Thursday, 18 August 2016

HOW TO RAISE A FEMINIST CHILD: THE DO'S and DON'T'S OF FEMINIST PARENTING

This resource has been created by the team at The Sydney Feminists as a guide to feminist parenting. We strongly believe that if we can teach our children to respect, question and reason, this will gift them with the tools necessary to overcome any of our parental shortcomings.

DO make sure both parents get opportunities to care for their children on their own, without the other parent as a back-up or on-call

DO make sure all children, regardless of gender, are taught basic household skills, such as cleaning and cooking

DO model egalitarian gender roles in the household, regularly swapping household tasks and sharing responsibility for managing family/household related tasks and events

DO ensure that children's household tasks are shared rather than segregated by gender. Make sure each child's contribution is equally valued, and make sure pocket money is fair!

DO discuss recent news or current social issues in the media with your child and ask them what they think about it, and in turn, share your perspective and provide an explanation for the basis of your views

DO take your children to participate in rallies and activist events

DO teach your children about the gender binary and social pressures to conform to it. Encourage them to express themselves as they see fit

DO allow your children to experiment with gender expression.

DO teach your sons feminist values and respect for women

DO actively listen to your child's opinions, thoughts and viewpoints and provide them with factual information including statistics, cases and relevant examples to challenge any myths or misconceptions they may have learned outside the home or from another parent or family member

DO teach your children empathy. One of our male Instagram followers explained to us how he became a feminist: "My parents taught me to just not be an jerk. Consequently, I became a feminist."

DO expose your child to media that challenges gender roles and stereotypes and has positive role models

DO point out stereotypes when they arise in media for your child to begin developing an awareness of how stereotypes are reinforced in the media.

DO teach your kids to embrace and love their bodies. Teach them that they have a right to their own body and what happens to it. You can let your child make age-appropriate decisions regarding their own body (eg. cutting their hair or dressing themselves) from an early age.

DO talk to your kids about sex

DO teach your children about consent and bodily autonomy in order to facilitate optimum self respect, self trust, self worth, a greater ability to recognise the difference between wanted and unwanted bodily attention, and the ability to say "no" without fear of being reprimanded. eg. Giving your child the option to hug or kiss someone or not, and then respecting their choices by saying "Do you feel like hugging Uncle Phil today? .....No, that's not a problem at all. Your body, your choice."

DO always remind your children they are multifaceted individuals who cannot and do not have to be boxed into one rigid category. Eg. Let your daughter know she can be a graceful dancer as well as being loud and boisterous, caring and sensitive as well as being strong and opinionated etc; and your son can love football and ballet.

DO acknowledge what your child is feeling and allow boys to express their sensitivity, softness and vulnerability in the same way you would girls.

DO enlighten (not scare) your children about the way society treats any acts (however small) of rebellion and non-conformity so that they are prepared. eg.If your daughter chooses not to shave her legs, let her know that while it is her choice as it is her body, she is likely to encounter backlash from her peers as society pressures females to conform to certain prescribed standards of beauty.

DO remember the importance of role modelling by practising what you preach at home, so behaviour always matches your ideals, and when it doesn't and falls short, allow for an open discussion with your child

DO create a family environment void of an imbalance of power/ between gender or adult/ child - an environment free of fear where woman, men and children are all free to express ideas,thoughts, beliefs and emotions without verbal or physical abuse or shame.

DO always refer and talk about sexual organs with the same respect and easiness that you discuss any other body part or physical function answering and normalising questions about sexual  or bodily functions with factual information and age appropriate explanations which can inform and empower.

DO teach your child that diversity is vital and that each individual is equal in their right to strive for their own goals and what enriches and fulfils them without hate , or violence ,or intolerance, so being mindful of our prejudice and blind spots as parents so we don't pass second hand beliefs down upon our children but rather allow them to expand upon their own.

