Girl Power is the new “It” movement, and it is, without doubt, a much-needed movement.
Yet, we are in need of a movement for boys. We need a movement that makes it trendy for boys to be nurturing, emotionally expressive, verbal, and non-violent. We need a cultural movement that treats nurturance and cooperation as skills that are just as important as engineering.
Parents, teachers, and peers discourage and punish boys for displaying signs of shyness. We see that shy boys are consistently encouraged to be assertive and bold, whereas shy girls are allowed to be who they naturally are. This pressure to be assertive can be extremely stressful for boys, leading to physiological and behavioral problems later on.
The recent discussion on Twitter (#YesAllWomen) of the common experiences all women face regarding sexual harassment is important. It is also important to keep in mind that this harassment doesn't just start in adulthood. Girls experience sexual harassment every day in middle school and high school.
Many parents assume that their children don't hold gender stereotypes, often because they work hard to raise egalitarian children. Yet, most children endorse strong stereotypes about boys and girls. They assume boys and girls are different in deep, fundamental ways. They assume that culturally specific traits, like wanting to sew or be a firefighter, are innate.
Most people assume that labeling and sorting by gender doesn’t really matter, that it doesn’t lead to big differences between boys and girls, as long as you treat children equally. But it seems that children pay attention to the groups that adults treat as important. When adults constantly point out gender, kids take note.
After four weeks of simply hearing their gender labeled and being sorted into girl and boy groups, elementary school children, both boys and girls, were more likely to say that only men can be doctors or the president of the United States and only women can be nurturing and kind.
Although we have more gender equality than ever in sports, female athletes are almost always sexualized in the media. Girls are playing sports in increasing numbers, but they are not seeing that athleticism represented in the media. Seeing only skiers in bikinis directly counteracts all the great benefits that sports participation brings.
Children want to help others. They simply need the adults in their lives to help facilitate this. This season, think about ways you can teach your children about giving. Make it concrete and have your children make the decisions about who to give to and what to give. This helps teach empathy and compassion.
Ultimately, children want positive time with their parents; they want this more than any toy at the store. Try to find ways to give your children this. This isn't selfish. Letting your children in on your passions is one of the best gifts you can give.
Although the majority of mass-marketed toys are made of plastic, designed to promote the latest movie, or require at least 6 batteries of various sizes, it is still possible to buy toys with a longer shelf life. Greener, more sustainable toys, beyond reducing our footprint on the planet, also typically promote creativity and imagination, pretend play, and language skills.
All toys are educational, whether we realize it or not. Children learn all of the time, especially when they are playing. This toy-buying season, think through the values and lessons you want your children to learn. Nurturance and spatial skills, or violence and aggression? Make sure the toys you buy this season support and reinforce your values.
Now is the time of year to evaluate your children's toys, games, books, and movies. Do you like the messages they are sending? If not, donate them and use the gift-giving season to buy new ones. Here are tips to look for gender stereotypes in your children's books and advice for looking for better books.
In our society, it is socially acceptable, and even profitable, to sexually objectify and dehumanize women. Boys, who voraciously consume these images, view women as sexual objects for their pleasure, making rape seem justified. Girls, half of whom diet to be more attractive, are also victims to this mindset, dangerously objectifying themselves along the way.
News stories frequently mention the debate about marriage equality, often trickling down to kids' ears. How should you talk to your kids about gay marriage in ways they can understand? The key is to use concrete language and remind children this affects real families. With two million children being raised by gay or lesbian parents, this debate hits home.
Now is the time of year to make sure all of the toys in your home teach your kids what you want them to learn. Sometimes we overlook the toys that sneak in over the holidays. A toy doesn’t have to be labeled as educational to be instructive. A Bratz doll teaches plenty! Just because you aren’t aware of what your kids are learning doesn’t mean they aren’t learning.
I hate to admit being wrong, but maybe the girly Legos aren't so bad. Maybe "gateway" toys help girls play with those toys traditionally claimed by boys. And these kinds of construction toys are good for girls’ cognitive development. So, if pink Legos help girls get involved, more power to them. Even if I have to stifle my gag reflex at all the stereotypes.
How we teach boys and girls to cope with sadness doesn't help anyone. We teach boys to repress it and we teach girls to dwell on it. So we get men who need to attend anger management classes and women with high rates of depression.
Tomorrow when I take my daughter to school, I won’t be worried that some militant group might try to assassinate her because she is learning math. I also won’t be compassionate when she complains about her homework. Instead, I will urge her to become as educated as possible to help change the world.
What your daughter wears matters. It affects how other people view her. Adults view tween girls in sexualized clothes as less intelligent, capable, and moral than their more modest peers. And we know, if other people consistently see us in a certain light, we will eventually see ourselves in that same light.