Stereotypes: Are you killing your child’s imagination?

Stereotypes: Are you killing your child’s imagination?

Do you too find this refrain defying stereotypes? Sadly they crawl in towards the end.

Somewhere in my imagination; A pink dolphin is waving me goodbye driving a car up in the green coloured sky;

Next to the white apple tree lives a violet queen bee; who waves at the dolphin’s car for she wants a ride up to the triangle star;

Somewhere in my imagination; Purple ants are leaping and hopping while ten tiny fish decide to go shopping;

A snake is riding a bicycle as a shark bites into a popsicle;

Somewhere in my imagination; I see myself rolling on the deep cream ocean;

Drinking a black orange juice potion, I look up at the black rainbow

that is slowly beginning to show after a shower of golden rain;

And then I think I am insane; For fish can’t go shopping

Surely there is something I am missing;

Dolphins aren’t pink; How silly of me so to think;

Rainbows aren’t black; That is indeed quite off track;

Somewhere in my imagination; I tell myself I am wrong

And I unwillingly stop singing this song.

‘Mom can I colour the dolphin pink, please?’, asked my 4.5 year old while completing his homework which was a colouring sheet.

‘Of course! Why not?’, I said.

This memory came to me as a dramatic jolt during my son’s recent PTM in school. I shifted uncomfortably on the tiny chair in my son’s classroom that was now bearing more weight than it was normally accustomed to. The teacher was talking about how parents must do certain things for the betterment of their children. Suddenly my invisible mental checklist popped up and I began ticking on all the fields I was guilty of not complying with:

One of the most important things we adults do for young children is to model the kind of person we would like them to be:

I nodded my head vigorously for I couldn’t agree more. Children are watching..It’s what they do for a living. So very often if the child has picked up a ‘bad’ habit the source of the same is somewhere close by.

Supervising homework:

I was guilty of this one since I am a working parent, I don’t always manage picking him up from school. We usually meet in the evening and by then he has already finished his homework – on his own! I agreed with his teacher and decided to at least go over his homework with him, after it is done. That way I would be supervising and not hand-holding.

Not stepping out of the house in my night clothes:

I literally cringed when she said that and almost thanked my stars for I was about to go to the PTM in my track pants and tee-shirt (the ones I had woken up in), due to some divine intervention I had changed into something more presentable, last minute. I heaved a sigh of relief. I mentally double ticked on this point for I was super guilty of this one. I literally live in my pyjamas and so does my son. Well I can’t say much about breaking this habit but alright will try.

Colouring the things in their ‘correct’ colour:

This one really got my goat for she elaborated what she meant by ‘correct’ colour.

  • Human faces should always be coloured in ‘skin’ colour i.e. peach
  • Trees should be green
  • Water and sky should be blue
  • ‘And parents some children coloured their dolphins pink in their colouring sheets. I have never seen a pink dolphin. Dolphins should only be white or black.’

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself to check this point on the mental checklist.

I really don’t know if I am doing everything ‘right’ to bring up my child but I am pretty sure this point didn’t deserve to be a part of the list.

I was not angry for I knew that this remark by the teacher was well meaning. Most of the time we are unknowingly instilling stereotypes in our children. We are forcing them to put blinders on and believe me we are not even aware of the damage we are causing. We are not letting them explore. We are hand-holding them to lock up their imaginations in boxes and then helping them deposit those boxes to some dark dungeon in their heads.

I thought of saying this out loud to everyone in that room but then decided to be ‘politically correct’ and keep quiet. However I won’t get peace if I don’t vent it all out, hence this blog post.

So I am making a new checklist for all those parents reading this post.

Well, I don’t like to sermonise but I think all mothers and teachers can relate to checklists.

Please get yourselves the book ‘The Day The Crayons Quit’ by Oliver Jeffers

Read it to your children and then let them create masterpieces from their imaginations. Then give each masterpiece a gold star for creativity

Let your children be independent and let them do their homework themselves.

It’ll give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Yes I agree with the teacher on monitoring them from time to time, which is important but let them make mistakes. Don’t kill yourselves – homework doesn’t have to be perfect.

Don’t stress too much on the right clothes.

It doesn’t matter, believe me, as long as your child is confident and comfortable in whatever he/she is wearing. (Of course take care of health and hygiene which I am sure you all do. I wasn’t going to go for the PTM without brushing my teeth, anyway.)

Don’t instil stereotypes in them.

Gender stereotypes:  Most of the time, we end up doing that unconsciously. Gender stereotypes like blue for boys, pink for girls, cars for boys, dolls for girls – Grrrr…I mean, please abstain.

Skin colour: Well, we humans come in many shades, then why is peach called skin colour? Think about it? Are we not somehow instilling prejudices in our kids? Won’t these kids grow up and discriminate against colour?

Let them be! Stop helicoptering

This is an important one. Well if they are sucking their thumbs, let them – at some point they will stop and then there are dentists there to tackle dental issues (if any arise). If they are not eating enough, there is a possibility they are full or they have a small appetite. Stop fretting over these things and enjoy this precious time with your child.

And lastly there is no right or wrong way to bring up your child.

Every child is different and every parents has his/her own style of parenting. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. Relax, take a break…breathe!

7 Children’s Books that break Stereotypes

  1. Unboy Boy by Richa Jha
  2. Ranganna by Arthi Anand Navaneeth
  3. Bhimrao Ambedkar: The Boy Who Asked Why by Sawmya Rajendran
  4. Catch that Cat! by Tharini Viswanath
  5. Elena’s Serenade by Campbell Geeslin
  6. Wings to Fly by Sawmya Rajendran
  7. Girls to the Rescue by Sawmya Rajendran
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Rohini Vij

Rohini is a professional storyteller, educator, listed & certified Jolly Phonics UK trainer, curriculum developer, parenting coach, founder of NutSpace. She is on a mission to raise readers and is actively engaged with curriculum development for schools and her own ed-tech platform - Nutspace Edtech.

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