I often here parents say they are doing xyz or not allowing xyz to ensure their child doesn’t get picked on.
Things like not letting their boys wear pink or play with dolls. Not changing their child’s diet. Getting their sons circumsized. Ensuring they have a gender appropriate hair style. The list could go on and on.
News flash – your kids will most likely be teased for something.
Whether its too many freckles, red hair, short hair (me year 8), being too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, accidentally wearing their shorts back to front (me year 8), accidentally calling the teacher mummy (me year 3), not having the right shoes/backpack/pencil case, big family, single parent family… Kids will pick out the difference and tease.
So do you do everything to ensure your children conform to the norm or do you let them be themselves and teach your children tolerance and acceptance?
The problem is its normally well meaning mothers who apply themselves to the I don’t want them to be teased mantra. After all, no one wants their children to be a target for bullies. But if we all conform then it will be the few brave parents and their children who dare to be different who WILL be bullied.
The boy with long hair. The girl who brings organic food to school. The teen who is proud to be gay. The fat kid. The smart kid. The nerd. The band geek
We’ve had this discussion in our house, DH will say he doesn’t want to kids to be weird and I’ll remind him there’s no such thing as weird or normal.
My plan? To instill confidence in my children to let them be free to be who they want to be. To question what is ‘normal’ and why it’s so. And to follow their dreams.
After all, I was a pretty normal kid in high school and I still got teased. I think we all do at one point or another. And yeah it hurt at the time. Did it destroy me long term, no.
I am in no way condoning bullying. I think it’s deplorable, and I believe it shows weakness and low self esteem in the bully. But I think if we teach our kids to conform to societies expectations ‘just in case’ then the bullies win.
It also comes from a place of wanting to keep our girls girly and our boys manly.
My son wears an amber teething necklace, we often get asked why I ‘let’ my son wear a necklace. “It’s a bit poofy, isn’t it?” I was once asked. “I don’t think so, anything that helps with his pain is good in my books.” He’s not even 1 but already blue is in, pink is out. Cars and trucks are in, fairies and dolls are out. The gender stereotyping begins early on and it never stops.
Why is it socially acceptable for a woman to be a stay at home parent but a man is labelled unemployed? Why is a household where both parents work is it still expected that the mother would do most of the childcare and housework? Why does a woman have to gain permission from the father of the baby to birth how she feels is best despite it being her body labouring and not his?
Fact is we live in a sexist society that expects us to fit certain strict gender ‘guidelines.’ And we teach these to our children from a very young age. We teach them that there are boys and girls toys, clothes, books, television shows, hobbies, jobs, and roles. We do this consciously and subconsciously. Verbally and non-verbally. It’s weird for a boy to have long hair, play with dolls and be soft spoken. That 3 year old must be gay!
That girl who loves Roary the Racing Car, prefers pants to a dress, and is loud and sporty, must be a lesbian, or a Tom boy.
Truth is by expecting our children to conform we perpetuate the stereotypes and nothing changes.
You think feminism has gone too far? I think it’s got a long way to go!
So, before you make a lifestyle choice based on whether or not your children will be teased for it, stop. No amount of conforming to societies expectations will completely protect your child from being teased. You’re far better off letting your child making their own choices and building their confidence in who they are, because they’ll handle anything life throughs at them, including some mean words from a school yard bully, if they’re confident.