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8 Things To Teach Your Child About Feminism, Because Starting Them Early Matters

I am the daughter of a feminist mother. A mother who was, more often than not, raising her children by herself. A mother who made it a priority to teach children about feminism and, as a result, raises two gracious young men who are full of respect, compassion, and understanding. It's been an amazing transformation to watch my brothers grow from children into young men - young men who support and respect women, young men who brand themselves as feminists.

When my time comes to raise children, I can only hope that I do as wonderful a job as my mother has done - not only by prevailing as a working, single mother - but by doing my job in carrying on the feminist tradition in my family, and teaching my children the ins and outs of feminism from day one. But here's so much literature available on feminism, so many viewpoints, so much information that it can be overwhelming. Where to start? When to start? If I call my daughter pretty, is that anti-feminist? What if my son's really into monster trucks? Stress can easily set in, but if you keep a few fundamental lessons in mind, you'll be doing your due diligence in raising your child as a feminist.

1. Let Them Know Feminism Means Equality

From the get-go you should teach your children the true definition of feminism. And, for those who need a little clarification, feminism is the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

2. Choose Your Words Wisely

Phrases like "boys don't cry," "that's not very ladylike," and "you _____ like a girl," are all phrases that can pigeonhole children. Choose your words carefully when speaking to children, and remember that kids learn from what they see.

3. Be Body Positive

Teach your children the correct names for their body parts. Penis and vagina are real words — and real parts of the human body — and taking the shame out of them from an early age will help promote children to be comfortable with their bodies, and promote body positivity.

4. Know That Adjectives Matter

Girls can be beautiful, but they can also be strong, incredible, smart, and brilliant. Boys can be brave, but they can also be thoughtful, sweet, sensitive, beautiful, and kind. Using  myriad of positive words to describe your child will assure them that any gender can be anything.

5. Teach Them R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Teaching your children to respect everyone around them is the first step in making sure they understand the meaning of equality. No one is better than the other, regardless of race, religion, age, sex, or any other qualifier.

6. Share Strong Female Role Models

Whenever you see a strong female, be it a police officer, a famous face, or a fellow mom, share them with your child. Teaching your children that women can do anything, and everything, is crucial to them understanding feminism.

7. Celebrate Differences

Yes, there are differences between the sexes — there are differences between all people. No two people are the same, and differences should be celebrated.

8. Gender Does Not Define You

Being a girl does not mean you have to wear makeup or dresses, and being a boy doesn't mean you have to enjoy team sports or burping. Boys can like glitter, or want to be a princess for Halloween, just as girls can enjoy Bob the Builder and getting dirty on the playground. Encourage creativity from your children and let them blossom in the direction they choose.

Images: ricardoferrando/Fotolia; Jake Stimpson, Mads Bødker, Tove Paqualin, Andy, Southbank Centre, Mike Shade, woodleywonderworks, Modestas Jonauskas/Flickr