Some Big Ideas - The Underlying Philosophy
It's never too late to learn something new
You have been working with what you know. If you are new to this, it's OK. If you make mistakes, it's OK. Change takes practice. Some of the changes we are proposing might make you uncomfortable. That's OK, but please give it a try!
Keep kids’ options open
Kids are creative and love to explore their worlds. They get messages very early about what is allowed for girls and what is allowed for boys. This limits their options. Think about how you respond to their play options (whether they fit into stereotypes or not) and actively make your messages as non-judgmental as you can.
Celebrate gender diversity
Gender is a big category and it can also be pretty fluid for many people. Let your kids know that. This means that they will be comfortable expressing their own gender the way that makes the most sense to them. It also means that they will be less likely to try to categorize police other people’s gender expression.
Start early and be proactive
If you are making changes to how you talk about things, it’s going to take some practice getting comfortable. If you start before the kids in your life can understand you, you’ll be good at it by the time they can! Also, even if you think kids aren’t paying attention or able to grasp what you are talking about, they are taking everything in and comprehending parts of it and making patterns of it . Obviously keep it simple, but work on modeling gender-inclusive language as early as you can. Kids have a sense of things like gender and race as early as 2 , well before they start asking questions.
Don’t be afraid to talk about gender
If kids are asking questions or they are having experiences in their lives that raise questions or highlight problematic stereotypes, talk about them. Make observations about the world to kids. Ask questions back about the meaning your kids put on things. Don’t shy away because you are uncomfortable. It teaches your kids that they should be ashamed about these things. Discomfort and silence make a statement to them. Check here for some examples of modeling language.
ex:Make aware the differences in toys for example "I notice these are only pink and blue. Why do you think that is?"
countering peers- what to do when your kid comes home from school and says something like "actually, you're wrong, there's two genders and you're born into it and boys and girls do different things! ALL MY FRIENDS SAID SO!"
Disrupt the status quo
Reframe statements that you hear. Discuss and critique messages that are limiting because of gender. Whenever possible, use (counter) examples from your own life or people your kids know.
“Girls can’t use tools” → Everyone can use tools. I use tools, and I’m a girl. You know Carla, she uses tools → Why do you think that?
“Boys don’t have long hair. You’re not a boy.” → Boys can look a lot of different ways. If that child tells you he is a boy, then he is a boy.