You let children do what they love to do, what their souls want them to do. Suppose children such as

  1. boys want to learn cheerleading, ballet, music, yoga, surfing and

  2. girls want to be the next Ronda Rousey, learn MMA, do powerlifting

  3. mix of the earlier and more traditional ones

where the nature of 1 and 2 can be seen by some people as rebellious to the degree that it is hard to find training environments for the children without being overly sexualised to just a gender. So

How to grow children who are not hesitant to challenge traditional roles in sports?

  • 1
    If you ask MickFanning and a few others, they will probably disagree with surfing being a female (let alone effeminate) sport... ^_^
    – Stephie
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 17:31
  • Would you really want a daughter to follow Rhonda Rousey, or anyone who makes a career out of brutally beating up other people? Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:04

2 Answers 2


In my experiences of seeing my daughters (10&7) issues with this, wanting to play soccer, rugby, surfing,and do computing and gaming. Is not my support or the support of the adults coaching/running the activities. Things that you need to bear in mind regarding peer pressure, is to first understand where the mindsets are coming from. Peer pressure comes from stereotyping, individual stereotyping (in children) generally comes from the family setting.

Its the peer pressure from other children, my daughter at the age of 8 came home form an afterschool club for soccer, really upset because all the boys ganged up telling her that "girls don't play footie" a year later she got the same attitude over her playing Minecraft and Spore - girls don't play games. In a show and tell where she brought in photos of her building a PC at the age of five (with my supervision), again the same attitude girls don't do computing. The last one is my 10yo daughter is the only girl in her cub-scout pack again she'd bring home issues (AKA being upset by how she was treated).

So with that anecdotal information in mind,I set about devising ways to help her overcome and bypass those peer expectations. This is what I've found and this is only from the perspective of a girl doing "boys" activities.

By me (the father) taking active involvement in her activities it help somewhat to breakdown the some of the behaviours that bring about problems. I found that by being an actively involved father helped the boys in the groups re-engage with my daughter. Having a kick around before and after soccer class, encouraged other boys to join myself and my daughter, even though I was favouring her.

With the computing class it was arriving a bit early and spending a bit of time helping her to do a bit of animation which the boys found interesting and then getting my daughter to then show them.

With the scout pack again arriving early, participating in a quite complicated ropework task, I explain what we were going to do, she chose another cub to join us (it was a 3 person task), she explained to him. All the other cubs and scouts watched us succeed, were impressed and from that point on she became a first pick in activities.

I must point out that there is fall out from this, which is the inverse gender peer pressure. My daughters both get told they're not "girly" enough to participate in girls activities. That's when my wife became the active parent and does similar stuff to engage other girls.

It is a difficult and time consuming one to solve if you want your child to be involved in non-gender stereotypical activities, you have to try to actively engage the other children in the group and by example you show that it's do-able. You must bear in mind as well there is also cultural bias to deal with.

This is just my example of how we as parents have dealt with this issue and frankly there is no easy answer. Predominantly it needs to be dealt with at a grassroots level and you have to be actively involved and set a good role model for your children and those you encounter with them. Irrespective of success or failure in the activity the outcome will be beneficial, in the long term, for your children.


There are two key things that I would look for when my child is "challenging" a gender stereotyped activity.

  1. The right coach/teacher.

    I've written before about the importance of having a qualified instructor for health and safety reasons. This can be even more important in a sport where most children are a different sex, since there are some physiological differences that can result in different effects on a child's growing body than the instructor might expect. Do they know whether gender matters, have they read research, what are their qualifications? Have they taught girls to lift weights or boys to dance ballet before?

    Equally important, find an adult who brings a positive attitude and encourages enjoyment. When helping a child develop their love of a sport or activity, they need an ally who cheers them on. That's more true when they don't fit the stereotype of the "right kind" of participant.

  2. Look for role models. If your daughter wants to box, find famous women boxers. If your son wants to dance, find famous ballerinos. Look for video clips on YouTube, biographies, local events. Find older students (e.g. high school) of the same activity who may be willing to talk to your child about some of the challenges, and why they've stuck with it over the years despite being "different" than their peers.

The positive attitude and role models are things that I've witnessed as powerful tools used by my daughter's ballet teacher for her black dance students. They spend class time watching performances by Misty Copeland. Their studio walls have an unusually diverse assortment of ballerinas pictured, and it's a much richer and welcoming space than the typical tall, stick thin, pale and blond photographs I've seen in other studios. It's not a perfect world; there will be plenty of other people who tell those kids YOU can't be a ballerina, you don't look "right". But it's ideal to give them a fair start and a place to thrive while they decide if they're passionate enough to pursue this long term, or it was just fun to learn to dance for a couple years.

  • Boxing is not a good example. A good parent should do everything they can to discourage participation in such a sport. It may be legal, but it is not right. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:17
  • 1
    That's a matter of opinion best left up to the ethics of individual families. Similar issues would be gun ownership or hunting, welcome for some families, but not others.
    – Acire
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:43
  • Boxing is a great example. It's such a "male" sport. And it is physically demanding.
    – rox0r
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 16:51

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