With more and more celebs (as well as us normal folk) deciding to raise baby grey, AKA gender-neutral kids, we've decided to get the lowdown on what it's all about, how to do it, and why we can all learn something from this parenting approach...
The most popular question I got asked being pregnant? The gender one. And much to the amusement (and in some cases bewilderment) of many, we chose not to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. Why? Mainly because we wanted a surprise come the big day. Yet, these convos did get me thinking about how much gender plays a role even before you welcome your little one into the world. From gender reveals decked out in blue or pink to the gender-themed outfits and toys filling our homes – and that’s before baby has even started babbling.
But, it seems, things are changing. Welcome, Generation Theybies. As a mum of two (very pink) girls, I was keen to find out what gender-neutral parenting is all about and who exactly is baby grey?
Gender-neutral parenting in Singapore
What is gender-neutral parenting?
Although you might be rolling your eyes and brush gender-neutral parenting off as a fad (I might be a little guilty of this), once you actually read up on what gender-neutral parenting is all about, you could be pleasantly surprised.
For many, it’s a case of exposing their kids to a variety of gender types and allowing them to explore rather than conform to traditional stereotypes. This could be as simple as consciously thinking about the go-to colours and toys we typically assign to our littlies based on their gender.
Each interpretation of gender-neutral parenting is different, of course. In its strictest form, it might be avoiding gender entirely and instead encouraging your kid to decide for themselves who they are. This is possible in a number of US states now, where parents can choose to label gender as X on their baby’s birth certificate.
Basically, it’s up to you how you interpret gender-neutral parenting. But, all approaches agree that, in a nutshell, it comes down to challenging those ingrained gender stereotypes that are all around us.
Why do it? Why does gender-neutral parenting even matter?
Christia Spears Brown, a mummy and development psychologist, knows a thing or two about gender-neutral parenting. In her book, Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes, she puts a strong case forward as to why gender-neutral parenting is much more than just a fad. For instance, studies show that, on average, parents talk less to baby boys and are less likely to use numbers when speaking to little girls. And this is just one in many examples where we alter our behaviour based on gender (just take a look at new baby gifts, for instance).
The impact? It’s far-reaching, reinforcing gender stereotypes as our kids grow up. We only need to take a look at career choices and gender inequality down the line to see this.
Help! I’m gender stereotyping!
Let’s be honest; we do it without thinking. I’m certainly a guilty party. I do it without thinking with my eldest, at least 70% of her wardrobe is pink. She loves unicorns, rainbows and fairies. And that’s fine, but I often wonder why she decided these were her favourite things and how everything around her (and my own behaviour) has influenced this. It’s definitely given me food for thought.
So, how can we avoid this and take on gender-neutral parenting in practice?
Top tips for gender-neutral parenting in Singapore
1. Why language matters
“You’re such a good girl!” – another one that I can add to my guilty list. And although I don’t even think twice about it, apparently I really should — language matters. Removing gender labels is such an easy way to make a difference and avoids associating behaviour with gender.
2. Don’t get caught up on colours
Colours based on gender are everywhere, from clothing to toys, and even birthday cards. I had so many people asking me what I would do about clothing if I didn’t know my newborn’s gender in advance. I even sorted all the baby clothes I had for my firstborn into girly vs gender-neutral colours before my youngest was born. We do it subconsciously, without even thinking about it. That doesn’t mean you need to run and ditch the pink and blue immediately, but it’s being mindful of the role colours play and how we as parents influence it.
3. Let kids get creative (and avoid judgement)
Yep, it’s okay if your little boy wants to dress up as a Disney Princess and sing their heart out, or if your little girl would much prefer tractors to dolls. Our own stereotypes are so ingrained that it’s often difficult to remember this. Check out how this Dad is all about smashing those stereotypes when his little boy wanted to dress up as Elsa. Psst – take a peek at our guide to all the best gender-neutral threads while you’re at it!
4. Talk about it and challenge what you see
With children expressing their gender identities around the age of two, it’s never too early to start conversations with your kids and kick those gender stereotypes into touch. Whether it’s a film, TV programme, or in real life – make sure you challenge the gender norms all around us. Female pilot? A-ok. Your little boy aspiring to be a nurse? We salute you. Stay at home dads? All the way. Help kids understand and break down these gender norms.
5. Play with all of the toys!
Let kids pick their toys, regardless of who they are ‘meant’ for. UK based Let Toys Be Toys are big believers in this and have successfully campaigned UK toy stores to remove girls and boys toy signs in store. Although there’s still a long way to go, there are examples of the tide turning in the toy industry, from gender-neutral options for Hasbro’s PotatoHead to Mattel’s gender-neutral dolls.
Whatever your thoughts on these changes (a great move or a step too far), we can all agree that gender and toys is a thing. If we really want to encourage our kids to dream big and see their opportunities in the future as limitless regardless of gender, it needs to start with removing the limits on what they can play with at a young age.
Resources to help with gender-neutral parenting…
Good news, there are loads of helpful resources for both the kids and for you as parents when it comes to gender-neutral parenting. Here are a few of our favourite books to have on your list…
Gender neutral books for the kids…
Rosa loves Dinosaurs by Jessica Spanyol
Part of a series (including Clive and his babies, and Rosa plays ball), these books are perfect for celebrating inclusivity, promoting gender equality, and showing that toys aren’t specific to gender.
Boys Dance! by John Robert Allman
It’s not just toys, it’s activities too. This book, created in partnership with the American Ballet Theatre, and with the input of their company’s male dancers, shows that ballet really is for everyone.
Gender neutral books for parents…
Raising Them by Kyl Myers
Dr Kyl Myers is a sociologist, educator, and mummy to Zoomer. Here she shares her account of how she has brought up her little person. With no wish to eliminate gender but rather gender discrimination, Kyl shares her insights into the highs and lows of this approach and why raising a confident, compassionate, and self-aware person is all that really matters.
Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes by Christia Spears Brown
Already referenced above, Christia is something of a go-to when it comes to gender-neutral parenting. Her guide is practical and realistic, giving clear ideas on how parents can focus more on the individual child and avoid those easy gender stereotypes along the way!
What are your thoughts on gender-neutral parenting? Send us a DM on Instagram and let us know!
Featured photo: June via Unsplash