Help your child challenge stereotypes at school

Why can't a boy like pink or a girl have short hair?

How can we break the cycle of gender-stereotyping with our kids? Teaching them to question the stereotype and offer a counter-example is one particular technique. In this article we've partnered with Lifting Limits to provide 6 stereotypes most children will experience at school, and the possible counter-examples they can use to challenge them.

But first a little bit of background

Between the ages of 2 and 5 children are busy making sense of the world around them. This includes discovering the gender 'rules' of:

  • Pink for girls, blue for boys
  • Dolls and prams for girls, balls and cars for boys
  • Kind and caring for girls, brave and heroic for boys

By the time they reach school most kids have reached a fixed view on the world - and their place within it. They're also ready to 'police' one another when they step outside of these learned 'rules'.

How can we help our children to break this cycle 

How can we stop our children 'policing' one another? Thankfully there are a lot of different ways. In this article, we focus on how we can encourage our children to 1) question the stereotype and 2) think of a counter-example.

The counter-example works well when it's relatable. For example: "Why can't a girl have short hair? Our teacher does." The teacher, who has short hair, is the counter-example. She's proof that the stereotype isn't valid.

Counter-examples for 6 different stereotypes

Here are counter-examples for 6 different scenarios. You can use these, or other counter-examples, to start a discussion with your child. As part of the discussion encourage them to 1) question and challenge the stereotypes they might experience at school and 2) think of other counter-examples they could use.

Stereotype: You can't wear those. Trousers are for boys!

Response: Why can't a girl wear trousers to school? Firefighters, police officers and doctors all wear trousers for their uniform. They're easier to run about in.

Image of a female fire fighter, police officer and doctor - all wearing trousers

Stereotype: You can't play with that doll. It's for girls.

Response: Why can't a boy be kind, caring - and play with dolls? David Attenborough, Bluey's dad - Bandit and Flop from Bing are all kind and caring. They're also a lot of fun!

Image of kind, caring men - including David Attenborough, Bandit from Bluey and Flop from Bing

Stereotype: Football is a boy's sport

Response: Why can't girls play football? The England's women team have just WON the Euros! Of course girls can play football!

Image of the English women's football team playing in the Euros

Stereotype: Pink is a girl's colour

Response: Why can't a boy like pink? Lots of famous pop-stars, sports stars - and even Mr Tumble wear pink. It's a great colour for everyone!

Image of influential men wearing pink, including Mr Tumble, Harry Styles and Nadal

Stereotype: You've got a boy's haircut

Response: Why can't a girl have short hair? Lola from 'Charlie and Lola', Velma from 'Scooby-Doo' and Gem from Swashbuckle all have short hair.

Image of influential girls and women with short hair, including Lola from 'Charlie and Lola', Velma from 'Skooby-Doo' and Gem from CBeebies television programme, 'Swashbuckle'

Stereotype: You've have girlie hair

Response: Why can't a boy have long hair? Joe Wicks, Maui from Moana and Sid from CBeebies all have long hair.

Image of influential men with long hair, including Joe Wicks, Maui from Moana and Sid from CBeebies

Can you think of other scenarios? Help break the cycle of gender-stereotyping by giving your child the tools and counter-examples to challenge them. We'd love to hear how you get on!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published