08 March 2009

Gender Neutral Child-rearing

Many people don't know this because I don't make much noise about it, but I like to experiment on my kids. Now, not like reattaching limbs in weird places but just trying out all these random theories either I or someone else have come up with. Some of my ideas have been short tries and some of them are life long endeavors. So far, all of them have resulted in the desired results. With the first child, I wouldn't react to any injuries unless she started crying first. The result of that was that she would fall or something and bounce right back up and keep going unless she was truly hurt. That was quickly undone by her adoptive parents and it was pretty funny for me to watch her freaking out over the slightest thing and the whole house would come running. Kids are very responsive to their environments. Experiment #2 was to never say the word "no" to my second child in the hopes that I could avoid having a two year old in a "no" phase. While this worked wonderfully with Crimson (she would just say "I don't like that" and not while shrieking either!), Rejeanne was apparently born with the word "no" hardwired in to her vocabulary. I'm pretty sure that I just didn't stick to that theory very much with Rejeanne, plus she was in daycare early which totally ruined my experimental environment!

Another one I've tried, mostly with Crimson, is to insist that people ask her if they can hug her, etc. For instance, instead of saying "Come give X a hug", I'd insist that people say "Can I hug you?" or "I would love to give you a hug" and then respect her decision. This was someone else's theory that it would nurture a notion that affection was optional and that each child has a right to his or her own body. The thought was that teaching a child early that people may not touch his or her body without permission and that an environment without the usual social pressure of kissin' granny would help a child be much more able to identify when someone is trying to violate their personal boundaries and be a bit of protection against abuse or at least make a child more inclined to report abuse. I have to say that this one has worked amazingly with Crimson. If you cross a line with Crimson, she will say so and she will expect you to stop. She will also rat you out. I'm very impressed that only a few early years of enforcing this rule has resulted in a stronger respect for her own body than I think many children have, as well as a determination that people who violate her boundaries are not acceptable friends. I was only able to maintain this rule firmly for about the first three years of her life and much much less since she has lived with her dad since 2005. I have to say that experiement has produced much stronger results than I had anticipated!(I also have food experiments that I do with my kids that seem to be working good as well. I'll save that diatribe for another time!)

Now on to gender neutrality. I've always been annoyed by the pink not-so-active girl toy section and people's obsession with slathering girls in pink. There is also the flip side of that where there are no cleaning toys or much imaginative role-playing toys for boys and if a boy is in pink, it's just not too acceptable for the most part. Another one of my experiment was if no one buys the toy in advance or suggests the toy, what toy will a kid pick out on their own? When Crimson was little, she had neutral toys and clothes. No characters on the clothes, no pink or boyish stuff. Everything was very neutral in primary colors. Crimson on her own never role-played and prefered toys normally associated with boys. Lots of sporty stuff, things that shoot, and cars. Crimson LOVED cars. Even now, Crimson is not especially attracted to things people would consider "girly". I should point out that Crimson did go through a clothing phase when she was kindergarten age where she would only wear the color pink, but with spiderman or spongebob boy underwear. Personally, I would not have allowed the boy underwear, but her stepmom bought it for her, so that was that. Once she hit first grade, she would only wear boy clothes. Over the last couple years, she is starting to be more accepting of girl clothes. Anyways, it was an interesting experiment that had me thinking that maybe girls really don't have an automatic desire to tea party and prance around in high heels and feather boas.

Then comes Rejeanne. I pretty much do the same with her as I did with Crimson, but it doesn't last long. Rejeanne makes it very clear that SHE is a girly girl! She gravitates to the pink and sparkly. She steals my bracelets. She turn household items into bracelets. She color coordinates. She got her first babydoll by stealing loaves of bread and carrying them around like babies (this is before she had any little brother hanging around!). She also tried to feed my foot some cheerios and a sippy. That was it, I bought her a baby doll! She also ADORED a little kitchen my friend Gwen brought over for her! Who knew she'd like a kitchen??!! I ended up buying her a different one since transporting the original wasn't feasible at the time and it has been one big Martha Stewart adventure around here ever since! Now, I try to keep the house under control, but busting out a tablecloth and setting the table doesn't really happen around here. So what does Lee find Rejeanne was doing today in her room instead of napping??

I almost fainted! For the record, she's never played tea party or anything like it. Note how she used her favorite blanky as a tablecloth! Holy moly!!!!!

1 comment:

~liz Wessek said...

I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing Rejie's tea party and pictures. I can't wait to see more!