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Gender neutral parenting?

post #1 of 97
Thread Starter 
How do you feel about gender neutral parenting?

I read an article about a couple who chose no to tell people their 2yr old's gender, and while I think that is exreme, the idea is interesting.

With my ds I try to buy toys and clothes that a boy or a girl could use, yet dispite that and not watching tv, he STILL uses his hand as a gun or a sword (while carrying a baby doll on his back). Is it even possible to raise a gender neutral child or are they just wired so differently that it is impossible? And is it even a good idea to try? or should girls be raised 'pink' and boys raised 'blue'?
post #2 of 97
I think there's a healthy middle ground between "pink" and "blue" parenting and gender neutral parenting.

I believe that on a bell curve, boys and girls are different. There's nothing wrong, IMO, with acknowledging the probability that girls might like/be like XYZ to a greater degree than boys, as long as you simultaneously acknowledge that they might not be. I think it's just as damaging to prevent a "girly" girl indulging her love for stereotypically girly things as it is to push those things on her. In theory, gender-neutral parents wouldn't necessarily do that, but I can imagine some would in practice (as it'd be a little embarrassing to preach about the virtues of gender-neutrality while yur daughter paraded past in a pink Princess tutu and glitter lipstick, pushing a pram - you know?).

So - I dunno. I'd need a better definition of "gender-neutral parenting", I think. What would it involve? Not pushing gender-specific toys and activities on kids? Not letting them use gender-segregated bathrooms? Allowing boys to wear girls' clothes if they want? Buying them an equal number of girls' and boys' clothes as a matter of course?

I think most kids are more "gender-neutral" than we give them credit for. People make comments about how maternal my two-year-old daughter is, because she's notoriously clucky around babies. But she also has perpetually skinned knees and loves trains, trucks, tractors and cars - "boy" things. I think people sometimes overlook the latter because they notice the baby thing first and peg her as a "girl". You know? They see what they expect to see. If she were a boy they might notice the cars thing more obviously, because they expected to find that attribute in her. Him. Whatever.
post #3 of 97
If it helps my DD also pretends to have guns and swords, while my 1st DS has a baby. We just get them toys that they like and they share amongst themselves. I'm not worried that I'm raising a chauvinist just because my son has more interest in cars then barbies. That's just what he likes.
post #4 of 97
I haven't gone gender neutral and don't see any need to. As a mother I did some things that were very gender specific that I hope my dd will do if she has a child. I hope she loves the gender she is and doesn't associate being a woman as limiting or something to hide behind neutral activities and belongings or only doing things traditionally associated with girls. I want her to be happy with who she is and embrace what she loves without questioning whether she should or not. I don't think neutral is the way to go though.

I think that girls and boys should be able to follow their interests, and I really don't like the push towards saying that a toy or color should be associated with a specific gender and that we should avoid these or only give each gender these. Toys are toys and kids should get to interact with the ones that interest them. I get my dd toys she enjoys. We have a wide variety of cars, trains and tracks, building toys, dinosaurs, dolls, play animals, etc... and my dd uses them frequently and enjoys them.
post #5 of 97
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

I'd need a better definition of "gender-neutral parenting"
This is something else I wonder about - because 'gender neutral' by definition means 'not specifially 'boy' or 'girl'' - BUT does that mean you ONLY buy gender neutral clothes like jeans and white shirts, and toys like art supplies and books, and only do non-gender associated activites like swimming... OR does it mean you buy both boys and girls clothes/toys, and sign your son up for ballet and karate.

I'm not sure which is meant when people say they are raising their kids neutral.
post #6 of 97
Thread Starter 
Oh and I just have my ds, and most of his friends his age are boys... I think it would be much easier to 'not have to think about it' so much if you had a boy and a girl, esp. if they are close in age b/c then toys/clothes could be shared and it would be easier for the kids to have options of both kinds of things.
post #7 of 97
I'm not sure what the exact definition of gender neutral childrearing is, but I would say that we don't do anything affirmative to be neutral...we just don't say anything negative about DD's choices. For example, she loves wearing tutus but she also shows great interest in being a mechanic (for some reason she finds the idea of fixing things cool). Unlike my parents (whom I love but with whom I often disagree), I wouldn't tell DD she couldn't do something or discourage her from doing something because it is a boy's thing. I was told that I couldn't do things because I was a girl. I promised myself that I would never do that to a daughter. Oddly, my parents and I were often at odds because I didn't dress DD in pink. So what? I mean, it's not like I dressed her in clothes specifically made for boys, but brown was a popular color and I thought the clothes were fun. A lot of DD's toys are art related but that is because she loves art. She has dolls, trucks and games. She is who she is and I'm not going to sweat over things that give her pleasure at play.
post #8 of 97
I guess it's like saying Attachment Parenting. It's just too vague. I don't and won't force my child into gender specific roles or behaviors. But I consider that basic common sense parenting. If my girl wants to play knights or my boy wants to play kitchen then all the better for them. Looking back at my childhood, I know I came from a more gender neutral family, but it all seems normal to me. My brothers can cook and do laundry and care for babies better than most of the girlfriends I've met in my life. Meanwhile I can change the oil on my car, do basic plumbing/electric and other housework, etc. Of course, those are trivial examples of gender roles. It had more to do with my parents simply unconditionally accepting us and trying to give us resources and skills for our lives so we could do what we wanted, not so we could fit into a mold.
post #9 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by CatsCradle View Post
I wouldn't tell DD she couldn't do something or discourage her from doing something because it is a boy's thing. I was told that I couldn't do things because I was a girl.
ITA. This is as far as I take GNP (Gender neutral Parenting, we are saying it a lot, I am abbreviating it ) Like PP mentioned, there is a lot of ground between an entirely blue existence, and not reveling gender.

