Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Parenting Boys and Girls--Should It Be Different?

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Should boys and girls be parented differently or is "gender-neutral" parenting ideal?

This is a difficult question that may not necessarily have a clear answer.

We know that gender is a crucial part of who we are and that there are distinct differences between boys and girls. How can we recognize these differences in our parenting without portraying negative stigmas of gender?

It is definitely important to recognize that their are gender differences and that that is okay. Research has shown that overall girls and boys differ in many ways. For example, girls have been shown to have strong verbal abilities and be more emotionally sensitive whereas boys have been shown to have higher mathematical abilities and to have higher activity levels.

It is important to be aware of many of the gender differences; however, it is also important to recognize that there are many gender role stereotypes that are more myth than truth. Here are some examples of such cultural myths:

  • Girls are more social than boys
  • Girls have lower self-esteem than boys
  • Girls are better at simple repetitive tasks, whereas boys excel at tasks that require higher-level cognitive tasks
  • Girls lack achievement motivation
These are just a few examples of some of the stereotypes that exist in our culture that are not necessarily true.

So as parents it is crucial that we recognize that there are gender differences; however, we must also be aware that there are many myths in our society pertaining to gender roles and as parents it can be dangerous to give into these myths. Boys and girls act differently so therefore we must parent differently but we need to be sure that we are not communicating (whether verbally or by our actions) gender limits on abilities. For example, if our daughters always help with cleaning the house and they never help with the yard work while our sons always help with the yard work and not with cleaning the house we may be feeding into gender role myths without even realizing it. This is something that we as parents need to be consciously aware of.

What do you all think about this issue? How do you parent your boys and girls differently without portraying gender role stereotypes?

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