Avoiding gender stereotyping
publication date: May 8, 2007
So what can parents do?
|Research has shown links between gender and choices and achievements. When parents’ expectations differ for boys and girls, this is reflected in the activities and toys they provide for them. Consequently those boys and girls engage in different hobbies and pastimes from an early age and their interests continue to diverge as they grow older.
This divergence of interests can have far-reaching effects when children go to school: girls are more concerned with reading stories and creative work while boys tend towards constructive work and reading non-fiction. In the early school years girls gravitate to the home corner while boys take over the playground with ball games.
Studies have shown that boys overestimate their abilities while girls have lower expectations and both these attitudes need to be addressed. Of course this is a generalisation
|but boys fear being seen as “sissy” more than girls worry about not being feminine - maybe because we are doing more to encourage our daughters to regard themselves as equal.
- Always offer a mix of what are regarded as “boys” and “girls” toys to each sex - boys do play with dolls and dressing-up clothes just as girls will play with trains and cars.
- Don’t jump in and show a child how to use/do something - let a child have her own first impressions, she is unaware of limitations.
- Encourage boys to read fiction and girls to read factual books.
- Expose children to a range of writing styles - in newspapers, magazines, comics, advertising material - and encourage them to experiment by writing in different styles.
- Allow children to develop their own dress style - many girls prefer to wear leggings or trousers while some boys enjoy more flamboyant colours. Children need to be in clothes that allow them to play and move around freely - dresses and skirts will prevent girls exploring an adventure playground.
- Don’t insist a girl helps with household chores and let a boy get off scot-free.
- Encourage boys to talk about their emotions and how they feel.
- Boost girls’ self esteem so that they feel confident to tackle subjects like maths and science traditionally seen as a male preserve.
- Show, by example, that various jobs are carried out by both sexes ie the male nurse and female doctor.
- Use genderless words like firefighter, police officer, head teacher, actor.
- Make sure your child’s school has an equal opportunities policy and read it. Teachers’ attitudes may have a significant impact on your child’s life so it’s up to you to make sure your child isn’t disadvantaged because of gender.
- Try not to make assumptions but keep an open mind about gender differences.