The bounty and joy that comes to a parent with the birth of a child are unparalleled. But with the child comes the baggage of responsibility to raise him/her up in a way that facilitates his/her overall development. Often the belief system and inherent gender roles ideals, which are a part of the parent’s personality, influence the manner in which parents bring up their children. Not to mention, parental expectations play a huge role in determining the gender roles their children imbibe.
A child’s understanding of gender identity and roles play a huge role in the manner they form a social identity; choose peers, groups, relationships, and how they conceptualize themselves. While gender identity is like a spectrum, mostly children operate in an environment with gender-dependent social and behavioral norms that encourage the children to have a rigid sense of gender identity, orientation. This environment encompasses family structure, peer groups, school, and playgroups too.
Fortunately, most parental behaviors towards children are not gender-specific but parents tend to unconsciously motivate certain behaviors in children depending on their genders. Parental expectations of children’s gender roles are especially highlighted in the household chores children are taught to accomplish. Girls are expected to do more household chores than boys and boys are encouraged to learn more practical social skills for better adaptation to the world outside one’s family.
These parental influences on the child’s choice of gender roles initiate during the early years of the child’s life. Toy preferences and peer preferences of a child are often influenced by the parents who sex-type their children into choosing to play with dolls, playhouses if it’s a female child while they coax their male children to involve in sports. Parents believe that these choices they make for their children are gender-appropriate. Seldom do they consider the child’s likings when it comes to playing and choosing toys.
Parental expectations in a child’s gender roles are also visible in the parent’s style of communication with the child. Parents use more emotional expressions, words, and body language while communicating with a female child than with a male child. Male children are often expected by their parents to be more in control of their emotions as they grow up. When faced with problems, male children are taught to focus more on the external factors and aim at a solution based on practicality while female children are more often guided to focus on an internal solution focused on one’s emotionality.
These gender roles that parents want their children to imbibe might seem well-intended but they instead are very limiting to the growth of the child. Children should be allowed to experiment and explore themselves more to discover themselves outside the box. Children are flexible, fertile and they start their life with a blank canvas. Restricting a child’s options based on social conventions during their developmental phase only curbs their potential to fully express themselves. Children should be taught life skills, communication skills, emotional expression, games, etc., irrespective of their gender. Their gender should never be the yardstick to determine their sexual orientation, gender identity, their choices, the relationships they form with others, and how they act in every step of their life.