Hudson Valley Parent

HVP September 2017

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Page 28 of 39 n Hudson Valley Parent 29 Childhood Development. Parents and care givers have the ultimate influence in their kids' lives. Shifting our own expectations for gender roles, and modeling a more equal division of labor in the home, helps kids form their ideals of what is achievable. Even really young children can sense the differences in how gender is perceived when there is no cross over in responsibilities. Language plays a key role in how kids begin to divide themselves by gender. In school when teachers use phrases like, "good morning boys and girls" it implies that there are two categories of attendees in the room. However, phrases like, "good morning class!" or "good morning children" send a message of inclusion. Some parents consider our culture to blame for gender segregation where things like numbers and counting are promoted more as boys activities, and fantasy play like costumes and magic are marketed toward girls. Even in a household that promotes gender equality it may require diligence to keep kids focused on their favorite activity, or feel comfortable to try a new one, despite those outside influences. Break through barriers Amy Luke of Saugerties emboldens her daughter JoElle, age 8, to stick with karate, a male dominated activity, by encouraging her before she feels like she wants to quit. "We talk about the benefits before we get into crisis mode" Luke explains. JoElle has participated in karate since age five and a half. "We don't classify anything as a boy or girl sport, or hobby. She honestly didn't know any different until her friends started making comments stating, 'that's a boy sport.' My husband and I told her that it doesn't matter. If she likes it then it is a JoElle sport," she said. "I believe breaking gender roles starts with the parents. If the parents model the appropriate behavior then the child will have an easier time breaking barriers." One such mom that is helping her daughter break through barriers is Karina P. of Rhinebeck. Karina is encouraging her 9-year-old daughter by giving her room to try new things as they interest her. "I encourage her to try all kinds of things. She's a whiz at math and loves the STEM stuff in school. I also make sure she helps or at least watches me fix things around the house. She has her own tool kit too." Karina is no stranger to breaking gender barriers herself, "I was the second girl in my high school to take both years of auto shop." Leave gender out of it It is safe to say there remains some gender bias towards what activities or hobbies are suitable for boys and for girls. Even though much has changed over the years, and kids today are more often encouraged to make their own choices, parents may need to continue to encourage their chil- Before your child quits, try out these stereotype challenging tips. • Encourage them to identify a celebrity gender bender in their chosen activity or sport. Following someone who successfully shatters stereotypes helps your child see themselves in that role. • Make it a rule they have to finish the season, unless it is a safety issue or genuine concern for their self-esteem. • For little ones, encourage mixed gender play dates where they can see themselves as equals before those outside influences settle in. • Challenge your child to tell you why an activity is only for the opposite sex. Help them debunk those old stereotypes. • Enroll your child in mixed gender activities like the Baden Powel Service Association (BPSA) which offers scouting and volunteer projects for boys and girls alongside each other. • Offer praise for your child based on their skills and hard work and not as the stand out girl/boy on the team. • Be active yourself by jumping into activities outside the gender norm. dren to push passed stereotypes. Experts and parents agree that the simplest way to help your child stick with an activity is focusing on their individual talents and leave gender out of it. Roxanne Ferber is a freelance writer and blogger at She lives in Saugerties with her husband and 6-year-old twins. What makes something a "boy toy?"Danielle Brown's daughter loved Spiderman until her peers insisted it was just for boys.

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