Children usually begin showing gender identity and sexuality starting in infancy which people do not consider as an important issue until puberty and adolescence. Since birth, babies are assigned male or female based on their physical characteristics which are also known as ‘sex’ but gender identity is different referring to an internal recognising sense of who the child is becoming. This is followed by self-recognition that develops taking some time.
This recognition is attained across cognitive, social and physical exposure to children in developing different sets of emotional dimension. Few children develop this skill faster while some take more time in identifying their needs, wants and preferences. This process takes time because the child’s body and hormonal changes take time to help them understand their alignment with the assigned gender to be it male, female or both.
Gender identification is typically observed to develop in three distinctive stages. This is called Kohlberg's theory of gender identification. During the initial age of 3-4, young children adapt the ability to distinguish between a boy and a girl. During this age, children tend to think that they can adopt any gender later and their gender is not permanent. Small children of this age find it difficult to understand that male and female show different characteristics and have distinctive body shapes.
While they continue to mature, these children prominently label themselves either male or female. They start understanding the stability of gender. A girl who plays football with boys in the playground might probably start thinking that she can become a boy and her gender could be transformed later. By the age of early school years, children get along with gender consistency. They finally understand that they are either male or female and would remain the same whole of their lives. Meanwhile, many children still understand their gender identity through adulthood.
Apart from personal gender identification, parents play a vital role in showing the right direction to their children in determining their true identity.
By giving children the right environment, surrounding and exposure, parents can help them explore the diversity in their gender. Parents who are non-stereotyped who don’t indulge in making rash generalisations in front of children such as the kitchen is for women, Men work, Nursing for women only, defence for men, etc impact the child’s decision making quality because of which children often choose the gender-based path. You can enhance your child’s gender identification in a fun way by choosing the right toy for them to play with. However, it is essential to check in with your child’s preferences and choices as well.
Gender stereotypes have been broken by many men and women proving that nobody needs to decide what a girl and a guy need to do. There are female athletes who have excelled in sports which initially used to be thought as masculine. While breaking the norms, many famous chefs aces in cooking world-class dishes which was once thought to be feminine. Such activities of your child shouldn’t be the deciding factor in determining what his/her gender is.
Suppressing the child’s skill, passion and talent based on these stereotypes would affect the child harming his dignity. It would eventually bring shame to himself for being who he is or wants to be.
Many children start adopting the traits of gender acceptance by expressing what their choices and preferences are. These expressions include the way they like to dress up, their hairstyle and their preference in being called by nicknames. Child’s behaviour socially reflects how he or she is becoming, for example, aggression and gentleness. Non-verbal actions and body language of the child reflects how the child has been influenced by the surroundings. Apart from this the major factor that shows who he/she is becoming is their social relationships they maintain.
Gender development could, therefore, be a slow and steady process
for some. It is a normal process which parents need to accept and nurture their
child into what he or she wants to become. Every child needs love and support
from parent no matter what gender adaptability they acquire. The same reason
would imbibe them grow into happy adults with confidence.