Monday, February 29, 2016

Teaching girls to be afraid

Like most parents, I have noticed that my son plays differently with me than he does with my husband. With me, he wants Mommy to do things with him or for him and he tends to choose activities that aren't risky. With my husband, he wants to try new things, explore the world a bit more and generally tumble around.

This dual play is considered normal and natural for children of both genders. But my son is at an advantage here. Because he is a boy, both his Dad and I will continue to push him toward trying new things. Because he is a boy, we are less likely to teach him to avoid play that isn't "safe."

I have thought about the way we are with our son on the playground: We encourage him to try the bigger slide, the harder climb, the bigger jump. Would I be this encouraging if my son were a little girl?

The answer is probably not. Whether we mean to or not, we are raising a bunch of girls who are scared to try new things, because we aren't letting them have the same adventures as boys have. Instead of letting the daughters of this world climb trees and get skinned knees, we are warning them of getting hurt. Meanwhile, we are giving our sons the directions to try new things on their own, while we stay hands off.

I think back to my own childhood. My Mother wasn't risk adverse and we did lots of crazy things in the Girl Scouts (creek-stomping comes to mind), but I do recall being very scared that I was going to hurt myself with certain activities. Meanwhile, my brother got stitches and didn't think much about the consequences of building a bike ramp in front of the house.

Do you teach your daughter to play the same way you would your son? Why or why not?

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