One of the signs of enlightened parenting is believed to be a non-sexist approach to upbringing. But more and more such parents are finding out to their surprise, that gender differences are as much a result of biology as of environment.
Scientific studies reveal that the differences between the sexes begins in the uterus when hormone such as testosterone and estrogen are provided to the foetus by the mother’s body. A male foetus receives more estrogen. Thus are created different types of brain development and strengths.
In general, girls show more interest in people while boys show more interest in objects. As a result perhaps, normally, girls acquire linguistic skills earlier and faster while boys acquire spatial and mechanical skills faster. Boys tend to be more physically active and more aggressive while girls tend to be quieter and more social. Boys prefer group play, girls prefer to play one to one.
The sexes are created by birth but gender stereotypes are created in the home.
As far as emotional needs go there are also clear differences between the needs of girl and a boy.
The different strengths and needs of boys and girls, means that different parenting styles are needed for both. The problem lies in not understanding these differences. Comparing children of different genders is not only unkind but is also an exercise in futility.
A boy smothered with caring and a girl given too much emotional independence will end up psychologically scarred.
The answer lies in finding the line between respecting differences as healthy while providing equality of status. A girl and a boy may have different areas of strength and their parents may need different nurturing styles. But it is important to remember that neither is inherently superior or inferior. They are just different!
It is essential for parents to teach their children respect for differences and an ability to look beyond stereotypes. A simple fact of life since the beginning of time is that boys and girls need each other to complement and complete their individual strengths. It is also a fact that teaching girls to be independent and strong without teaching boys to get rid of chauvinistic attitudes can only result in a mismatch. It is for you to raise children who are not ‘sexist’ in their thinking, who have equal respect for both sexes and who are comfortable with their gender without needing to fit into any stereotypes.
What you can do: –
- Teach your children to see differences as enriching rather than divisive.
- Don’t buy into stereotypes of blue for boys and pink for girls or science for boys and arts for girls.
- Treat your children’s as the individuals they are. If your daughter has more ‘male’ traits or your son has more ‘female’ traits, don’t ridicule, scold or belittle them. Accept and love and support them to be themselves.
· Don’t accept chauvinism or feminism which is derogatory of or disrespectful of the other sex.
- Teach a boy to be more gentle and considerate and a girl to be more assertive and independent.
- Select the toys not to make statements of any kind but for enjoyment and to encourage any interest or talent in your child. That could mean buying a doll for a boy and a car for the girl to see if they enjoy it.
- Don’t be tougher on your son by telling him things such as boys don’t cry, while cuddling your daughter for the same reason.
- Be careful of the attitudes you unconsciously pass on to your children. Try to avoid stereotypes in your attitudes towards housewives, helping around the house, working etc.
- Provide good role models – children learn from examples.
·Gender identity is developed through adopting the example set partly by the same sex parent or an older person and partly from observing friends of their own sex.
How to avoid teaching stereotypes
- Set an equal example by sharing housework and parenting chores.
- Take gender taboos out of toys
- Teach a son also to be nurturing and as sensitive as your daughter and praise courage and strength equally in your son.
- Read and tell stories which demonstrate sexual equality. Books where women are also engineers, scientists and men are looking after the babies.
- Tell your toddler they can be anything they want to be