I want my son to understand that he can wear, do, or play with anything he wants

Robot gender roles onsieCC BY 2.0
I have a four-year-old son, and his father is very "that's for boys and this is for girls," and "you can't wear/do/play with that because you're a BOY." I have always been anti-gender roles, and I am engaged to a wonderful woman who has the exact views that I do.

My hope is that this beautiful community of families can help me by suggesting books, movies, or other resources that might help us get the point across to our son. I have looked high and low and I've nabbed the materials that I feel express my feelings, but I want as many tools as I can to help my son understand that he can wear, do, or play with anything he wants.

Thank you for your time and help, love to you all!! -K

I recently wrote a post about how gender roles negatively affected my childhood, and those issues linger to this day — affecting me in adulthood! So I'm 100% happy to to help you find as many tools as possible to educate both children and adults about how damaging constrictive gender roles can be.

Starting early…

It's never too early to start confronting your and others' gender biases when it comes to your kiddos. Ask your friends to throw you a gender-neutral baby shower. Or ask to not be told the sex of your child so that you can also start thinking about them sans-gender biases.

Books…

The comments on this post are FULL of great suggestions for gender-neutral kids books. For example…

Meet Polkadot! Polkadot is a gender nonconforming child with positive, healthy relationships. Polkadot teaches their friends about gender identity with the support of their family. The art is awesome, too!

On a slightly different note, there's Red: A Crayons Story. It's about a blue crayon in a red wrapper — everyone thinks there's something wrong with Red because everything he colors (strawberries, for example) comes out wrong… But when a new friend asks him to draw an ocean, he realizes he's been a BLUE crayon stuck in a red wrapper. Everyone embraces him and his new Blue identity. It's a very fun book and a great way to introduce the idea of being trans to kids who developmentally are still black-and-white thinkers

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin is nice because it's exactly as you describe – sometimes boys are doing traditionally "girl" things and vice versa, and it's not even commented on as a "thing."

Read these posts about confronting gender biases…

So guys, what sources do you or have you gone to to help show kids that they can play/do/feel anything they want regardless of culture ideas of gender?

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  1. My son is younger, but I made sure to get his a doll. He also has a play kitchen, but more importantly he sees daddy cook. Also as part of the "narrating the world" I do, I sure to point out men AND women doing stuff when we're out and about. "Do you see the lady mowing the lawn?" "The man is feeding the baby." Having a father who actively insists on old school gender norms makes things tough, but keeping an open dialogue with your son will be helpful in letting him form his own opinions.

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  2. My biggest advice is to openly question these issues every time you hear/see them together.

    What I mean by this is that it will always be easier to let sexist/misogynistic rhetoric go unchallenged in the moment, in favor of waiting until you can discuss them privately later. But that loses all of its impact and makes your views seem weird or shameful. Instead, SAY THE THING.

    Example: You're in a toy store and another adult tells their child, in hearing of yours, "that toy is for girls." Social awkwardness (disguised as politeness) tells us not to say anything "offensive" until you're out of ear shot. Overcome this impulse. Instead, say to your child immediately and at a normal volume, "That's not true. Toys are for everyone who likes to play." It was the other adult who broke the social contract– not you. You're merely correcting their mistake.

    This can be most difficult with family members, whom you really don't want to offend, but I've found that doing it clearly and kindly usually works. They soon learn not to speak that way in front of your child. Your child's father may never totally cease, but then again… he might surprise you. The important thing is that your child sees that you aren't ashamed of these "gender-non-conforming" behaviors, and that you will vocally support his choices (whatever they are).

    Good for you.

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  3. My 2 year old and I just checked out a great book from the library: Clive and His Hats by Jessica Spaynol. Clive has a firetruck hat, a yellow sun hat, a floppy purple hat, etc. He plays with all kinds of kids and just gets to be a kid without any of the traditional 'boy' labels. Highly recommend.

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