Shaun Burgoyne writes: 'I won't raise my kids in a world divided by pink and blue.'

Parenting’s a tough gig. Rewarding, heart-warming and hilarious – but tough.

I have four young kids, two boys and two girls, and like most parents, my wife Amy and I want the best for them. We want to set a good example, help them explore their individuality and teach them to respect themselves and those around them.

They say having a daughter changes a man, and I can honestly say that when we had our first, my mindset changed straight away.

gender stereotypes for kids
"Things like calling your son a “strong little man” when he holds back tears and telling your daughter to “stop being bossy” when she asserts herself can limit our kids." (Image: Supplied)

I started to notice how our society is divided by gender, blue is for boys and pink is for girls. How we dress our kids, the toys we give them to play with and how we speak to them, all play an important role in how they learn to process the world around them.

New research released by Our Watch reveals that children as young as 18 months can begin to develop knowledge of gender stereotypes, and before the age of two they’re already conscious of how their gender fits into society.

Things like calling your son a “strong little man” when he holds back tears, telling your daughter to “stop being bossy” when she asserts herself, or saying “boys are just being boys” when they act out violently, can be limiting to our kids.

Through my relationship with The Line, I now know that gender inequality and adherence to rigid gender stereotypes are the main drivers of violence against women and their children.

As a father of two daughters, I’m concerned. I don’t want them to be one of the women murdered every week in this country by their current of former partner, or because they’re Indigenous, be 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence.

Having kids has made me realise that this important conversation starts with me. I want my boys to have good relationships with girls growing up, and I want my daughters to grow up in a world where they feel safe, respected and equal.

Listen: This Glorious Mess discuss disciplining boys - are boys and girls really that different? (post continues after audio...)


I was lucky enough to have my father as my role model. He was an Indigenous leader in our community and the footy club, and he made me want to be a leader as well. He instilled a passion for AFL that still lives within me today and by his example I knew that if I worked hard I could achieve anything I set my mind to. I want to be that for my kids.

It’s sad to think that as a child, I grew up thinking footy belonged to men. The only women I remember being involved in the club were the player’s mums who washed the guernseys.

Over the last few years it’s been really exciting to see more women come into the game. They are showing young girls, like my daughters, that women can play, coach and run the entire sport and that’s a wonderful thing.

Most parents don’t want to place limitations on their kid’s potential. In fact, this research showed that most parents of 0-3 year olds want to allow their kids to explore their interests without gender roles and stereotypes, and 92% agree that it’s important to treat girls and boys the same in their early years.

I know we can’t all wrap our kids in cotton wool and shield them from comments in the playground, at school or at the local park. But we can teach them to always treat people with respect and prepare them to challenge narrow-minded views.

The best thing we can do for our kids is to encourage them to explore their own interests and talents, and free them from a world divided by pink and blue.

It’s a tough gig, but one I consider an absolute privilege.

Shaun Burgoyne plays AFL for Hawthorn Football Club and is an Ambassador for the Our Watch youth campaign The Line which challenges attitudes and behaviours that lead to violence against women.