My DS is very young, but he likes to head butt and ram trucks together and he even likes to brush barbie doll hair.
I don't think that he is going to be a sissy and I don't think I am going to 'make him' gay. I think it is a valuable skill to be able to play with the opposite gender. Men in the workplace are having whole seminars on this! If only their mothers would have let them brush barbie hair with the girls.
post #10 of 97
I try to be as GN as practical. I always by the GN version of things, and if my older dd has a choice she often (maybe even usually) choses the boy version of things. I havn't kept score but she really likes pirates and star wars. The younger one's baby blanket is blue, and that was somewhat chance but I felt no need for pink or to get a different one. I buy mostly gender neutral clothes, though we've been given a lot of clothes and those are usually pretty girly. We have lots of trucks and trains and things in our house, but we also have dolls and a play kitchen. If something comes in primary colors or pink and purple, I get the primary color one.
post #11 of 97
Thread Starter 
I have a friend who has a ds the same age as mine, her dh will NOT let her ds have anything remotly girly (he wouldnt let his son play on a pink ride on car at a kids playroom place b/c he thought it would 'turn him gay', and wont let him wear a speck of pink on any of his clothes.... )

My ds couldnt care less what color he wears, and I usually make his clothes so I go for bright colors and embelish them however I feel like (his spring shirt is bright green with multi colored flowers on it for example, but its a boys button up shirt pattern)
post #12 of 97
I try to parent my children according to their needs and interests, rather than according to gender. A lot of the things that my kids do are 'gender neutral'. Both kids are really into stuffed animals right now. Are stuffed animals 'girl' toys or 'boy' toys? I dunno. I do know that they fill a need for each child. Ds has invented great stories about his menagerie of stuffed animals (including the Animal Olympics and the ANC (animal news channel)).

Both also play soccer and this year, baseball/tee ball. Both ride their bikes and scooters. Ds plays more with girls than boys. Is it because he's the only boy in the neighborhood or because he's a sensitive new age kind of guy? (He is.) He doesn't like violent play or rough and tumble play. He's only recently become interested in sports.

My kids also have some pretty gendered behaviors. Ds was fascinated with all things with wheels from a very early age. The child would wake from a sound sleep when he heard the garbage truck several blocks away -- for 2 years, we could not miss seeing the garbage truck when it came. Dd watched too, but only because her brother did. Dd is much more into caregiving and pretending about families. Dd sat down and pretended to change her doll's diaper at 15 months, something her brother never did. Ever. Dd wants to do dance, ds is mortified at the thought.

If my kids have access to a range of toys and a range of models for how to live, then that's the best I can do. I am the WOH parent and dh works from home. So, they have a great model of parents doing different things. I do the gardening and a lot of outside yard care, but dh does more house maintenance. We both do laundry and cook. We both do dishes and baths.
post #13 of 97
I love the fact that my DS likes to wear his baby, has to have the pink or purple cup and plate ect. I didn't want to raise a boy who knew those things to be only for girls. My DDs both love playing with cars, blocks, and trains.

When I had my first child I didn't put a lot of thought into those things, it wasn't until I had a boy did it really hit me that I am one of the only people I knew at the time who "allowed" there boy to love those activities.

I don't try to do neutral parenting as I don't know anything about it, I just do what feels right and hope he turns out to be a great husband and father and a very nurturing person.

This thread is interesting.
post #14 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post
I'd need a better definition of "gender-neutral parenting", I think.
How about a whole different term. How about gender flexible parenting. Where the parent is OK with their kid loving tutus and sparkles and pink, whatever the child's gender is. The parent is OK if the child loves construction vehicles and every thing football and blue, whatever the child's gender is. The parent is fine if the child loves nature and books and yellow, whatever the child's gender is.
post #15 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by leighi123 View Post
This is something else I wonder about - because 'gender neutral' by definition means 'not specifially 'boy' or 'girl'' - BUT does that mean you ONLY buy gender neutral clothes like jeans and white shirts, and toys like art supplies and books, and only do non-gender associated activites like swimming... OR does it mean you buy both boys and girls clothes/toys, and sign your son up for ballet and karate.

