The role of sex stereotypes and gender roles in the sex differences observed in sport and exercise has been extensively investigated in sport psychology, with past studies showing that stereotypes are internalized into the self during the socialization process.
When we talk about children at a young age (2-6 years) who have not yet developed the ability to evaluate criteria and make choices, obviously we are not talking about whether they prefer to drink water or juice or if they like chocolate more than lentils, but we rather refer to things and situations that in the future will develop the children personality and their lives. Sport belongs to this category as it has been proven that its benefits to the physical and mental health of children are very important.
Nevertheless, children may not create criteria tables in their minds that determine their choices, but they receive daily various stimuli that place them in a pattern of gender stereotypes, in a pattern that distinguishes the girl from the boy and the boy from the girl, what is good to do a girl and what is good to do a boy, what should a girl play with and what should a boy play with. These messages are received by the child through his environment, school and family, but also by external factors such as advertisements and toy stores. Toys are the ones with which a child, even from infancy, first comes in contact and spends a lot of time. Through play, a child, in addition to the fact that she/he can spend his time very pleasantly, can also learn from it, as from time to time more and more educational games that start even from 9 months are created. So the world of toys over the years, through toymakers, stores, and advertising, has created an idea that distinguishes girls from boys’ toys. The girls ‘toys are pink and the boys’ toys are blue, the girls play with dolls and kitchen utensils and the boys play with balls and cars, the girls ‘toys are on the ground floor and the boys’ toys are on the 1st floor, all of which create for the children. Unconsciously, the image of what is the most appropriate game and with whom they are “allowed” to play according to their gender, an image that they adopt until the age when they create their own personal point of view. However, stimuli are not criteria either. The child at the age of 2-6 years may not be able to choose based on criteria what is right for it and what is not, but can choose based on stimuli and choices that will be given to the child by the parents.
This is the case with sports. Parents are the ones who will give the first stimulus to the children for their involvement in sports and consequently they can indirectly give them the right to choose, giving them stimuli from different sports. Therefore, the role of parents in the child’s involvement in sports is a catalyst.
ASTERI NGO, one of the partners of TWOST project endorsed by the Skillman Alliance conducted a survey on this topic in order to analyze by what criteria children choose a sport or athletics and what is the role of the parents in it – stereotype decision. The survey contained 5 questions and was done by 37 parents from February to July 2020. The results of the survey show that parents play a huge role in the children’s choice of sport, and because of this they should be aware of some crucial and important factors:
Parents should consider the many factors involved in their child’s athletic activity. Factors either about the child or about the parents themselves. Let’s look at some of these factors:
- The age. Depending on the age of our child we should choose the appropriate sport for example if we want to turn our child to sports from a very young age (3years) we can not write football or basketball as these sports require other skills.
- Do we have to think about what sport we are looking for that the child enjoys, an unfulfilled wish of the parent or to find the most “convenient” based on the time and distance of training?
- Developmental stages or milestones of the child such as
- a) its physique,
- b) its motor and mental skills,
- c) its behavior,
- d) it’s psycho-emotional maturity and
- e) what are its interests
- If there is a possibility from the parents to commit financially, psychologically, and practically to this occupation of the child.
The role of the parent in this path is very important on a psychological level as well. Parents should support their child in his choices: if for example football and basketball are written and the child finally decides to play only basketball, it would be good to receive a positive response from the parents and support it in this selection. It is helpful not to be critical of a defeat but to try and teach the child that defeats are acceptable and make you even better.