This father shares an important lesson about gender norms and stereotypes.

When children are young, they’re interested in all kinds of things. They don’t necessarily see a difference between playing with a car or a doll. But society seems to care, and many people have strong opinions about what little boys or girls should be into.

While many continue to push back against these outdated gender norms and stereotypes, there’s still work to do. Thankfully, because of fathers like the one in this story, that’s slowly beginning to change.

What a Teacher Told a 3-Year-Old Boy at School

little boy with green hair

Christian Shearhod recently realized that even though he is happy to allow his three-year-old son, Ashton, to be himself, others aren’t as quick to do so. In a TikTok that’s since gone viral, the California dad explained how Ashton came home from school one day very confused.

“My son came home from school really upset because his teacher told him that painting your nails is only for girls,” he explained.

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Ashton’s confusion was understandable. At home, the kid often paints his nails with his father. In an interview with NBC, Shearhod explained that his son first showed an interest in doing so when he was two years old. Shearhod was just giving his kid room to be himself and to explore.

So when he found out what had happened at school, he was also upset. But he had a solution: he took Ashton for a manicure and pedicure.

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“I really just wanted to make sure that he didn’t have guilt or shame because it is something he enjoyed, and we had done together multiple times,” Shearhod told the news outlet, adding he wants his kid to enjoy life and not worry about “strict gender norms.”

In the TikTok video, Shearhod captures his son at a West Hollywood nail salon sitting down for the mani and pedi. “I want pink!” he says, giggling in excitement. That excitement doubles when his dad’s partner, Eden, gets the same color.

“Let little boys like what they like,” Shearhod wrote in the video. “Trucks, Spider-Man, Paw Patrol and maybe painting his nails.”

Since posting the TikTok in early February, it’s been liked and shared thousands of times. People also praised the dad in the comments and commended him for how he handled the situation. Many also wondered whether he spoke with his son’s teacher to avoid such situations in the future.

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He did, the next day.

“I just told them, ‘Hey, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say that kind of thing to Ashton, kind of let him do his own thing,’” Shearhod told NBC News.

Later, after receiving some negative comments to the post — including some who questioned whether liking nail polish means his son is gay — Shearhod added another video.

“He is literally three years old; he can’t be gay because he doesn’t have a sexuality yet,” the dad said, bewildered. “You’re not going to assign him a sexuality because he likes feminine things or things outside of his typical gender norm.”

How One Dad Proved the Importance of Creating a Positive Environment for Kids

little boy getting his nails done

While we’ve made many steps in overcoming gender stereotypes over the past few years, this story reminds us that there’s still work to be done. Ashton’s teacher may not have meant anything by the comments, but those statements are hurtful when allowing children free and full expression.

It’s something we can practice from birth, such as supporting a friend or family member who chooses to host a gender-neutral baby shower or doesn’t want to learn the sex of their baby until they’re born.

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But we can also challenge our preconceived notions by going outside our comfort zones and trying things to support others whose interests may not be considered “typical.”

Remember that toys are toys, chores are chores, and interests are interests. It’s essential to think before speaking and expose kids to people from all walks of life. And, like this dad, use your home life to disrupt any gender norms that may come up in your day-to-day life.