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Many of the women I know - my friends, relatives, friends of friends, relatives of relatives or merely some of the mothers I come across in my daily life have one thing in common – they are all mothers of two boys – intelligent, naughty, argumentative, funny, sporty, studious, adventurous boys. And since they are all so unique and remarkable I try to observe how each mother is doing the job to the best to her ability, each with a different parenting style. I cannot say one is better than the other as a mother, but I can surely see how they are shaping up their kids so differently – especially when it comes to defining gender roles for them.
The distinct styles of parenting are illustrated very clearly by two of the mothers I know – each has two boys. The first one exposes the boys to all the ‘typical’ boy things – superheroes; football; cricket; she is okay of the kids get aggressive with others – as that’s again a ‘boy’ thing. They are all about the colour blue; play with action figures, cars, trucks, video games, guns, swords to name a few.
The second one on the other hand gives her boys exposure to all kinds of toys – cars & kitchen sets; colours pink, purple, yellow, orange & blue. She is okay if her son is sensitive, cries in front of people or cries over things in general. She for sure is one intelligent woman who knows her boys will be emotionally strong adults, able to express their emotions and will grow up to be mature citizens who will know how to control negative emotions such as aggression, anger, and worse rage.
The differences in the toys parents select for their children is just an illustration of how deep rooted our own stereotypes about gender roles are. How, without even realizing we are passing these stereotypes on to our boys and girls. We often do it unintentionally, often because that’s how we have been bought up.
The idea for us parents is to be conscious of the following aspects while raising our children:
It is not just about raising ‘gender-neutral’ kids, but raising ‘gender-equal’ ones. Wherein we pass on a message to them that no gender is superior or inferior than the other, there is no job one gender can do better than the other, there is no occupation which is gender specific. They need to grow up as adults who are self-sufficient, self-reliant – at home and at work. This goes for both boys & girls – especially boys since we have all experienced the ‘pampered Indian male’ syndrome at least sometime in our lives. I hope our boys & girls grow up only as humans.
No mother is better than the other, and each one is only trying to nurture her kids to the best of her abilities – I only feel that if we are more mindful of what we are teaching them unintentionally, mindful of what we are passing on to them as values & beliefs, mindful of the prejudices and stereotypes we are helping to build inside them – we will have a world with more harmony and more respect for each other.