Recently, I visited my cousin’s place and met my nephew and niece. It was indeed a pleasure to see kids playing and having a good time. But what irked me was my sister’s tendency to teach what is girly and boyish to the two kids. My nephew wanted to play with a purse and was adamant about it. However, his mother scolded him for acting like a girl. She kept on saying that boys don’t play with purses. But is it right? Should parents regulate the choices of their kids? Should gender be a part of parenting at all?
Gender roles and identity has stayed with us since time immemorial. Parents teach their kids to behave and act like their gender. They make them internalise the social stigma around gender roles. If you are a boy, you should play outside and not be in the kitchen. If you are a girl you should not go outside and rather help your mother in the kitchen. One step beyond the line is reprimanded as an act that threatens an age-old tradition. Kids who try to imbibe the opposite gender’s traits are punished and sometimes treated as a defect in their individuality.
Should parenting be dependent on traditions? Shouldn’t parenting be about accepting kids and letting them be who they are? Shouldn’t parents teach their kids to be independent rather than dependent on social norms? Will regulating their choices put a good example of parenting or humanity in front of kids?
It is because of the shadow of gender roles in parenting that many boys and girls find it difficult to accept themselves. They feel a conflict in their identity as they are forced to be someone they are not. The difference between right and wrong blurs as kids start repressing their choices for the sake of what parents consider the norm. Sometimes being different is not a choice but a natural trait that a kid is born with.
If that kid is constantly said that his birth traits are defective, would they ever be able to love themselves? Consequently, many people keep the parts of their identity hidden from the world. Be it an extraordinary talent, a hobby or even sexuality.
Why should kids be forced to understand the complexity of societal gender roles when clearly it is irrelevant and a catalyst to social evils? Should kids be taught to follow society or their choices? Don’t they have the freedom to explore things in life? Do they not have the right to accept and be open about their ‘different’ identity?
So dear parents, please stop dictating gender roles to kids. Their minds are like wax. They can take any shape they are moulded into. Rather than making them another idol of patriarchal norms, let them mould themselves as per their choice. Being cautious about what we teach to kids is important to improve the future generation too. If parents start respecting the choices and identities of their kids, the future generation too will be more inclusive and broad-minded.
The views expressed are the author’s own
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