Don't foist adult views of gender on children

Let children's early years be years of spontaneous growth and development, with minimum interference by adults trying to impose their ideal world views upon young children.

Instead of expending our energy in enforcing a "gender neutral" approach (In Swedish pre-schools, there are no boys or girls, just friends; May 21), why not celebrate the differences that girls and boys bring to the society without being entrenched in traditional gender roles and patterns?

Children are, generally, not troubled by stereotyped gender roles as perceived by well-meaning adults.

In fact, they are capable of role-switching because they are still exploring and developing their sense of self.

In dramatic role play, a child may pretend to be a mother and then, in the next moment, play the role of a father or even a baby.

Young children are constantly figuring out how adults operate in the world. By watching adults, children are gradually socialised to acquire a certain notion of gender-stereotyped behaviour.

In other words, perhaps, it is adults who mayneed greater awareness to explore beyond the stereotyped gender-role limitations to make things right for young children.

Children may feel slighted over why adults expend so much energy to socially engineer their play preferences - what and how they want to play and who they play with.

I think children have the right to choose whether they want to be more "boy" or more "girl" in their play behaviour and pattern.

Overly counteracting and playing down stereotyped gender roles may confuse young children. They have barely developed an understanding of who they are.

Through stories, cartoons and picture books, children are introduced to concepts of male and female in the animal and plant kingdoms. It would be confusing, therefore, for children in gender-neutral pre-schools to be called "hen", for example.

Sometimes, it is best to let children be children, and not burden them with the complex world views of adults in the name of preparing children for the future.

Respect young children and give them the freedom to play, draw and explore gender roles with fresh eyes and not through the coloured lens of adults.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'Don't foist adult views of gender on children'. Print Edition | Subscribe