I'm not sure which is meant when people say they are raising their kids neutral.
The problem with the term 'gender neutral' is that different people have a different idea of what it takes to be gender neutral. There are parents who don't purchase anything that can be associated with a gender in the name of being gender neutral, but what they are really doing is being non-gendered. There are parents who refuse to allow anything for their child's biological gender in the house in the name of being gender neutral, but they are still being gender specific.

Gender neutral is allowing your child access to things across the board, not limiting based on some preconceived idea of what is proper, or some preconceived idea of what is "sticking it to society". Most gender neutral children will likely fall on one side of the gender line when it comes to toys/activities or the other, but it is the side they choose not the side chosen for them.

Gender neutral means that inanimate objects have no gender period. Dolls are not a girl thing and trucks are not a boy thing. They just things.
post #16 of 97
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
How about a whole different term. How about gender flexible parenting. Where the parent is OK with their kid loving tutus and sparkles and pink, whatever the child's gender is. The parent is OK if the child loves construction vehicles and every thing football and blue, whatever the child's gender is. The parent is fine if the child loves nature and books and yellow, whatever the child's gender is.
I like this.
post #17 of 97
We have a "girly girl." I have always been attracted to the idea of androgyny and have been very insistent that the differences between men and women are largely, if not wholly, manufactured. So somewhere, that does inform my parenting. However, what I find myself doing is much as other pp; just following dd's lead.

I do make a conscious effort to switch my gender references; as in, I don't default to calling everything "he" or "him." I read somewhere that you should try not to refer to your CHILD as only one gender, in case he/she doesn't identify with that gender. So if you have a girl, you would switch up calling her him/her. I haven't done that.

What I focus on is making sure that the things dd has are functional, rather than souped-up girly stuff. For example, we just bought her a new 2-wheel bike. I had no problem with it being purple; but I refused to buy the pink bike with the streamers that could get caught in things and the cheap plastic pedals. I have a major pet peeve with how gendered sports equipment for kids is, for that reason. So we searched for a bike that was purple, but was a real bike.

I am also on the lookout for toys/behaviours/clothes that would be limiting for dd. She is very sports-minded and we are an active family. Dresses and skirts, even tutus, are fine even to the playground (with shorts); dress-up heels are not.

I don't wear makeup or shave my legs, but I won't mind if dd does (I suspect she will). She can go to grandma's house for that and I will buy her stuff if she asks.

She plays more with boys than girls and THAT is something I want to preserve. She's getting a healthy range of interests from her playmates, I think. I can't stand "girls only" stuff at her age-6-and I think that does teach that boys and girls should do different things. We just said no to a "separate gender" soccer team for that reason. If she asks to be with all girls, I will honour that; though I will talk with her about it. I am also looking for a gender-inclusive alternative to Sparks and Brownies, too. And we talk about inclusivity in sexuality/marriage, too. That's important to us. I guess this, too, is a pick-your-battles kind of thing.
post #18 of 97
Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
How about a whole different term. How about gender flexible parenting.
I love it.

A big "gender flexible" situation just came up in our house. Two years ago we bought a bike for DS. He picked it out, and it happened to be hot pink. I was fine with that, DH was fine with that. Now technically he can use the bike another year or two. But I have decided because he is starting school in August, and will be biking home every day, that he can have a new bike. DD will get his old bike. Why? Honestly, because I don't want him getting harassed when he starts school, by the older kids at school who think he has a "sissy girly bike" or whatever. I don't know if this will happen or not. But I want to help the transition, which I think is HUGE. DS will of course pick out his new bike. But I am pretty confident he will choose something red or blue or spiderman.... type. So I could just stop here and say he needs a new bike and feel good that I am being totally gender neutral by having him pick it out. But if I have to be brutally honest, well then, part of it is because I don't want him to get hurt or feel bad.... I can't prevent all hurt in his life, but sometimes I still try.
post #19 of 97
Why on earth would you want to parent you child in a gender neutral way... you child is *not* gender neutral? This to me is akin to the whole... "We aren't racist because we don't see color... well, not seeing someone's color, embracing it, and loving it is racist."

My kiddos are stamped as either male or female and I want to celebrate the differences between the two based on that. Afterall, we are NOT the same.
post #20 of 97
I don't believe in pushing pink and Barbie down girls' throats and trucks and blue down boys'. If they naturally like that, cool. If not, that's cool too.

When I was in high school I worked at a daycare. I actually got told off by one of the teachers (I was a TA) for letting a little boy go play "kitchen". Are you f-ing serious?! I honestly think that might have had something to do with my schedule suddenly becoming "incompatable".
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