Posts tagged #social

Gender Rules

"Let me walk a mile in your shoes"

"Let me walk a mile in your shoes"

Mummy I want the pink glittery gumboots with the unicorns on them. Mummy, I want to put makeup on just like you. Mummy, when I grow up I’m going to be a girl.

Having boys has forced me to question a lot about society and a man’s place within it. I’m not sure how to respond to statements like these. After all, some boys do grow up to be girls and there is no valid reason why a boy can’t wear makeup or don pink boots. In my heart of hearts I don’t care at all that my son’s favourite colour is pink and that he likes to play with makeup and have his nails painted. I’m pretty sure most boys his age do too – probably because it’s fun and pink is great and they haven’t yet been told that being a boy somehow means they’re not supposed to enjoy these things. But the social survival part of my brain questions my responsibility as a parent to ensure he understands the social ‘rules’ around gender roles. I don’t want to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but I do want to ensure my child is well-equipped to deal socially with his peers.

I want to be part of the movement that is fighting against these gender stereotypes. I don’t want to hear the words “Don’t be such a GIRL” or “MAN up” uttered in my presence…though I’m sure that both statements have come rolling off my own sub-consciously programmed tongue at some point in time. Shame on me. I want my boys to feel free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit. But…and there’s always a but…I want to protect them. Kids can be mean! Adult society can be even meaner. Right now I don’t think it’s an issue. My boys are only 2 and 4 years old. But is there an age when it becomes your responsibility to at least warn them that wearing pink sparkly shoes to school might result in them being teased? I’m all for supporting your children, propping them up, loving them and backing them no matter what choices they make…but can failing to warn them about their sparkly shoes be likened to the parents of children on those talent shows who have been included in the ‘outtakes’ (I hate that part of talent shows by the way – celebrating social ignorance and bullying makes me feel sick)? You know the kids that have been told their whole life how brilliantly they can sing and dance and have no awareness at all that their audience is laughing at them not with them? When does saying nothing equate to not fulfilling your responsibilities as a parent?

My son has pink boots, and ‘girl’ toys, and we always save the pink cupcake for him. I’ve painted his nails and let him try on my lip gloss and powder his nose. We don’t plan on changing our attitude, but I do feel conflicted about when and how to approach the subject of gender stereotypes without serving to perpetuate them further! Ideally, I would find a way to raise my boys to be confident enough to feel free in their creative expression of themselves, with awareness that not everybody will share the same views or opinions as them. I want to raise boys who stand up to those who are being bullied, who will question social stereotypes even if they themselves fit neatly within them. This is another parenting moment where I wish I had hold of the secret formula - the guaranteed way to ensure you raise balanced, socially aware, self-confident children without buying into and reinforcing the social ignorance of stereotypes and gender rules.

Respect

Respect Mama Pyjama

Is it getting harder to raise respectful well-mannered children? Or are we just getting lazy?  Is it a result of social evolution?  More rights; a greater voice; more responsibilities; better understanding of the effects of various ‘parenting styles’ on young minds; more children in daycare; more independence; less social interaction - more texting, more Facebook, more Twitter?  Whatever the reason…it’s a pet hate of mine.

What happened to “welcome to Hungry Jacks, please place your order when you’re ready”?…when did it become “Place you order….Drive to the next window” ?

When did it become ok for kids to sit and adults to stand? 

What changed and made it ‘normal’ for the elderly man down the road to be abused by a gang of youths?  What happened to kids running scared when they heard “get off my lawn or I’ll tell your father”?  When did they become so ‘empowered’ that they instead choose to respond with a threat to “beat his head in” for simply defending his own property?

I don’t want to look back in fifteen years and be responsible for having raised one of these kids.  But I’m scared about all the pressures I will be up against in trying to ensure it doesn’t happen.  Are his friends’ parents going to band together with my husband and me on the no mobile phone rule for pre-teens or the decision as to what age it is appropriate to catch a train into town, or go to the movies with friends?  Will we be supported by the majority in our rules surrounding internet usage and access to their own spending money?  Will our expectations of their contributions to our household be rebuked by some new statute regarding the freedom of rights for young people?

I want to raise my children to have a voice and to believe in themselves and chase their dreams - but not at the expense of respecting others and supporting their peers.  It’s a fine line between ‘dog-eat-dog’, and making some sacrifices in order to achieve your goals.  It’s a fine line between having a voice, and being disrespectful to the beliefs and feelings of others.  I want to raise children who show consideration for others’ opinions, but who have enough strength in their own convictions to stay true to themselves.  Children who will show respect even in the face of rudeness.  Boys who will say “good morning, Sir” to the old man down the street, and who will walk on the footpath instead of across his lawn. 

So here’s what I’m going to try and do.  I’m going to encourage my kids to get out and get talking and not to build their entire social relationships from behind their computer screen or mobile phone.  I’m going to get them involved in charities and try to expose them to lives that differ to theirs.  I will insist on good manners, on “may I please?” on “thank you”…on the often forgotten ‘you’re welcome”.  I will try (as hard as it may be) to get to know my children’s friends’ parents and to work together to be united in our expectations and boundaries.  I will insist that they treat their grandparents and their aunties and uncles with respect at all times, for this will provide the foundation for all their future relationships.  And lastly, I will try my best to recognise when I am falling short and when I need help.  Setting clear boundaries is something my free-spirited nature struggles with…I will work on this.

What are some other things we can do to help raise respectful children?  Comment below.