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They say “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach”. How true is that!
Prashant Chaturvedi, dad to a six year old girl named Aanya, has got this whole ‘lead by example’ thing right! At his daughter’s annual day at school, Prashant decided to share something he believes in, that he felt other parents and kids should understand too – Gender equality!
In a world where gender roles are so strongly defined for us, gender bias doesn’t necessarily stand out as a glaring ‘problem’ until it leads to something controversial.
The solution is straightforward– shift your own perspective so that you can shape young minds and transform the future.
Prashant’s simple yet powerful poem ‘The Spacegirl’ tackles the prominent gender bias in schools gently, and we think he has the perfect approach!
“You are a Girl”, said the boy
You can’t go to Space.
Becoming an Astronaut isn’t easy,
So don’t get into the race.
Girls can’t go to the Moon
It’s a boy thing
like rockets, bikes or cars.
They can’t fly a rocket,
it’s very hard.
They should pick up something easy,
Maybe dolls or making a card.
The Girl smiled and said
You need to learn more,
And don’t be rude.
Ever heard of the tough challenge,
Called Mission Mangal?
It was Ritu, Anuradha and Nandini,
Who won that dangal.
They built the famous,
Mangal and Chandrayaan.
These are real rockets,
Not just gyaan!
Do you know about the NASA girl
With 665 days in space,
This daughter is stronger than any son.
For one Rakesh Sharma,
We’ve Kalpana and Sunita already up in space.
We would have won long back,
If this were a race.
I can do all that you can
And much much more.
I’ll make my own Space
And let my dreams soar.
While Prashant chose to take to the stage to get his message out there, it might not necessarily be your cup of tea (stage fright is real, we know!). So, what can you as a parent do to ensure that your son or daughter grows up to see everyone as equal, and treats everyone irrespective of gender with respect?
1. Model the right behaviour
While erstwhile circumstances may have meant that the man was traditionally the bread winner and the woman the caregiver, it’s important for children to understand that one isn’t superior to the other. Parenting is a shared responsibility, and what your children see is what they will be conditioned to accept as the norm. Both you and your spouse have the responsibility to shape your child’s views by first treating each other with love and respect, because that is what your children will learn.
2. Watch your tongue and your child’s too
It has always been “normal” to tell a little boy not to cry like a girl. What did it lead to? Grown men believing that it isn’t okay to show emotion. Words have a way in reinforcing gender stereotypes, so choose words that enrich your child’s mind. If you catch your child speaking this way, have a talk about why this could be damaging, and over time you’ll see a difference.
3. Teach your children to see a person for more than how they look
When you talk about friends, family or even strangers at home, use words like kind, funny, talented etc. instead of pretty, slim, cute, handsome. This will show your child that people are more than just physical beings; there’s always more than meets the eye. In this way, you are teaching little boys and girls to be kind to people irrespective of gender or appearance, and to be perceptive to qualities and traits that define people for who they are on the inside.
4. Delegate house chores equally
If you have both a boy and girl at home, make sure your little girl isn’t always the one helping out in the kitchen while your little boy helps dad clean the car. Split the tasks equally or have a rotation system so that both your kids understand that roles are not predefined by gender and that household duties are for everyone to learn, an essential life skill!
5. Show them that they can reach for the stars:
Just like Prashant, who writes about how women have reached for the stars (quite literally!), encourage your children to have dreams and aspirations irrespective of their gender, while making them cognisant of the privilege of living in a day and age where they can make a life of their choosing. This way, they will not just restrict themselves to traditionally accepted roles, but also appreciate the generations before them who have worked hard to give them this choice!
It’s the little things that build up and over time become big things. Consent, kindness, prejudices, respect, biases; most of these form when we’re young and can be tough to shake off when you’re older.
We salute dads like Prashant for taking a step in the right direction and modelling the right behaviour. Little Aanya is a lucky girl to have a supportive dad backing her, and we’re sure she will grow up to be a strong woman, knowing that she is able to achieve anything she sets her mind to!