All children have equal rights regardless of their gender. However, boys, girls and children who identify as non-binary, see gender discrimination and stereotypes every day. Whether it is at home, at school, or online, gender stereotypes play a big role in teaching children what society expects of them. It is important to ensure children decide for themselves what toys they like or what colours they want to wear.
We encourage you to use the following tips, aimed at helping children better understand that all children – boys, girls and non-binary children – are equal.
- Reflect on what you know and if you are reinforcing gender roles. Start by acknowledging that your own biases and lived experiences may influence how you talk to your children about such topics. Take the time to reflect and get informed. When purchasing new toys, clothes and books for your child, reflect if it is reinforcing any stereotypes. Assigning certain chores to only girls or to only boys can also reinforce gender roles. Let children know that girls can also take out the garbage or mow the lawn, and boys can do the dishes and sweep.
- Listen and encourage your child. What are the questions your child is asking? Do they feel that boys and girls or non-binary children are different in any way? Try to teach your child that all children (no matter their gender) are equal and their gender shouldn’t determine what they can achieve. Let both boys and girls know it’s OK to express and discuss their feelings and emotions. Try to incorporate a variety of toys – unisex and those marketed to different genders – into your child’s playtime. Share age-appropriate books about gender equality and gender diversity with your child, and allow and encourage them to speak freely about gender issues.
- Incorporate media and social media that doesn’t reinforce gender stereotypes. It is important to understand that what is displayed online or on TV can shape children’s views. Help diversify your child’s understanding of gender by finding TV shows, movies and role models that show kids the opposite of traditional gender norms – such as a female firefighter or a stay-at-home dad. You can also show diverse family structures, such as LGBTQ+ families.
- Correct misinformation. Correct misperceptions and misinformation about the perceived differences between boys, girls and children who identify as non-binary. Help your child better understand that all children should have equal opportunities and rights, and we should treat everyone with respect and kindness.
- Be a good role model. Start having conversations with children about gender empowerment early and often. When you see gender discrimination, call it out and explain to your child why. The absence of positive expression or images matter as well, so model thoughtful, inclusive behaviour.