How can one teach a child to respect the other gender? Inclusivity is an attitude and being sensitive to the other gender is something that is best taught to a child while he is young.
On the other hand, a mother standing up for her daughter, ensuring that she gets an equal education and exposure to similar extra-curricular activities as the son, has seeded the beginning of a woman expecting to be treated as an equal when she grows up.
Five things that parents can do to teach a child to be gender inclusive:
a. Sensitize the boys to how girls are different, yet special. Share with them examples of successful women leaders in their culture. If you are a mother, talk to them about how you felt cared for and loved on some occasions and how you felt hurt on the others.
b. Teach the girl child to stand up for herself. It is easy for us to give in to some of our societal norms and to suppress the feelings of the girl child. Give her a patient hearing and teach her to speak her mind. If she is not old enough, translate her feelings into words for the boys around her. The father plays a critical role in this. Even more so, the mother, whom the girl child is likely to emulate.
c. Find role models of successful women near home. Every woman has an untold story. Introduce the child to the aunt or the grandmother who has stood the test of time, survived many hardships and has a success story to boast of.
d. Live inclusivity. Hopefully you would not encourage any stereotypical behavior at home like asking the boys go and run errands and getting the girls to help around in the kitchen. Both need to learn all these things so alternate these chores amongst them. Position these tasks as life skills which need to be learned by all. They are.
e. Appreciate good behavior. Refrain from buying a toy for your son if he speaks softly to your daughter, as material rewards in these cases do not work in the long run. Do, however, appreciate his effort and share with him how your daughter felt nice about it. After all, good behavior is for everyone. A good human being is usually gender sensitive.
Inclusivity simplified is respecting every individual. It is a value to be inculcated in a child over many years. Values are best imbibed by living in a culture that consistently demonstrates related behaviors.
Are you living this value at home? Is the woman at home respected enough and does she articulate how she feels when she is treated special? Does your home present a fair learning ground for your child?
(About the Author: A Certified Professional Coach from the International Coach Academy (Australia), Namrataa has been coaching clients across the world. She is the Founder of 'Life Beyond Motherhood', a venture which specializes in coaching women going through transitions in their career, lives and works with them to help them define their life balance for happier and fulfilling lives.)
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