All Woman

Equal roles for boys and girls

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Wednesday, June 18, 2014    

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FROM a very early age children learn what it means to be a boy or a girl in our society, and end up adopting gender roles which are not always fair to either sex. As children grow, they are exposed to many factors which influence their behaviours regarding gender roles, many of which are learned at home and strengthened by their friends, school experiences and the media.

Parents should note that their influence is strongest when it comes to socialisation and gender roles, and so it's important that they pass on healthy attitudes towards gender roles.

Below are ways parents can promote equal roles for their sons and daughters in the home.

1. Clothing:

Dressing infants in gender-specific colours may be one way of dictating to your children what is acceptable for them. In doing this you are training your sons to become stereotypical of men who don't wear colours such as pink, pastel yellow and purple, and your daughters to do the same. Instead, teach boys that it is OK to wear pink and still be masculine so that they don't grow up relying on their choice of clothing to determine their sexuality.

2. Toys:

Parents often encourage their sons and daughters to participate in activities which include doll playing for girls and playing with trucks and cars for boys. However, if a boy wants to play with a doll, he should be allowed. Likewise, if a girl decides to play with trucks and cars, she should not be prevented from doing so.

3. Chores:

Boys are more likely than girls to have maintenance chores around the house such as painting and mowing the lawn, while girls are likely to have domestic chores such as cooking and doing the laundry. By assigning household tasks in such a definitive way, children then link certain types of work with gender. As a parent, allow both genders to participate in all household tasks. Allow your daughters to rake the yard and help with paint jobs while allowing sons to clean the house, cook and do the laundry.

4. Recreational activities:

It is quite rare that you will see parents encouraging their boys to enter school pageants like Mr Kindergarten, or even join the gymnastics team. On the other hand, very few parents will allow their daughters to play football or other sports they deem to be masculine. Once the activity is not illegal, allow your children freedom of choice in what recreational activities they want to participate in. If a girl plays football and a boy plays netball, what's really the big deal?

5. Literature:

Nancy Drew for girls, Hardy Boys for boys was the norm back in the day. Nowadays girls are still likely to be given books that focus on fashion, hair care, makeup, forming cliques or social groups and nurturing families, while boys were given books that focus on sports, being the hero and working. Is that really the reality though? We now live in a society where men are nurses and women are plumbers and engineers. Parents should encourage children to pursue careers based on interest, rather than what society might deem acceptable.

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