Gender is no doubt a huge factor in parenting. Many parents would like to know their baby’s gender before it is born, because gender matters to them. In our society, the role of girls and women is different from the role of boys and men. It is hard to ignore these roles and treat kids equally, because in the eyes of our society they are not equal.
So what should we do? Should we parent our kids differently if they are boys or girls or should we treat them just the same?
Research on people’s attitude towards boys and girls has found that parents and adults generally treat boys and girls differently even when they are just babies. In a famous research done with a group of babies that were dressed in pink or blue (without any relation to their real gender) the researchers discovered that the pink babies (presumably the girls) were picked up more by the adults and received more eye contact than the blue babies (presumably the boys).
How do you think this translates to parenting?
Well, I decided to ask the Top Parenting Bloggers about their attitude towards parenting boys vs. girls. As usual, it was very interesting to read their comments.
What, if any, are the differences between parenting boys and girls?
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo – Single Dad
Fathers shape daughters and mothers shape sons. These relationships carry a lot of responsibility and every parent should know how much they will make a difference on how their children will be in the future.
Sue Scheff – Sue Scheff Blog
This is an interesting question since you can quiz a variety of parents and each will have a different answer.
For me, my daughter was easier as a child through elementary, while my son was very difficult to keep entertained, but as teenage years came around, my daughter was a handful and my son was fantastic. I think the differences are personal and vary within each unique family.
Susan Heim – Susan Heim on Parenting
As a mother of four boys, I can tell you that it’s constant chaos. While girls are quietly coloring at a table, boys are running around the room and trying to tackle one another. Of course, there are calm boys and active girls, but for the most part, they’re very different.
Boys and girls learn, play, and act differently, and it’s important for educators and parents to recognize these differences and adapt to them. Often, boys are labeled naughty when they’re just doing what boys are genetically programmed to do!
Annie Fox, M.Ed. – From the desk of Annie Fox
The differences in our parenting approaches to each of them come from their individual personality and temperamental differences. They are not a function of gender.
Maria Melo – Conversations with Moms
I have two boys and 6 nephews. I know that when the cousins get together, it’s a madhouse. They love action and at times seem fearless. They are very adventurous and their energy seems to have no end.
There are many studies that detail the physiological, emotional, analytical and behavioral differences between boys and girls, so I won’t repeat what I’m sure you’ve already heard or read.
I can tell you that as a mother of two boys, I know that one of the lessons I hope to teach them is to respect women. Hopefully, I can teach them to respect their minds and hearts as well as admire their beauty.
If I had a daughter, I would try to teach her to respect herself and not fall victim to what society says she should look like.
Annie – PhD in Parenting
I addressed this topic recently on my blog. In summary, in a perfect world, I do not think we would need to parent boys and girls differently. However, due to the messages that society sends our girls and our boys about their gender and the opposite gender, I do think that we need to parent them differently, because we need to counteract those messages.
Ultimately I think it is important for us to parent each of our children as individuals and not as a member of a specific gender group. This is true both because gender stereotyping is harmful and also because we cannot be 100% certain that we know the gender of our child until they tell us (as their gender assigned at birth may not be their true gender).
Read more in my post called “Should we parent boys and girls differently?“
Ria Sharon – My Mommy Manual
This begs generalizations and I don’t know that my observations are universal. In my house, although both my kids are physical in the sense of wanting to be held and touched, my son’s need to run and wrestle and play physically is higher than my daughter’s.
So with parenting, using visual cues and physical contact are much more effective – putting a hand on his shoulder, hugging as we take deep breaths, etc.
Ronit Baras – Family Matters
I do not think there needs to be a major difference between parenting boys and girls (I think parenting the eldest and the youngest is much more different). If anything, this stereotypical misconception of gender is a social pattern I need to fight. I do not go for pink for girls, blue for boys, dolls for girls, cars for boys, cooking and make up toys for girls, science and outdoor toys for boys.
As much as I would like to say that I parent my kids the same, I don’t. I have put are stickers on our dining room board and on some of my boxes that say “Girls can do anything”, yet I do not have any that say “Boys can do anything”, although I think they can too.
When my son decided to register himself to dancing, I encouraged him more and paid more attention to him than I did with my two other girls’ dancing. Why? Because he was the only boy in his dance class, while my girls were part of the majority of girls in their classes.
So no, I do not treat my kids the same, but I expect the same from them. I expect all three of them to go after their dreams, even if it means they are the only boy in their cooking class or the only girl wearing blue. However, I need to support them differently, depending on which social norm I am helping them fight.
I do not believe boys and girls are different in their abilities, but they must face different perceptions by the media, peers, fashion and the adults in their life. As their parents, we face the same challenges with them.
There is no “All boys are..” and no “All girls are…” and I tell my daughters exactly the same massage I tell my son – that they are unique and wonderful and if they focus on what they can do, achieve, feel and have with the gender they have, they will enjoy life greatly.
Many thanks to the Top Parenting Bloggers: RJ, Annie Fox, Ria, Annie, Maria, Susan and Sue for sharing their thoughts about gender and parenting boys and girls.
I know this is a very hot topic and the debate about what is our role in creating equal opportunities for our boys and girls is very old but still important, so please join the discussion by writing your thoughts about parenting boys and girls.
Join us next week’s Top Parenting Bloggers discussion about parenting teens. Parenting teens and educating teens is a topic that is very close to my heart. I hope many parents for teens and people working with teens will join us and write their ideas too.
We are approaching the end of the Top Parenting Bloggers Discussion, so I wanted to encourage you to add questions to the discussion that you would like answered. You can post them in the comment box below as suggestions for discussion.
If you wish to know more about the bloggers who take part in this project or contact any of them, please visit their blogs, follow them on Twitter and/or become their fan on Facebook. Alternatively, you can send them a question or comment through the comment box below.
This post is part of the series Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss:
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (1): Introduction
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (2): Parenting Challenges
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (3): Best Parent Qualities
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (4): Parenting Changes Life
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (5): Ideal Child
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (6): Education
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (7): What drives you nuts?
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (8): Discipline
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (9): Profound Parenting Moment
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (10): Parenting Tips
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (11): Government Policy Suggestions
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (12): Parenting Boys and Girls
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (13): Parenting Teens
- Top Parenting Bloggers Discuss (14): How to Keep Your Kids Healthy