Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are we equipped to raise a generation of majority minorities?

The fact is, that while we read articles about the end of an age where the word “majority” meant that if we produced a doll with a light skin color, it would appeal to the largest piece pie on the demographic chart. The America that newborns are arriving into today, has already experienced the dynamic shift from the demographic the majority of America identified with of the past. As parents who may have experienced American life from either the majority or minority perspective begin to raise children, it is important to consider that these children will grow to have a completely different relationship with words like majority and minority. These definitions including how the newest generation learn to self-identify with them, is already taking a strickingly different shape.

Are we equipped to raise a generation that does not, and will not, subscribe to our previously accepted definitions, perspectives or self-identification on the most basic of social, racial, and gender identified terms? Consider, that a trend like U.S. Moves towards 'Majority Minority' is happening here, and is not a message sent from a far edge of the globe. It is in fact happening right here and now and is already effecting the youngest members of your family whether you’ve taken the time to consider it or not. If you are sitting with your coffee and considering it’s impact at this moment, than yes, we are ready.

Many individuals and businesses have already taken a leading role in helping the parents of this newborn generation to be raised and educated with the perspectives that their generation will own. Stephanie Oppenheimer reviews gender-neutral toys to help parents navigate the current reality of this new American generation. Baby GoGo is a passionate project that the Winchester family has produced with an ambiguous olive skin tone and no gender limiting pink or blue overtones so that every modern American family, can introduce a doll that every American child can self identify with.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Should this two-year old boy be allowed to push a stroller?

I had a friend tell me recently that her two-year-old son really wanted a toy stroller, but her husband didn’t want the son to have it. I know he is an excellent, hands-on father, so I suggested that my friend ask her husband if he was embarrassed to be seen pushing their child in the stroller. I am sure his answer was no. So, why would it be an issue for his son to push a stroller—especially a gender-neutral one?

Perhaps I don’t entirely understand men, but it makes me wonder--Do some grown men still have this macho notion of themselves that they want to project on to their sons? Do fathers not realize that they are at their absolute most attractive to their wives when they are hands on with their children? I say to men, embrace fatherhood and let your sons embrace nurturing play. In the end, it will bring them more comfort and confidence in life and, especially, in their role as fathers. Isn’t confidence at the core of masculinity?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Put the calendar away, let the kids chart the day

As the mom of a 12-year-old and the owner of a home daycare business, I am constantly faced with other parents and their unending need to plan a “play date” or enroll their child in some sort of class or lesson. A vast majority of “today’s parents” have an insatiable appetite for activities and play dates. But, why? I don’t hear their children begging to go to so and so’s house or to join the local kids gym or to do any of the five to ten things kids seem to do in a week. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in music lessons, learning to swim, playing a sport and playing with the kids in the neighborhood, but within reason. Children are designed to work and what is their work? PLAY! When we as parents have our children so involved with planned activities that there is no time for unstructured play, we short change them and they fail to learn one of life’s most necessary skills, independence. Over-scheduled children are not learning to imagine what they could do with their own time. It is my belief that as we shuffle the children from one activity to the next and plan each moment of the day for them, all in the hopes of being a good parent and giving our kids “everything”, children fall short in learning to care for themselves and to chart their own course. By planning so much for them, we often fail to help them discover their OWN passions. Boys may not want to play sports and girls may not want to do ballet. I was recently at a Highland dance competition. There amidst a sea of giggling girls was one lone young man, determined to win first place and win he did! What if his parents hadn’t asked him what he wanted – do you think they would have enrolled him in dance? Probably not. But look at the confidence, security and life skills he is learning by charting his own way and succeeding! My advice to all parents is to take a moment and put the calendar away. Encourage your children to plan their own fun for a day – you’ll be amazed with the wonder they can create and the things they will discover about their world and their own lives.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Doll Hospital

Something interesting happened in my classroom yesterday. The lead teacher led a discussion with the students, all four years old, about what to set up in the dramatic play area. She suggested setting up an ice cream stand as the weather is getting warm. One of the little boys said he would like to set it up as a place to take care of babies. Others agreed, boys and girls alike. When they arrived this morning the area was set up as a baby hospital with cribs, bottles, clothes, scrubs, and medical tools. The space was filled to capacity for the entire morning with children feeding, rocking and dressing the dolls. They took turns being the doctor and giving them check-ups and sometimes medicine. Even more interesting was that the girls spent very little time in this area. The boys thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t help but think that this is likely because the girls have dolls to care for at home while the boys do not. If only these boys had their own dolls to play with at home, they could have the experience of caring for something on a daily basis. My hope is that gender-neutral dolls such as Baby GoGo will help to make it the norm for boys and girls to have dolls to help them develop the ability to nurture.
- Megan

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kids humor and gender-bias

At every age and stage of development children have their own emotional and intellectual relationship with humor. Humor brings families together. Consider how children may view humor, and how they may assign roles based on gender difference to what should and should not be found funny. In the article What's So Funny? Kids, teens and humor Part 1 by (Apr 1, 2010) she highlights girls and boys perception of what each gender "should" find funny.

"In our study, girls often mentioned that boys find 'stupid' things funnier than girls. While 'gross' and 'stupid' humor are perceived to skew towards boys, girls don't reject them entirely. In fact, there wasn't one type of humor categorically rejected by boys or girls. So as long as the content is gender-relevant, understandable and age-appropriate, all types of humor can appeal to everyone."
Erin Miller has clearly identified the gender-bias here. The study reveals that girls nor boys reject any single type of humor, girls readily proclaim that boys find "stupid" things funnier than girls. It's also addressed in the article that girls are "supposed" to find more humor in sarcasm and jokes that require higher intellect.

The benefits of humor are limitless. Stress reduction may be the most obvious, however humor has also been found to increase optimism and self-confidence. Humor is key to building relationships and crafting lasting memories. Keep in mind that humor brings along with it a fair share of gender-bias. Adults as well as children organize what is or is not supposed to be funny based on ages and gender. For example, a joke that is categorized as appropriate for a son to tell a father, but not deemed appropriate for the son to share with his mother. Pay special attention to moments when girls imply that boys humor in and of itself is "stupid", as any use of the word is hurtful.

Laugh, laugh often and with every member of your family. While doing so, notice when gender-bias may be limiting what your children, or your family is "supposed" to find funny. Boys can enjoy dry sarcasm and girls can giggle at physical humor, if your goal is to eliminate gender-bias in their development, then take the time to recognize that humor is not exempt.