Okay, so let’s start off with this: for decades now, we have been conditioned to look at boys and girls with preconceptions of what they should wear, which type of toy they should play with, and what sort of things they like. We’re all in the same boat here…
The best example of this is; ask you how the toy aisle is split? I bet your first thought was “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys”, right? If it was, don’t worry. That’s the way pretty much everyone thinks as well! And that’s because we’ve been conditioned to think that those toys are for one specific gender.
Did you know that the reason video games were (and largely still are) perceived as “boy’s toys” is because, after the video game industry crash in the 80s, Nintendo decided to launch their NES system as a toy, and had to choose which side of those aisles it would sit on? That is, literally, the only reason gaming became a “boy’s thing”… Before the industry crash, it was seen as for everyone.
Anyway, I digress. The issue with the preconceptions is that we subconsciously re-enforce them as well. Even if we don’t mean to, we end up buying the toy cars for our sons and the cute pink puppy dolls for our daughters.
That’s why, as of last week, I decided to consciously make the effort to stop doing that with my daughter. How? By letting her choose what things she wants! And she’s only 2!
The First Sign
When I think about it, I’ve actually been rather open with her in terms of music that she listens to… But that was probably just because she ended up liking my taste in music.
Ever since she was about 6 months old, her favourite music has included the likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Metallica and Linkin Park (at least, the first couple of albums). So, even then, it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t going to be following the stereotypical “little princess” idea…
However, she still absolutely loves My Little Pony… In fact, she’s got My Little Pony bedding, clothes, soft toys, night lights and more! We also have the entire series (minus Season 7 as it hasn’t finished yet) so that she can watch it whenever she wants downstairs! Oh, and we bought her a Kindle Fire tablet specifically so that she could watch it on Netflix as well!
So, I figured that she was still going to slot into that preconception somehow, and subconsciously, I steered her towards it for a while… I bought her clothes from the “girls” section, and toys on the “girl’s shelf.”
It wasn’t until last week that I really understood what I was doing…
The Turning Point
You see, we’d bought her loads of toys over the past two years…. Hundreds of pounds worth. But she didn’t play with them. Instead, she would play wit an old keyboard and TV remote that we have. We put it down to her being a kid and, as everyone always says, kids get bored of things really easy.
Looking back, I should have realised that wasn’t the case.
Last week, we took her to the toys aisle in Tesco, and instinctively started picking up the fluffy animals and things. She pushed them all away, and was not interested at all. So then we tried some of the dolls for toddlers… Again, she wasn’t interested.
Then, all of a sudden, she leant forward in her pushchair and picked up two toys, from the “boys’ shelf”; a police car and a fire engine. She pulled them close, started pressing the buttons on them, and smiled at us with one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen! She was so happy with these toys! So we bought them!
It’s been almost a whole week since then, and she still isn’t bored of them! Just like she didn’t get bored of the keyword or remote…
And that’s when it clicked; she was getting bored of those other toys so quickly because they were toys we thought she should play with and like… They weren’t, however, the type of toys she actually likes and wants to play with. Our preconceptions about what girls should play with were leading to her getting bored with the toys we were buying!
Of course, that’s not all! That same day, we went to H&M and decided to get her some clothes. So, where did we go first? That’s right! The girls’ section of the shop! We went around, and picked up loads of different “pretty in pink” clothes and everything else you’d expected… But before we went to the checkout, we decided to show the clothes to her and see what she thought.
The only set of clothes that she didn’t push away was (of course) a two-set of My Little Pony outfits. Everything else, she couldn’t have pushed away faster!
So we decided to walk around the shop and see what things she picked out. In the end, we found a few tops she liked (blue, red and purple ones) and one that she seemed to love almost as much as the police car and fire engine; a black Metallica t-shirt with their skull logo on it! (You have no idea how happy I was when she smiled at that t-shirt).
The interesting part about all of these t-shirts that she liked? They were in the boys’ section of the shop.
So, that’s twice now that I’ve seen my daughter go against the preconceptions of what boys and girls should be like, and she’s only 2. That’s also twice that I’ve realised I was subconsciously forcing her into a specific gender role.
Well, that’s not happening anymore!
From now on, I’m going to let my daughter chose her clothes, toys and everything else. I’m going to let her find out and decide who she is, rather than forcing a set of preconceived ideas about “being a girl” on to her. And I think she’ll be happier for it… She certainly has been the past week.
Let’s see how it goes…
And That’s All Folks
Do your kids sometimes “break the rules” of the toy aisle or clothes shop? Do you have any tips on helping parents let their kids find themselves? Let me know in the comments below!