May 22, 2023

Gender Stereotypical Phrases to Avoid with Children

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Gender Stereotypical Phrases to Avoid with Children

As parents, we have a significant impact on our children's upbringing. From the time they are born, we teach them everything they need to know about the world. But unfortunately, we often unknowingly embed gender stereotypes through our actions and the language that we use. 

For example, we dress little girls in pink and frills and boys in blue and sports-themed attire. We encourage girls to be nurturers and caregivers while telling boys to be leaders and providers.

In addition, society and the media also play a vital role in conveying to children what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. As our children transition from childhood to adolescence, their views on gender roles are significantly impacted by these stereotypes.

These stereotypical phrases can harm our child's mental health, self-esteem, and overall development. 

Below are some gender-stereotypical phrases that reinforce biases about gender roles:

"Boys, don't cry."

This term is often used to discourage boys from being upset about something. Some argue that this phrase is not harmful and helps young boys develop toughness. However, the truth is that this saying encourages boys and young men to hide their genuine emotions, which ultimately is harmful and prevents emotional development and personal growth.

As a result, many boys learn to suppress their emotions during their transition to young adulthood as they know that only certain emotions are acceptable for boys and men, such as anger. And as they grow into adults, they spend their lives hiding their full range of emotions, leading to a limited emotional capacity. 

Not being able to express yourself entirely can cause a lot of pain. In addition, it can significantly hinder the development of deep emotional connections with others, which are necessary for building strong intimate relationships.

"You're such a tomboy." 

This term is often used to describe girls who like wearing clothes typically considered "boyish," like baggy t-shirts, trousers, and caps. These girls also enjoy physical activities that are usually associated with boys. But here's the thing: girls can enjoy these activities just as much as boys can! Using the term "tomboy" can make girls feel like they're not normal or don't fit in. Instead, we should celebrate each child's unique qualities and encourage them to explore activities they enjoy without using labels that might make them feel different.

"You throw like a girl."

The phrase "you throw like a girl" may seem harmless but can promote harmful gender stereotypes. This can negatively impact young girls, discouraging them from participating in activities typically associated with boys, such as sports. It also reinforces the damaging idea that girls are less skilled and weaker than boys, which can lead to unfair treatment and discrimination in other areas of life. 

Using this phrase unintentionally lowers our children's self-esteem and contributes to a culture of gender inequality and discrimination.

"Be a man or man up." 

Using the phrase "Be a man" or "Man up" is harmful to our children because it reinforces outdated and damaging gender norms. 

These phrases suggest that to be strong or successful; you must show traditional masculine traits like toughness and very little emotion while disregarding behaviours typically associated with femininity, such as being vulnerable and emotional. This can negatively impact a child's mental health and self-esteem, especially for boys who may need to hide their emotions or act destructively to prove their manliness. 

"Boys will be boys."

The phrase "Boys will be boys" is a harmful statement for our children because it promotes a toxic and gender-biased way of thinking. This saying implies that boys can behave however they want without being held accountable for their actions simply because of their gender. 

It sends the wrong message to our young boys that aggression and disrespect towards others are acceptable behaviour and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes. 

Instead, we must teach our children to be kind, compassionate, and respectful, regardless of gender. We must let go of the idea that certain behaviours are justifiable simply because of someone's gender and strive for a society that treats everyone equally.

"That toy is for boys/girls."

Using the phrase "That toy is for boys/girls" may seem like an innocent remark, but it is harmful to our children. It reinforces gender stereotypes and limits their creativity and imagination. By categorising toys as only for a specific gender, we teach our children to conform to society's expectations instead of exploring their interests and talents. It also implies that certain activities and abilities are only appropriate for boys or girls, which can limit their opportunities in life. 

Encourage your children to play with any toy they choose. This will help raise open-minded and inclusive individuals who can surpass gender norms.

"Act like a lady or sit like a lady." 

These phrases often describe the "proper way" for girls to behave and sit (with their legs crossed or ankles together.) This seemingly innocent instruction, however, can be harmful to our children. It implies that there is only one way to act appropriately, and this way is feminine. 

It reinforces gender stereotypes and expectations for girls to act a certain way rather than encouraging them to embrace their individuality. 

This can have long-lasting effects on their self-esteem and limit their potential for personal and professional growth. 

"You're such a drama queen".

Using the phrase "you are such a drama queen" can harm our children. Firstly, it undermines their emotions and feelings, making them feel as though they are being overly dramatic when expressing themselves. This can lead to them suppressing their emotions in the future, resulting in a lack of emotional intelligence and communication skills. Additionally, the phrase suggests that girls and women are more likely to be dramatic and emotional, embedding harmful gender stereotypes.

"Pink is for girls; blue is for boys." 

The phrase "Pink is for girls; blue is for boys" may seem harmless, but it reinforces gender stereotypes and restricts our children's self-expression. It's important to let our little ones like and wear any colour they want without worrying about what society thinks is "acceptable" for their gender. 

Promoting these biased views of colours could hold back their uniqueness and interests, harming children's self-expression, self-awareness, confidence and individuality.


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