The Difference in Raising Boys and Girls

The way that gender is viewed is quite different than it was in the years before the civil rights movement and women’s liberation. Boys and girls should not be raised in a specific manner due to their gender. Although women are given more of a choice they are still raised differently than men. Boys and girls have always been raised differently. Boys are taught to be strong while girls are taught that it is okay to be weak and helpless. Boys are discouraged from crying while girls are expected to express their emotions. The way a person is raised greatly affects what kind of person they become.

Even before a child is born, they are quickly placed into the gender they belong and parents prepare. When parents request the sex of their child in preparation for decorating a nursery suited for a boy’s baby blue room or a girl’s pink fluffy room. As babies they are dressed in colors that would insure that a stranger would not mistake the baby’s gender. There is emphasis on differentiating the sex of a baby before they are even conscious of what is happening, and before they can make their own decisions on what they prefer. Although it is important for a baby to learn at an early age a sense of identity it is the beginning of a lifelong role that they must play.

When boys and girls become old enough to want to play with toys, parents go by tradition and give their children what is expected. Girls are given dolls while boys are given cars, or guns. The girls are supposed to play house and dress up their Barbie’s. Girl’s games are much more passive and nurturing. Boys, who play more aggressive games like cops and robbers, are taught to be tough. Gary Levy, director of the Infant Development Center at the University of Wyoming, says parents should rely on their instincts. “It’s really just about being supportive about what your kid is doing,” he says, “even if your little girl wants to play with blocks or your son loves tea sets. In other words, nurture your child’s nature.” The way a girl is brought up teaches them to be more creative and sensitive. A boy that is taught to play with aggressive toys will not be as sensitive as those playing with dolls. “By giving children opportunities to participate in all kinds of activities, you’re going to wind up with children who have the freedom to choose what they¹re good at and like doing,” says Claire Etaugh, co-director of the Bradley University Center for the Study of Early Childhood Development.

Parents treat their children in different manners. A little girl is coddled and is given affection while the little boys are expected to take care of themselves and be independent. The only reason for this is a long running tradition. Colette Shulman of The National Council for Research on Woman says “Boys are mostly stuck in the old rigid stereotypes of manhood and if anything, many of them have become more isolated and stunted by what has been called “the culture of cruelty.” Today men are nurses and women are in the army, times have changed drastically. Although women and men can become whatever they desire to be it does not the change the fact that they are raised in patterns that do not relate. It is the socialization that is so vastly different. It is appropriate for girls to be climb trees and play sports but they are considered tomboys, and their mothers try to change that fact. It is not usual however for a little boy to play with a doll and be considered appropriate. Dolls are considered maternal and feminine and so boys are discouraged from using their imagination to play with such toys because onlookers might consider this a weak boy and some might even assume that this meant that in the future he would become a homosexual because of his penchant for a so called girl’s toy. It has not been proven that boys playing with dolls affect their sexual orientation but it has helped with becoming more sensitive than the plastic gun toting boys. Michael Gurian, an expert in child psychology says, Absolutely boys and girls should be raised together. Boys and girls both have the same self-esteem needs, but at the same time there are some significant differences.” Boston-area psychologists, William Pollack believes the truth is that boys can be raised to be sensitive and empathetic, “to care deeply about other people, including girls, and their feelings.” In the 1970s and 1980s a study was conducted where a baby boy was dressed in a pink dress and when adults handled the baby they gave the boy toys such as dolls. But when the baby was supposed to be a boy the adults gave “him” a truck. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because adults treat the kids so differently even when they’re not aware of it,” says Phyllis Katz of the Institute for Research on Social Problems in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s hard to disentangle the part that’s really there from the adult’s socialization of the kids.”

There is a preconceived notion of how a boy and girl are supposed to perform in social situations. The New Homemaker reports “A young girl who stands up for her is said to be spirited and looked at in a positive light. A young boy who does the same thing is said to be rebellious and headed for trouble.” When a boy does act in an aggressive manner it is assumed that he will continue to get into trouble even to the extent of becoming a juvenile delinquent. This is not the same for girls. This may be due to the fact that it has been much more common for men to become aggressive and incarcerated in the past and so the cycle continues. Boys are treated with toughness and so they end up with a thicker skin than the girls. Colette Schulman says, “The truth is that boys can be raised to be sensitive and empathetic, “to care deeply about other people, including girls, and their feelings.”

Boys are also expected to be independent while girls are assumed to be helpless. Fathers and mothers watch over every move their daughter makes, making sure she is never in danger. Meanwhile, parents assume that their son can take care of himself at a much younger age. This is not true. Boys and girls need the same amount of protection. Often boys feel abandoned because they are given their independence at too young of an age while girls can feel smothered because they are let little room for independence. When the children start to grow up and create their own identity they are encouraged to be independent and strong. However, once they reach adolescence there is a double standard that exists when boys and girls become teenagers. Boys are cheered for their socializing with more than one girl, while girls are frowned upon if they have more than one suitor. The age of when boys and girls are allowed to date also vary. Girls are often given earlier curfews. This once again reinforces the idea that boys are stronger and can take care of themselves and that girls are the weaker sex.  

The way that a human being is raised greatly depends on the parents. Although society has evolved into something quite different than the sexist past, there is still a looming air of gender discrimination. Boys and men will always be considered the stronger sex because of the biology of their bodies and the tradition that will continue. People can bring up their daughter to be strong and their son to be sensitive. Human beings should simply be raised in a manner that makes them the best possible people.

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