Everything we do as parents leaves a mark on our children. We teach them their norms and values from the day they are born and as parents we undoubtedly have the largest influence on our children. I am very much a believer that children are made and that nurture is stronger than nature. Nature gives us our ascribed status, our hair colour, our skin colour our gender. But it is us that teaches children what they are capable of and teaches them gender stereotypes through nurture.
I am fifteen years in to raising my children and I feel more responsibility now than ever to lead by example. I am far from perfect, in fact I very often get things wrong and I don’t believe any of us are finished articles. Over the year that I have been working from home I have had less confrontations with the children. I totally believe that this is because I am less rushed I am less stressed and I have more time. I feel incredibly lucky to finally have found that sort of balance in life where I have a job I love that simply doesn’t feel like work and also to be on hand more for the children.
As my thoughts have turned more and more to raising positive, confident children and especially empowering girls I have thought about what I do to encourage that. This doesn’t apply just to girls because we need to raise sons that see girls as equals. I hope that is what I am doing. Having a fifteen year old girl I am acutely aware of the messages I give out. Our home is full of positive quotes and a can do approach. My daughter surrounds herself with other strong girls and I hope that continues. They are an academic bunch who are all aiming high and whilst we are now on the verge of considering A Level choices and future plans this is crucial. I often say that teenagers receive a negative press and I want to counteract that. I am setting myself some goals to help me achieve this. Each month I am going to do a round up of things that I have done to help my children’s confidence and reaffirm positive messages.
1. We are going to do more challenging things. We need to push the boundaries, last year I really enjoyed doing Go Ape with Chloe and I think we need to do more things like this as a family.
2. Keep pointing out accidential discrimination that is all around us to stop and make us all think.
3. Be a better role model – we are all work in progress.
I hope this doesn’t sound too smarmy or anything but I just want to be more positive, change a mindset and not make anyone feel that they have to conform to outdated gendered ideals. This summer I have seen in numerous ways how we can show that girls can be strong. Another example that Lee and I have seen many times was on holiday just last week when Chloe and Dylan were playing bat and ball in the communal garden. A spanish Man, who was there with his young son, was watching and then he came and asked if he could play against Chloe. They rallied for a few minutes whilst the man engaged in conversation with us. He asked us if Chloe played tennis for a team. We replied no, she is just very sporty generally. He seemed slightly amazed that Chloe was as able as she was. Yet again someone that had probably taken in her slight frame, long hair, false nails and had made gendered assumptions until he saw her play.