How to teach children about gender equality

How to teach children about gender equality
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How to teach children about gender equality

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, we return to talk about gender equality. But education in respect for the other sex begins when children are young, since children begin to observe the behaviors of people close to them at home and outside the home. Here are the advice of the psychologist and psychotherapist Sara Luna on how to teach children about gender equality.

In this article

What is gender education

Gender education does not only involve structured activities, but rather is built day by day through observation by children: "We must understand gender education - explains the expert - the set of behaviors, actions, of the attention put into practice every day, in a more or less intentional way, by those who have educational responsibility, in defining the relationships between male and female gender ". Parents, educators and teachers must therefore be aware that at all times they give indications about gender roles and the relationships between boys and girls.

Why it is important to educate about gender equality

In today's society it is essential to educate children (boys and girls) from an early age to respect for the other sex, to equality, to fight the social and cultural stereotypes we are pervaded by. «This will positively mark their human and emotional growth and will allow them to become tolerant, responsible, self-confident citizens tomorrow, without limits or conditioning. And the best weapon to combat inequalities and gender-based violence, still too widespread today, is the primary prevention».

How to teach gender equality from 0 to 6 years

From the first months of life up to the age of the nursery and kindergarten it is first and foremost the example of adults to speak, at home first and then at school.

  • The relationship between mom and dad. At home, children learn how mum and dad communicate with each other, also through non-verbal behavior: «How tasks are divided in managing the house, children and work, how they manage discussions. As the parents are the exponents of the two genders they know best, they will tend to associate their ways of doing and being with the two sexes. For example, if only mum does the dishes, they deduce that it's probably a woman's thing. " Outside the house it may happen that the child hears phrases like "If you get dirty like this then the mother has to put everything in the washing machine"; at this point a good division of duties can avoid confirming a "clumsy" sentence like this.

  • "Male" and "female" things. It is also important how adults address children differently based on gender. “Don't force them to choose clothes, activities and playmates: there are no boys 'or girls' colors and children must be free to play with dolls or guns alike. So avoid phrases like "You can't like toy cars!" or "With short hair you look like a boy!" ».

  • Activities not connoted. "At the nursery and kindergarten it is important that children experience activities and games that are not too connotated and in any case aimed at both sexes, allowing them to express themselves freely without censorship or preconceptions". In Del Paese, advertisements do not help, presenting products that are still well targeted by gender, but in Northern Europe it is now common practice to put both a boy and a girl playing with them on the packaging of any toy.

  • Emotional education. An important point is the emotional education, still scarce in the family and at school: "Adults find it difficult to support and accompany the emotional states of children, especially those related to sadness or "annoying" reactions such as crying and screaming. Minimizing, judging, mocking children's choices or their behavior is counterproductive: that

  • what is needed is to listen to them, tune in to their emotions and try to put them at their word ".

  • The phrases NOT to say. Sometimes, instead of listening to children's emotions, parents and teachers use phrases like "don't be a sissy"or"don't be a tomboy":" These words, whether addressed to boys or girls, do nothing but negatively connote a gender, based on archaic stereotypes, moreover not legitimizing an emotion that is actually quite normal. "Saying" don't be a sissy " to your daughter who is crying, for example, "it means instead conveying to him the idea that she is not strong and that she is wrong to be what she is, that is, a girl. Telling your son instead passes him that the male must be strong and not he can cry, that real males do not do this, so you question his identity but also his self-esteem ".

Read also: Self-esteem in children: phrases not to say

How to teach about gender equality from 6 to 12 years

In primary school, teachers have a great responsibility in transmitting equal opportunities, in not creating inequalities and in deconstructing gender stereotypes.

  • Beware of sanctions. Sometimes it happens that teachers betray their preconceptions about the difference between boys and girls, for example by shooting girls harder when they behave aggressively or by scolding a male who asks for reassurance more often.

