Pigeonholing your kids pigeonholes your kids

If there’s one really useful thing I’ve learned in my 10 years so far of being a parent, it’s not to pigeonhole my kids. Kids change, and when I assign attributes of a certain stage as if they were permanent personality traits, I can see how it limits them. I get the urge to do this. It’s nice to for a parent to feel like a child has a clear identity. Also, if you have multiple kids, putting them in different categories can smooth things out. Every child has her little box and as a parent, you can work to protect those boundaries for her. Pigeonholing kids can reduce conflict in the short term.

The first way I clearly learned that pigeonholing had a negative effect was with food. Since my kids could eat, I encouraged them to try different foods, that there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. My kids don’t have to eat broccoli and then get dessert. We don’t even do dessert. They can eat what they want, when they want. There is much writing about this on Reel GIrl, more from when I first started this blog then now, because we are practically food conflict free in our house. The segue is that, because of this philosophy, I never said: “This kid likes pizza, that one likes bagels.” Instead, I told them that their taste buds change all the time, and to keep trying foods, even if they think they don’t like them. I honestly believe, just that, has kept their eating open and flexible. They are risk-takers with food, which may not seem to a big deal for an adult, but it is for a kid.

Obviously, I’m also against pigeonholing because I hate how women are continually fragmented: the smart one or the pretty one. Humans are complex. Pigeonholing them is an a illusion of a simplicity.

Finally, not to get too Buddhist here, but change is the only thing that is real. It’s scary for everyone, but I think it’s much healthier to train kids to embrace it rather than avoid it.

Why I’m writing all this right now is because Princess Free Zone just posted a New York Times article: Mystery of the Missing Woman in Science. It’s great, please read the whole thing, but here’s a quote I love:

Students show greater gains when they are taught that the mind, like a muscle, gets stronger with work, as opposed to being told that talents are fixed and you’re born either quick or slow.

And this is true. It’s called brain plasticity. Your brain changes and grows for your whole life, based on your experiences. Your brain grows most rapidly, when you are a kid. The more experiences, the better.

15 thoughts on “Pigeonholing your kids pigeonholes your kids

  1. I have seen lots of times people that think that they know what a woman want just because she is a woman. In message boards about comics you can see people that want to know how to persuade a woman (wife, girlfriend) to read comics. And the answers are almost always specific works that “women like”. It doesn’t matter who is the woman or what she likes, because all the women think the same: “Women like Sandman, women like shojo manga, women like Strangers in Paradise, give her that”. I love Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, is my favourite comic and Is one of that comics that supposedly “women like”, but I would never recommend it to my sister, who dislikes horror stories. If you want somebody to like something you should give them something for them, not ignore their wishes and give them what other people thinkss that is best for them, or suits them better.
    Its the same when you like stories or games with female warriors: “female knights are not realistic”. “A man can use an armor, but women are too weak. A female knight should be huge, like a bodybuilder, to be able of wearing an armor” (this were are actual answers in a debate about armors for women”. It doesn’t matter that there are real women that do just that nowadays, use armors and joust for a living or as a sport, and there were female warriors in the past. And no, thay are not some kind of prodigy or monstrosity:
    http://abbeytournament.com/events-and-tickets/jousting/
    http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/war-and-conflict/art448756
    http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2010/10/17/woman-of-steel.html
    http://sighroll.com/united-states-longest-running-renaissance-faire-hires-its-first-female-jouster/
    http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/

  2. Here are the answers to your questions.

    2) Only female kangaroos have a pouch. Only female bees, wasps (including hornets), and some ants have a sting because the sting is a modified ovipositor.
    Ring tailed lemurs are matriarchal.
    3) Only female mosquitoes bite and suck blood. They suck blood to obtain nutrients to produce eggs.
    4) Garden snails are hermaphrodites (simultaneously male and female)
    5) Worker ants, bees, and wasps are all sterile females, the males are drones and they die soon after they mate with the queen (fertile female) ant, bee, or wasp.
    6) Elephant herds are matriarchal.
    8) Most tortoiseshell cats are female. A male cat can only be tortoiseshell if it has Klinefelter’s Syndrome (XXY, usually sterile), has chimerism, or has mosaicism.
    9) Clownfish are protoandrous hermaphrodites; they are born male and the the most dominant male turns female when the dominant female is removed from the group.