DON'T smack or physically "discipline" your children. Physical punishment sends a message to your child that when a person is angry with their behaviour or if they have done something that disappoints someone else, that it is acceptable for someone else to inflict physical pain upon them. Corporal punishment also teaches a child that issues can be addressed by physical aggression. Instead of resorting to this archaic form of punishment, have an age-appropriate discussion with your child about their behaviour or specific wrongful action, let them know why it was inappropriate behaviour and remind them of the behaviour you expect from them. If punishment needs to be carried out, take away one of their privileges for a specified time frame.

DON'T impede your child their full freedom of expression by imposing gendered expectations on their behaviour. eg. Don't tell your daughter she has to "be quiet or "be nice" or "ladylike" and don't tell your son he has to "be tough" or "be strong" or that "boys don't cry".

DON'T stifle your child's natural personality by censoring their behaviour to societal expectations of how a female or male "should behave".

DON'T use language which suggests that household matters are women's responsibility - e.g Dad 'helps' Mum with the washing up, or Dad is 'babysitting' the kids.

DON'T use heteronormative language when mentioning your child's future relationships. e.g Instead of saying to a son "when you get older and meet a nice girl", say "when you get older and meet a nice person/or girl or boy".

DON'T make statements that place expectations on your child to conform to societal expectations. eg. Don't say to your child  "when you grow up and get married and have a family of your own". Instead say "when you grow up, you may choose to get married you may not. You may choose to have a family, you may not. Whatever choice you make, I will always love and respect you for your decisions."

DON'T ignore or dismiss your child's ethnic heritage, but instead facilitate your child to discover and embrace their cultural identity. Eg. If you are a parent to a child who is biracial or multiracial, don't pretend that your child's ethnic heritage isn't an issue or isn't important, but instead help your child to learn of and be proud of their cultural heritage.

DON'T reinforce the stereotype that boys and men cannot control their actions and that their behaviour is driven by their sex drive by making statements like telling your son he was "thinking with his penis" or tell your daughter "all men think about is sex all day".  Instead, affirm to your child irrespective of gender, that they always have a choice in how they behave and that how they respond to situations is their own decision.

DON'T try to control your children's bodies and don't teach your child that you own their body because you don't. As a parent, particularly a father figure, if you teach your child that they don't have authority over their own bodies and that instead you do, you are setting them up for seeking permission from others and letting others (particularly men), dictate what happens to their bodies. 

DON'T slut shame or victim blame, and when you hear this being enacted by someone else (whether it be in the media or in conversation), use it as an opportunity to educate your child on what slut shaming and victim blaming is, and why it is damaging and harmful.

DON'T teach your daughter that other girls or women are her competition. This begins by not comparing your child to others

DON'T dismiss your child's opinions or tell them they are wrong for what they think (but instead offer them an alternative perspective which will enable them to make up their own mind)

DON'T let your children shame other children for not conforming to gender stereotypes

DON'T lull your children into a false sense of security where they think they won’t be challenged for expressing themselves and not conforming

DON'T reinforce expected behaviours according to gender such as telling  your son "don't be a naughty boy" or telling your daughter "be a good girl".

DON'T make compliments or praising of behaviour gender-specific. Eg. Don't praise your son for being a "leader", but then label your daughter "bossy" for the same behaviour. (Later in life this converts into men being praised for being "confident" and women being shamed for being "aggressive/bitchy".)

DON'T buy toys based on gender. The impact of sex-specific toy choice has implications for children’s learning and attitudes far beyond the playground. Associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, Megan Fulcher says “play with masculine toys is associated with large motor development and spatial skills and play with feminine toys is associated with fine motor development, language development and social skills”. Children's preference for sex-gendered toys (or colours) are learned, not innate. De-gendering toys will allow children, and arguably society at large, to reap long-term benefits: when we offer kids equal choices from an early age, it logically follows that they will continue to expect and demand equality in their personal, social and professional lives.


With thanks to our Instagram followers and friends for their valuable contributions.

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