  • The predisposition towards some subjects. There are also no gender predispositions towards some subjects rather than others. "Teachers should avoid explaining scholastic success or failure in this way, also because it is also easy for pupils to show a different degree of confidence unconsciously with respect to different tasks". Or it would be good not to encourage separate activities between males and females, but not even to discourage them if they occur spontaneously.

  • Pay attention to school materials. Research has shown that the vast majority of educational aids still convey stereotypical images of gender roles today. «Family representations, for example, still tend to show fathers in an armchair in front of the TV or with the newspaper in hand and mothers in the kitchen or cleaning. The stories then often describe the male characters as "brave", "angry", "strong" and "fragile", "emotional" and "frivolous" female ones ».

Gender equality activities and games

The best way to teach gender equality through play is not to put obstacles in the way of children, who up to a certain age even among peers do not risk being subjected to social judgments that are not yet consolidated: "We forget that children, up to puberty , like to try all the roles in the symbolic game (mom, dad, princess, warrior ...). Let them experiment in peace. It is only with the physiological development (12/13 years) that the construction of sexual identity is completed ».

  • Leave them free to play. The restriction of games according to more traditional stereotypes represents a form of censorship that inhibits the healthy development of the personality. "On the contrary, by letting everyone play freely with Barbies or at war, one avoids repressing the" feminine "components in the male, such as gentleness or care, and the" masculine "ones in the female, such as resourcefulness and resilience".

  • Un game in the box. "The Respect Game is very educational for children aged 3 to 6".

Books on gender equality

Here are some books that can be read to help parents with this educational task

Kindergarten books:

  • The five misdeeds of Beatrice Alemagna ed. Topipittori (2022)

  • I like Spiderman so what? by Giorgia Vezzoli, illustrations by Massimiliano Di Lauro ed. September Nine (2022)

  • A doll for Alberto by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrations by Clothilde Delacroix ed. EDT-Giralangolo (2022)

  • In the role of Zaff by Manuela Salvi, illustrations by Francesca Cavallaro ed. Fatatrac (2005)

  • The tractor of the grandmother by Anselmo Roveda, illustrations by Paolo Domeniconi ed. EDT-Giralangolo (2022)

  • But do princesses do farting? by Ilan Brenman and Ionit Zilberman ed. Gallucci (2022)

Primary school books:

  • Cinderella and the fur slippers by Davide Calì, illustrations by Raphaëlle Barbanègre ed. EDT-Giralangolo (2022)

  • Free to fly by Raquel Díaz Reguera ed. EDT-Giralangolo (2022)

  • A game in dance by Daniele Bergesio, illustrations by Francesco Fagnani ed. EDT-Giralangolo (2022)

  • Eugenia the ingenious of by Anne Wilsdorf, ed. Sinnos (2022)

  • Knots on the comb by Marie-Aude Murail ed. Joints (2004)

  • Listen to my heart by Bianca Pitzorno ed. Mondadori (1991)

  • Nina and women's rights by Cecilia D'Elia, illustrations by Rachele Lo Piano ed. Sinnos (2022)

Some reading for adults who want to deepen the topic:

  • On the side of the girls by Gianini Belotti. Ed. Feltrinelli (1973)

  • Still on the side of Lipperini's girls. Ed. Feltrinelli (2007)

  • Gender education and inclusion. How to recompose the frontiers of Minello's otherness. Ed.Pensa Multimedia (2022)

  • You play as a boy, a girl and ... both of you. Studies and research on games and gender differences by Ricchiardi and Venera. Ed. Junior (2005)
    Gender education. Reflections and tools to articulate the complexity of Gambero, Selmi, Maio ed. Carocci (2022)

The interviewee

Sara Luna she is a psychologist and psychotherapist and author, together with the pedagogist Marta Stella, of the site mammechefatica. On the Facebook page of the site you will find video tutorials with advice for parents.

  • equality between males and females
  • education for gender equality
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