and satisfaction with family life; however, more emphasis should be placed on creating satisfying family leisure experiences rather than simply high levels of family leisure involvement.”
These are the top six opportunities to share as a family:
This is an opportunity to discuss the day’s events and talk about plans for the coming days ahead. Ban mobile phones and other forms of communication from the table. This is a time for the family to share between themselves, not with others. As soon as your baby is old enough, bring him to the table to eat with you
Read to your child when they are young and introduce them to suitable authors as they get older. Books are better than electronic devices as they are more tactile.
Get involved in community events together.
This gives your child a feeling of belonging to something bigger than the family unit. Why not get sponsored at the same time and raise money for a local charity?
Share musical interests.
You might not like your kid’s taste as they grow older so make the most of it when they are young. Introduce them to musical instruments at an early age and the chances are they will learn to play, even if you can’t. Sing together as well – it can be a very uplifting experience for you all, even if you are tone-deaf.
Participate in physical activity
You don’t need to join a gym. Go cycling or running together, or just join in with their play activities. They may seem happy playing with their Peek-a Boo teddy bear, but they will enjoy it all the more if you join in. Laughter is something that is best shared.
Watch films or TV together
Young kids love bright colors so cartoons are great for keeping them quiet for half an hour, but as they get older, they will want something more challenging. Discuss the programs you watch, find out what interests them and why.
Changing Family Dynamics
As a society, we need to understand the meaning of family. The concept of mummy and daddy with 2.4 children is a thing of the past. Single parent and same-sex families are now very common, as are families of mixed race. However, the same rules apply. Whether you are an extended family that comprises three or four generations or a single Mum struggling to balance a job with raising a child if you follow those six rules you won’t go far wrong.