Friday, August 09, 2013

Boys and Girls; Really That Different?

**I have so many pictures of the kids doing things that are not stereotypical for their gender roles but lack of time is preventing me from adding them.  So picture Nya playing cars and the boys baking and then all three of them wrestling **

Very few things get me riled up but one of those things is gender equality.  I was one of 5 girls.  Yup, no boys.  It seemed like every day someone said `Your parents must've kept going to try to get a boy!'.  This drove us crazy!!! Are girls not just as wonderful as boys?  Would my parents love us more if they had a boy? Of course not, who would they trade in? None of us!
{Is this really the most recent picture I have of all 5 sisters?}

Thanks to my feminist father, we grew up knowing that we could do whatever a boy could do.  We knew that we were just as capable as boys at anything and everything.  He may have taken it too far in the other direction saying that girls were better, but regardless, I never thought for ONE SECOND that boys could beat me in anything.  I loved math.  I arm wrestled boys and girls.  I became a science teacher.  I hiked. I caught and gutted fish.  I played barbies but I was also excited to get my very own hammer (which I may have hit Maria over the head with).  We built forts in the forest.  

When we found out we were having a boy, I was so nervous.  I knew very little about little boys, how would I relate to him?  Well you know what, boys and girls aren't that different.  They have the same needs.  Within the two genders, there are variations.  Sensitive girls and sensitive boys.  Wild girls and wild boys.  Often we train the sensitivity/empathy out of our boys trying to get them to toughen up.  How many times when they are hurt do we say, `You're tough.  You're fine' rather than saying `That must've hurt.   Are you okay now?'.  I would LOVE for my boys to cry with those who cry.   Our little Ms. Nya is a tough one and I think that's great.  She's loud.  She's adventurous.  She loves to wrestle.  If she ends up being uber sensitive, that's fine too.

I love that Gary and I don't follow stereotypical gender roles.  The kids see Gary in the kitchen daily (one of his pet peeves is if I put something on the wrong shelf in the fridge!) and I play hockey with them.   However, I can cook and Gary can play hockey with them too.  We are both smart and fast and creative and funny and nice to them.  

I went to a talk about gender differences at TWU months ago and here are some of the things that stood out to me:
1.  Boys are 3X more likely to hear explanations from their parents about science.  Not sure why...let your girls know all the facts too!  If you don't know, google it together!    If your kids have a question, don't just say `I don't know', look it up.  Learn together!

2.  Female teachers can pass on their own anxieties of math and science to girls.  FEMALE TEACHERS, please do not say anything negative about math and science and your ability to do it!!  Let the kids see that although we all have varying degrees of skill in this area, we can all try our best, it has nothing to do with whether you are a boy or girl!  I first fell in love with science while studying the human body with our FEMALE science 9 teacher. I looooooooooooooved mad minutes in math.  You know, answer a whole page of math questions and turn the paper over as quickly as you can.  LOVED it.  

3. Vocabulary parents use with their kids in preschool predicts their vocabulary in grade 3.  Do you talk to your boys and girls differently?  

4. Stereotype threat; anxiety because of negative stereotypes.  This is so true with me. Because I've heard that men are better spatially, I am insecure with any 3D puzzles that require manipulation or video games etc.  

5. Parents may not encourage boys to communicate well.   Use emotion when talking with boys and girls. 

6. Parents discourage challenges for females. There was this whole study about the parents setting up the angle of a ramp for their babies; boys and girls.  They made it much steeper for the boys even though they were both equally capable.  Risk taking builds confidence.

7.  In marketing science toys, often the boys are doing the science activity and the girls are watching them!

Some other nuggets which were taken from `Real Boys' from William Pollock about raising boys are:

1. There is no such thing as giving boys too much love.  You can't spoil him with affection or providing him with freedom to follow his own path.  `There is no single path to a healthy and mature masculinity.  A good school or home environment will send the message that activities like sports, acting in a school, and volunteering at the local nursing home all provide good ways to succeed...'.

2. Boys and girls may connect with their parents differently.  A girl may snuggle or talk or bring a small gift.  A boys would prefer an activity together or do a task for his parents.   Although Kai and I love to read together, he definitely connects to us as parents by doing activities together (mostly sports:)

3.  At least once a day, give your boy undivided attention.  I'm thinking the same is good for a girl too:)  To those of you with one kid, you're probably thinking `Uh, obviously' but when you have three, there's a little less focused time on each so it is a good reminder.

4. When a boy expresses vulnerable feelings, avoid teasing or taunting him.  This is a big one because there is a lot of joking and teasing in this family:)  Gary has really learned a lot in this area.  Just because he might think Kai's reason for crying is silly does not mean that Kai doesn't actually feel sad about it. 

5. `Encourage the expression of a full range of emotions.'  Often when babies cry, we try to get them to laugh and smile.  How about holding them and showing empathy with your words and facial expressions.

6.  `Express your love and empathy openly and generously.'.  Don't be afraid of babying him, you can't show too much love or empathy.  Cutting off your affection and support can be very damaging.  Tell your son that you love him as often as you like, play closely, share emotions.  Give space when they ask for it. 

Why the rant now?  I saw the news about these shirts from `The Children's Place'.   Seriously, it drives me crazy.  If my daughter likes music and dancing that is so awesome, I hope my boys like it too!  But if it's encouraging the ideas that girls can't do math as well....oh my goodness....

{Taken from}

All right!  Time to go play some hockey with the kiddos:)  Nya even has her own stick now.

Love, Louise


  1. Those shirts are BAD! Wow. Having only one gender, I don't feel I need to worry about treating them different from one another, but I think it's so much personality that changes the aspect of the kids, not gender. I also say to the girls "toughen up, etc". The talk was interesting. I do feel my girls are quite well balance, but I wish we could teach them to gut some fish (hahah - would never happen). And whenever they have science questions I say "well, ask auntie louise or uncle gary" lol. Or we look it up

  2. I can relate to the third paragraph for sure. Great post Louise, you have some good insights!

  3. AMEN! I love this post. Silas is a really sensitive guy, and doesn't like taking risks, and I've always been fine with it, but it sometimes feels like others aren't as fine with it in my extended family. I always found that weird and kind of intrusive.

    And those shirts are terrible.

    PS - I loved Science and Math!


  4. wow, big catch up tonight (sorry was MIA in drain tiles...). Thai tummy sucks, glad to hear you are all doing better.

    I just ready "lean in" today by Sheryl sandberg of google/facebook, about women in the workplace and gender roles. So this post is well timed. Those shirts are so irritating!

    The only scary part is how different our kids are and how much they ARE falling into the stereotypes. Riles was always obsessed with cars. Vani has been trying to wear anything (tea towels, sweaters, put any pins in her hair) and we now have to hide shoes -including ours - to get any peace, like hiding balls from an obsessed dog. Sigh. I guess we just keep broadening her exposure until she shows interest in something else?

    Every day an adventures...

    Your kids are gorgeous, BTW. Such lovely smiles all the way to their eyes.

  5. E has been obsessed with his 'baby' lately, and the two kids cart them around (almost) everywhere. yesterday while we packed up the campsite, he was making a beaded necklace with T for their stuffies. He plays strawberry shortcake with her, she LOVES to climb trees. She's great at math and he's sensitive/emotional. ah....they are who they are and I'm not sure why people have to categorize their kids into certain molds!