Moms Talk: What if Billy's Playing with Barbie and Jenny Tries out for Football?

How do you address gender socialization or stereotyping when it comes to your kids?

The issue of gender stereotyping, or gender socialization, has garnered a bit of attention recently, since the news story broke about a Canadian couple who opted not to share their baby's gender with hardly anyone - even the grandparents.

While that's arguably extreme, the concept of gender socializing, learning cultural roles according to one's sex, prompted discussion by some parents with Patch about whether they should encourage less traditional toys for their boy or girl, and how they should react if Billy wants to play with Barbies or Jenny, with her amazing speed, wants to try out for football.

It may be an easy decision to paint the baby's room yellow, but how do you address your kindergarten son's wish to join his sister's ballet class?

Therefore, this week's Moms Talk question: How do you, or do you not, socialize your child according to his or her gender? Why? 

Previously, this column has addressed a number of potentially sticky parenting issues such as social media and cell phone use, and we've gotten some great feedback.

Here's a a quick look at some of our past questions:

Do you see cliques starting younger than when you were in school, and if so, how do you help your child navigate those social land mines?

How do you discuss different academic abilities with your kids?

At what age do you allow your children to have a Facebook or My Space page?

So, Moms, when is advanced placement, advancement overload? Are parents (and kids) overbooking kids?

If you missed any of these discussions and would like to read responses or post your own, just click on the links above or in the right-hand sidebar and share your thoughts.

You can also follow this feature  by clicking on the "Yes, Keep Me Posted" button below this article. And if you'd like to pose a question without identifying yourself, email  donna.evans@patch.com.

Katie June 02, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Kids should play with whatever intrigues them regardless of the 'gender' of the toy. I tried for a while to keep my daughter away from the whole princess phenomenon for example, but it didn't work. She gravitated toward those toys regardless of what I did. If she liked trucks and such, then all the more power to her. The double standard where it's ok for girls to play with boys toys but not vice versa seems a little dated to me... If a boy wants to wear a tutu, he should... Kids will do what they want to do and bending some gender roles is always a good idea in my book!
CMB June 02, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I've been raising my kids in a way that isn't exactly gender neutral, but allowed them to find their identity and likes/dislikes since the day I picked a jewel - toned tropical fish theme for the nursery ( which they both used) because it was happy. Which is exactly what I want for my kids. My daughter enjoyed dump trucks and I recall a month that my son wore a pink straw hat to the grocery store. Kids will tell you who they are & what they like if you let them. But, remember, gender identity & sexual orientation are only a couple ways parents put the responsibility of their own dreams & expectations on their offspring.
Chanda Briggs June 03, 2011 at 01:59 AM
I don't see what the big deal is. There are so many ways in which children get messages from society at large about what is expected from each gender, that you cannot shelter them from it at home and letting them decide for themselves will not obscure that particular issue. Now, how you want them to function in the family is another matter. I don't recall ever giving my son anything particularly gender specific but other family members did. I think as long as you teach your children about gender equality, that's what counts. They will connect the dots themselves as they mature. Honestly, I never understood the fear of breaking the gendered toy norms. I let my son dance around in my bras with lipstick on when he was 5 and he told me he was a Spice Girl. It was hilarious. Now, he's a beefy young man with no gender identity issues and a healthy attitude towards women as equals. What did the bra have to do with it? probably nothing. It was likely setting an example that really counted.
Slim Chances June 03, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Should boys play with dolls? The controversy over Barbie Dolls has inspired the creation of a video graphic novel that tells the story of a Doll that is persecuted and marked for destruction for being a ”bad influence” on the girl that owns her because of her appearance and the “message” that she sends. The story is told from the point of view of the Doll. If you are interested in this issue I think you might want to check it out. You can watch it for Free at this website http://toyboxbitch.com
Peggy Casmer June 03, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Coming from the point of view of a grandmother. It all does not matter. I refused to buy my daughter dolls, kitchens or anything "girly" and only gave her trucks, balls and bats. She grew up to be the "girly girl" who now buys "fake food for shopping" and "kitchens" for her daughter - and has turned out to be a wonderful nurturing mother. My opinion - toys don't matter as much as what you say, what you do and how you act. Kids know.


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