    There are two works of fiction that make the gender error of showing whitish female snowy owls, Harry Potter and Owls of GaHoole. Only male snowy owls can have whitish plumage. Also, Owls of GaHoole makes female owls smaller than male owls when in real life, the female is bigger than the male.

  3. I know my taste in food changes all the time. There are some foods I used to eat all the time but hate now. And just recently I’ve been discovering a huge pile of food that I really like ( and I also discovered an allergy that causes hours of vomiting on the exact same day! Awesome. )
    Even my favorite colour has changed a few times.
    Isn’t it the same for everyone else? Doesn’t everyone change their likes and dislikes every now and then?

    • hi nigelthedragon,

      In my experience, most adults don’t like this kind of change in themselves and get excited about labeling kids. Even my kids babysitters do it, trying to get to know them and organize them in their minds, telling me what they see. Good for you for embracing change, it makes life much more exciting and real.

      Margot

  4. The Honey Nut Cherrios bee and his nemesis Yellow Jacket are male. If they were accurate, they’d be female as only female bees and wasps have a sting and the two are not depicted as drones (male eusocial bees and wasps).

    The ants, eusocial bees and wasps, mosquitoes, snails, cows, and clownfish may be the most egregious examples of animal gender bender, but there are other examples in fiction, including Disney’s The Jungle Book and Dreamworks Madagascar.

    The elephant herd and its leader, Col. Hathi, in The Jungle Book are male. If the movie were accurate, like Disney’s earlier movie, Dumbo, was, the leader and herd would be female.

    King Julien the dominant ring tailed lemur in the movie, Madagascar, is male. If the movie were accurate, King Julien would be Queen Julien and therefore female as dominant ring tailed lemurs in real life are female.

    • Hi Nebbie,

      I am going to do a post on this, can you tell me the movies you are referring to where the gender is “incorrect”?

      Thank you,
      Margot

      • Examples of animal gender benders and gender errors to help you with your post.

        1) Barnyard movie and video game, Back and the Barnyard: male cattle with udders
        2) The Madagascar movies and specials, The Penguins of Madagascar: Joey the male kangaroo with a pouch, male hornets with stings, King Julien the dominant male ring tailed lemur
        3)Bee Movie: male worker bees, male bees with stings, Mooseblood the male bloodsucking mosquito
        4)Turbo: male snails, Burn the one female snail
        5) A Bugs Life, The Ant Bully, and Antz: male worker ants
        6) The Jungle Book: male elephant herd and leader
        7) Fantasia: female ostriches with male black and white plumage
        8) Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos: Gonzalo the male tortoiseshell kitten
        9) Finding Nemo: Marlin the clownfish stays male after his wife died

        • THank you! Questions in caps:

          1) Barnyard movie and video game, Back and the Barnyard: male cattle with udders
          2) The Madagascar movies and specials, The Penguins of Madagascar: Joey the male kangaroo with a pouch, male hornets with stings, King Julien the dominant male ring tailed lemur ONLY FEMALE HORNETS HAVE STINGERS? LEMURS ARE MATRIARCHY?
          3)Bee Movie: male worker bees, male bees with stings, Mooseblood the male bloodsucking mosquito AGAIN, ONLY FEMALE MOSQUITOS STING?
          4)Turbo: male snails, Burn the one female snail WHAT”S THE ISSUE HERE?
          5) A Bugs Life, The Ant Bully, and Antz: male worker ants ALL WORKER ANTS ARE FEMALE? WHERE ARE THE MALES?
          6) The Jungle Book: male elephant herd and leader
          7) Fantasia: female ostriches with male black and white plumage
          8) Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos: Gonzalo the male tortoiseshell kitten WHATS IS THE ISSUE HERE?
          9) Finding Nemo: Marlin the clownfish stays male after his wife died CLWONFISH TURN FENMALE?

  5. Here is a new blogpost from Rebecca Hains. It’s called “Princess Park Rangers” and “Space Princesses” Because Gender Stereotypes Are Inescapable Even on Vacation: http://rebeccahains.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/princess-park-rangers-and-space-princesses-because-gender-stereotypes-are-inescapable-even-on-vacation/

    It talks about the gendered marketing and “princessification” of many gift shops attached to educational and historic sites.

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