The rules of 'how to be a parent' have changed as gender roles evolve

What is seen as the typical Aussie family has significantly shifted over the generations. With gender norms more fluid, parenting now falls on a spectrum of roles.

In previous generations, the viewpoint of traditional families was described as Mum at home in a nurturing, gatekeeper role. It was Mum keeping the wheels turning at home; she was the nurse, cook, tutor, cleaner and about a million other jobs to boot!

Dads were once viewed as the sole breadwinners, the disciplinarian, the weekend outdoorsman, and the tutor (usually to sons in the family). While the buck tended to stop with Dad, it had to get past Mum first.

These roles have morphed over the years. The changes in which Mum and Dad both have careers are now more visible. There are also single-parent families and LGBTQI families.

How gender influences the way you parent

Parents in Western societies generally deny they stereotype their children by gender. Research has found this to be true, especially in societies where there is more gender equality. However, can it hurt to ask ‘Does my gender identity impact how I parent? Are there still some roles that seem to be defined by this in my family?’

Take some time; sit down and consider where your family fits on the spectrum of roles. What does it mean to be you in your home? What kind of parent are you? If both parents work, does it feel that the role of parenting is evenly split?

You might discover that, as far as parenting goes, you’re up-to-date. Consider then, the more subtle things involved in parenting.

For example how does communication and the support of your child or children feel in your family? Is it balanced between parents?

It’s important to balance your communication so that it includes messages that teach, protect and emotionally nurture your children.

Knowing when to ask for help

Parentline receives numerous calls from parents who feel they are ‘always the bad guy’ or are ‘disconnected emotionally’ from their children.

There has been a lot of research around how subtle messaging and unintentional stereotyping can influence children. Parentline wants to help you if you are looking for ways in which to break down the subtle gender biases that have developed in your family.

We often hear from children, “I can only tell my mum things like this” or “I know Dad can help me with that”. However, it’s beneficial to parents and their children to rid the stereotypes and foster a more open avenue of communication.

Regardless of gender, we want parents to feel confident to take on the whole parenting journey. You should be able to be the parent who says ‘No’, provides boundaries, is emotionally connected and who protects your children. These are things children want this from their parents, gender doesn’t matter.

Improved communication has many benefits

As parents become more confident in tackling aspects of parenting they might not have been familiar nor comfortable with, it creates a space for children to feel comfortable. When kids feel safe to talk to either parent about their challenges or dreams, the gender stereotypes evolve.

Families look different today. Whilst there are still families with a mother and a father, there is more diversity in what defines a ‘family. Traditional gender roles in families have therefore become far less evident in today’s society.

The rules of ‘how to be a parent’ have changed as gender roles have evolved. By removing subtle gender biases and by focusing on a parents’ abilities, children have more opportunity to trust and feel connected to their parents.

Whatever your family dynamic, Parentline is here for you, seven days a week. It’s free, non-judgmental counselling and support even if you want to chat. Call on 1300 30 1300 or WebChat via

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