Parents are a child’s first teacher, we try our best to educate them right from wrong, but have you been teaching your child to stereotype against others? Here are some things that you may have done as a parent unknowingly that’ll negatively impact your child’s mental and emotional development.
WHAT IS STEREOTYPING?
A stereotype is a thought that many people have about a certain type of person and associating that behavior/characteristic to everyone else who are like them. There are many different types of stereotyping - including but not limited to – age, gender, racial, social, religious and profession.
Not all stereotypes are bad, but most of them are! And the worst part of stereotyping is that you sometimes do it without even realizing it yourself.
“Why is (insert character here)’s (insert characteristic here) so weird?”
“You’re a (insert gender here), you should be playing with (insert game here)
– it’s for (insert opposite gender here)!”
If you’ve made similar comments about a person or cartoon character in front of your child, you may have been subconsciously stereotyping. These casual remarks may seem harmless, but they may shape certain judgement in our children’s eyes.
The dangers of stereotyping differ between the types of stereotyping, but the common ones that parents may encounter are racial, body and gender stereotyping.
As much as most parents would deny it, there are several racial stereotyping that we still do in Singapore – mostly used by older generations to “scare” children into behaving well. This is a concern in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like Singapore because it could lead to our children growing up to have prejudice against a certain race or religion.
Body stereotyping happens when you make comments about someone’s body size/shape, facial feature or anything that may set them apart from others. When we do so, we’re indirectly showing our children that it’s okay to judge someone by their looks – which opens the doors to verbal and social bullying when they grow up.
Telling your child that he/she shouldn’t play with a toy because it’s of a certain type/colour is one common example of gender stereotyping. We may even be gender stereotyping when we have conflicts – have you ever told a woman that she’s too emotional or blame a man for not being “manly”? Although gender stereotyping has improved over the years, we should do our part to ensure our children do not get ingrained by it.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate stereotyping – nobody is immune to it and everyone would have stereotyped (consciously or not) at some point in their life. What matters is that we take extra caution in what we say and do in front of our children, and how we answer the questions that our curious little ones have.
Most parents try to change the topic or shake off their child’s curious questions, but that may do more harm than good in the future. Let them come to you and answer them honestly when they do, instead of creating a communication barrier that could leave a lifelong scar in their minds.
When your son wants to play with Barbie dolls or pretend to be at a tea party, just play with him and let him know it’s okay to do so. When your daughter wants that Transformers robot or latest model of Nerf gun, get it as a present on a special occasion instead of lecturing her that it’s for boys.
When your child gets curious about your accessories or make-up, don't use phrases like "hair clips are for girls, you shouldn't play with them!". A hair clip is NOT for girls, a hair clip is simply just an accessory that helps us to keep our hair in place.
If we make the effort in teaching our children right, they’d grow up with better values and mindset to help them be comfortable with themselves and the people around them.
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