Christian Shearhod says his son Ashton has expressed interest in painting his nails since he was 2-years-old, however, the dad found it unusual after his son suddenly didn't want to do it anymore.
"I was like what do you mean? Like you don't want to paint your nails? He was like 'No, my teacher says it's just for girls,'" Shearhod told "Good Morning America" of his conversation with his son. "He seemed upset by it --like it was something he's always enjoyed doing."
As a parent, Shearhod said he was "a little upset, a little annoyed" after learning about the teacher's remarks but as a teacher himself he explained he understood that "different people, have different gender norms, especially across age."
"Perhaps his teacher grew up, you know, learning that that's just for girls," Shearhod said. "I've got to be understanding where they come from, too."
After learning about the situation, Shearhod said he decided to use it as a "teaching moment."
He took his 3-year-old son to a local nail salon for a manicure and pedicure to cheer him up.
Shearhod also documented their entire trip and shared the video on his TikTok account which has since gone viral, with over 4 million views.
"I wanted to show that you can kind of turn a little situation into something positive," he said. "If this had never happened, we probably would have never gone to the nail shop, like it doesn't have to be a negative thing."
Describing what he wanted Ashton to learn from the moment, Shearhod continued, "I wanted to teach him to be himself, you know, which is what I want all my students to do."
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To bring some awareness, Shearhod also went to speak with the teacher at his son's daycare.
"When I talked to that teacher, I didn't complain to the school, that's not what I wanted. I wanted to go up there, and I wanted to talk to them, get [them] on the same page," he said.
While most of the responses from his video from the public have been positive, Shearhod is also mindful of some "trolls" that came along with sharing his story online.
"There were people saying some pretty ugly things, but for the most part, I believe most people are good, and it was reflected in the comments, there was so much support from other parents," he shared. "Other teachers, school [administration], there were so many people there saying good, positive things and sharing their own stories ... It was just cool to see that there are a bunch of people out there that are willing to accept things that are a little bit different, which is good."
Shearhod also encouraged his fellow educators to be paying more attention surrounding the subjects.
"It's all about the phrasing right, when she [the teacher] said it's just for girls, that's one thing right now, [compared to] saying it's typically for girls. You know what I mean. Like some guys do this and some others don't, explaining that there are guess outliers right? I'm a math teacher. So sometimes I speak in math language like there are outlines for people who like to go off and do their own thing, and it should be less rigid and more organic," he explained.
"In the conversations that you have with kids, it doesn't need to be very like this or that, black or white. There should be a gray scale when it comes to exploring and learning."
As for his advice for the parents who went through a similar situation, he also asked them to be "understanding that you know teachers have to deal with 30 something kids at a time and sometimes you don't say everything exactly the way you should."
"A lot of times issues come from miscommunication," he said. "It doesn't mean that they meant anything malicious and don't be so quick to crucify somebody, for just saying something. It's a balance, because in a class of 32. You could say just about anything. It's just the way it is sometimes."
Shearhod continued, "So we've got to be really understanding that people say things don't come off the right way. But that's okay, you know, like redemption."
Editor's note: This was originally published on Feb. 10, 2023.