Unpacking Gender Stereotyping Language With Kids

Unpacking Gender Stereotyping Language With Kids

As your child grows, they will begin to interact with the community around them. Other’s values, ideas and opinions will infiltrate your family. This can be positive, but it can also be negative. You may be bringing up your little person to value all people in an inclusive and kind way, but others outside your immediate family group may not share your values especially around gender equality. And these values, unfortunately, will filter down into your child’s world, that is, in the playground, school settings, play dates, sporting groups, etc.

Below are some ‘conversation starters’ you can have with your child around gender equality. These samples situations and sample responses may help you unpack what your child may be hearing, and crucially, how they could respond (if it is safe to do so).

If your child hears:

“He hit you because he likes you.”

Adult Response: There is no excuse for hitting. Hitting or hurting someone is NEVER okay.

Child’s Response: No one should hit another person. People show you they like you by being kind and friendly.


“Boys will be boys.” (excusing aggressive or boisterous behaviour).

Adult Response: There is no excuse for this behaviour. Rules are not different for boys and girls.

Child’s Response: The rules are the same for boys and girls.


“You can’t play. This is a boy’s game.”

Adult and Child Response: Games are for everyone. And everyone can play.


“Boys don’t cry. They are tough.”

Adult Response: Everyone cries. Crying helps us to feel all the feels and that’s important. Sharing our big feelings with a trusted adult is also important. Kids need to talk to a trusted adult if they feel sad, angry, unsafe, anxious, overwhelmed or scared. They can also share happy and joyful feelings too!

Child’s Response: Everyone cries. It is important to let our sadness out and to talk about our feelings with a trusted adult.


“Boys can’t wear pink.”

Adult and Child Response: Everyone can wear pink. They can wear any colour they like!


Boys can’t play with dolls.

Adult and Child Response: Everyone can play with dolls. Playing with dolls teaches kids to be kind and caring.  


Girls are quiet and sweet.

Adult and Child Response: All people can be quiet and sweet.


Boys are just noisy.

Adult and Child Response: Everyone can be noisy.


Boys can’t wear dresses.

Adult and Child Response: Everyone can wear whatever they like. It is not up to you or me to say anything about what a person chooses to wear.

Our books that explore the topic of gender equality:

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