Q: My soon-to-be first-grader is in a small camp. He has taken a liking to a handful of boys a few years older, and he's been picking up bad things. The other day he told me, "Girls drink Pepsi, so they can get sexy; boys go to college, so they can get knowledge."
I know he doesn't get exactly what he's saying, but he knows it's a put-down to girls. My husband and I have talked to him about hanging out with good kids, not emulating bad behavior, and that girls are as smart as boys. I know the road ahead is long, and he'll be exposed to worse than stupid sayings. But how can I help him tell the "good kids" from "bad kids"?
A: You can start by staying away from the "good kids/bad kids" mindset. It's just a branch of the same messed-up tree that produced the "girls-are-sexy/boys-are-smart" howler. Your message to your son needs to be that it's not right to put people in groups. Everyone's different and everyone deserves the chance to be what he or she wants. Boys can be sexy and drink Pepsi! Heck, girls can drink Pepsi, be sexy and go to college, or none of the above if that's what floats their boats.
You do have to be careful not to take every little thing too seriously, lest you become easy for him to tune out. If he hasn't picked up the antiparental eye-roll yet, expect it soon.
But the consistency of your antistereotype message is what's going to make it stick, and, conveniently, just about everything you experience with him is a teaching opportunity for this.