It’s an undeniable fact that in our society men and women are typically treated differently and therefore grow up to have different interests. Boys are often taught not to have strong emotions or empathy; girls are expected to be invested in their appearance and to be less aggressive than boys. And in terms of interests, boys are often tracked into math and science programs while girls are encouraged to excel in programs like english and nursing. When kids make these choices independent of social pressure, it’s a positive assertion of independence. But when the two sexes are pressured to behave in different ways, the effects can be damaging not only to the child, but to society as a whole. Many differences between boys and girls start with parenting, and parents- intentionally or not- may treat boys and girls differently. Here are the reasons you shouldn’t do this:
It Harms Girls
While girls are rapidly catching up to boys in many areas and the days of a strict gender divide in profession are mostly over, we still live in a society in which women are unequal to men. They make less money for the same work (the wage gap is still about 75 cents per woman to the man’s dollar); they’re more likely to be raped or assaulted; they tend to get saddled with extra housework in addition to their day jobs when they grow up. And treating them differently as children teaches them to accept this inequality as adults. Here are a few common ways parents treat girls differently and how it harms them:
-Studies show that girls tend to do more housework than boys. This gives girls less opportunity to explore other interests and teaches them that a woman’s primary job is still to clean.
-Parents typically give their daughters less independence than boys, instituting stricter rules and invading more in their lives. This discourages independence, which can have a dramatically negative effect in adulthood.
-Girls are often not encouraged to pursue math and science and often aren’t given toys that teach them to have these interests. Careers in math and science are typically the highest paying careers, so by not encouraging their daughters to pursue these interests as much as their sons do, parents limit their daughter’s possibilities.
It Harms Boys
While it’s still widely believed that men tend to yield the majority of power in society, as it turns out, being one of the “powerful” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Boys who are taught to suppress their feelings will struggle with empathy and compassion as well as basic social skills. This can affect their job prospects, their relationships with their significant others, and their relationships with their children. Further, boys are often encouraged to express themselves via aggression. At its most extreme end, this can lead to legal difficulties and abuse of significant others. In its more mundane manifestation, it can make it difficult for your son to have problem solving skills that don’t involve aggression. Here are some common ways parents tend to treat boys differently:
-Boys are often discouraged from playing with dolls. Dolls are important toys because they teach valuable nurturing skills. By discouraging your son from doing this, you not only teach him that nurturing is unimportant; you also teach him that he is too good to do the things girls do.
-Boys are often not expected to be as involved in family activities or to help around the house as much as girls do. By teaching that this is not his job, you set your son up to have conflict with his future spouse and you make it less likely that he will remain close to his family when he grows up.
-Boys are often encouraged to resolve issues with aggression, and their aggression may not be punished as strictly as girls’ aggression. This encourages future aggressive behavior, and at its worst can set your son up for legal problems as well as cause difficulty on the job and in relationships.
It Makes Parenting More Difficult
If you have both a son and a daughter and treat them differently, you can bet that eventually they’re going to notice. Because one of the cardinal rules of parenting is to maintain consistency, you’ve already undermined yourself by having different rules for different children at different times. Your children are less likely to respect your authority and less likely to obey the rules, particularly when they enter their teenage years.
It Harms Society
When you treat your son and daughter differently, you raise people who believe that boys and girls should be treated differently. This contributes to social inequality. Your daughter is more likely to grow up feeling that her appearance is more important than her intelligence, and your son is more likely to grow up perpetuating these norms with the women in his life.
It can be difficult to avoid giving into societal pressures and treating boys and girls, who often seem so different, equally is a challenge for any parent, but the benefits to your child will far outweigh the difficulty involved in skirting social norms.