Can parents treat boys and girls differently without realising?
Are boys and girls treated differently by their parents? We take a look at how to treat them equally
There are differences in girls and boys aren’t there? Girls are said to be more social, and love to talk and socialise, but boys are more introverted but physically stronger than girls, right?
Not necessarily. In one study, scientists attempted to show how parents make a number of assumptions about their baby boy or girl.
So they dressed newborns in gender-neutral clothes and told adults the boys were girls and girls were boys. The adults spent time with the newborns and described the ‘boys’ (actually girls) as angry or distressed more often than the adults in the study who thought they were observing girls. The adults spending time with the ‘girls’ (actually boys) described the babies as happy and socially engaged.
Many other disguised-gender experiments have also noted that adults perceive baby boys and girls differently - choosing, to see the behaviour they expect from the sex.
What these studies show is that how we perceive boys and girls—and how we treat them therefore affects experiences we give them.
Much of our developmental behaviours form in the early months of life so if parents are encouraging certain behaviours amongst boys and girls without realising it; they are fundamentally affecting the way their baby develops.
So, if parents are more social with baby girls, then the baby girl's language and expression is naturally going to develop more fully and faster than baby boy's.
Baby brains are often described as little sponges. So the affect parents have on them does determine a lot. Whether consciously or not, it seems parents do make assumptions about the gender preferences of their little ones which have an effect on how they develop.
Gender neutral parenting tips
• Keep your name gender neutral – forget the gender forms of pink is for girls and blue is for boys.
• Think about giving your child gender neutral toys like a puppet theatre, farm set, baking equipment, building blocks as well as typical gender based toys like dolls and dumper trucks and don’t panic about who wants to play with what, the message is it’s wonderful to play with whatever they want.
• Don’t succumb to stereotypes. Avoid common sayings and clichés like telling boys ‘not to act like a girl’ and instead encourage a belief that boys can enjoy films about Prince Charming and fairies just as girls can get excited about superheroes. Let them be free to think that the only difference boys and girls is the way they pee – being open minded is the most important part of avoiding the pink and blue traps of parenting.