Survival strategies when other adults stereotype your kids

Two older people sit cuddling two young children, one is a baby. They're all wearing purple or blue.

It’s one thing for you to be on top of not letting gender stereotypes limit your kids’ opportunities – but what about those people around you and your children that risk undoing it all?

It might be the in-law who won’t stop telling your young girl she’s 'the most beautiful thing in the world' but never compliments her interests or intelligence.

Or the uncle who tells your son that he will grow up to be a builder or engineer or CEO when really your son wants to be a teacher or a dancer.

We all come up against these everyday battles. Just as we need to check our own habits as parents , we also need to be cognisant of other people’s words and actions around our children.

Sometimes these are battles you feel like you can’t take on, it can depend on the sort of relationship you have with the, often well meaning, person making the comment. Here are our top tips:

Responding to the person/people reinforcing the gender stereotype

Sometimes it can be hard to see the impacts of gender stereotypes . Aunts, uncles, grandparents or family friends might not have thought about these issues before.

Try saying:

  • ‘She’s also a great climber – did you see her up the tree? Did you climb trees much?’
  • ‘She so often gets told how pretty she is – we’re also making sure she knows she’s clever and brave and other things, too. Do you remember your favourite compliments as a kid?’
  • ‘We try to focus on his interests rather than those go-to "boy things". We suggest a range of activities and he gets to choose!’.

By asking questions you have a better chance of getting the conversation going and helping others along in their thinking about gender stereotypes. Read our Everyday Q&A for even more tips .

Even if the other person doesn't immediately recognise what you're saying, your kids (and other people around you) will see and hear your efforts – and this can have a big ripple effect.

Help your kids navigate stereotypes

On top of talking to adults, let’s not forget who is at the centre of all this – the kids! As parents, you can help your children to see beyond limiting gender stereotypes.

Some conversation starters:

  • ‘Did you notice how all the boys got blue party bags? Why do you think that was? You know you can always choose whatever colour you like, it’s up to you!’
  • ‘Sometimes people will forget to ask what your favourite things are – you’re allowed to tell them!’
  • ‘When I was little, people used to suggest what I should or shouldn’t do because I’m a girl/boy. It made me feel like I couldn’t choose something different. Did you feel like that today? I want you to know you can choose any activity you like’.

Sometimes outside interference can be frustrating.

But don't forget to take a moment to congratulate yourself for noticing in the first place – it shows your gender stereotypes radar is on and working!