Gender Neutral Education
I always tried to raise my children quite gender neutral. And I do not do it by getting only gender neutral toys for them, but by buying girl oriented, boy oriented and gender neutral toys. My boys have dolls and teddy bears, tiaras and nail polish. I never put limits to their role playing and, in fact, I encouraged playing at things easy for a couch potato like me to follow. My favourite one is to play hairdressers, I am the client. I never let them watch violent cartoons and the only superheroe I encourage them to follow is Sportacus, who becomes stronger when eating apples and weaker when eating candies and whose super strength is used to perfom somersaults, sports and keep healthy instead of fighting with the bad guys. We play “family” and any of my sons may end up in the role of mummy with me playing the baby or daddy.
You would expect that children like these would be gentle and caring children with not a slim interest in violence or fighting or playing high risk games, right? Well….No….
I have plenty of friends with daughters of similar age to my boys and, when we meet, the girls usually play much more gently than my boys. You will see three girls sitting around a table quietly drawing something while my two boys (and other boys, indeed) are crashing cars against each other, wrestling like little lion cubs or jumping up and down in a less than safe manner. They use language I cannot even guess where they get it from like “I will kill you” and “if I give you a punch your heart will break into two”, all of it accompanied by martial arts movements. And these types of games is when they are the happiest.
So, is it the different play pattern a gender thing or is it driven by adrenaline, stamina or something like that?
I myself was quite a tomboy. In kindergarden, I remember I always enjoyed much better playing “wars” with boys than “dolls” with girls. I had permanent bruises on my knees from rough play until I was around 8 years of age.
My own experience as a child makes me think it is more a stamina thing than a gender thing. When a child, whether a boy or a girl, feels they need to get their heart pumping faster, boy-oriented games and toys tend to require more physical activity than toys traditionally designed for girls. If you have a car and a doll, with the car, you will have to stand up and go and get it every few seconds, while with a doll, you can be sitting with it for hours without moving (unless, you do as I used to do and play to get her on top of the wardrobe).
I really wished I could find some more toys that, while encoraging a caring and gentle behaviour (usually on the girl’s toys shelf), could also require some more physical effort on the children’s side. Any ideas? Please do not suggest sports, I am still to find a non competitive, physically challenging sport that promotes a caring and gentle behavior.