There has never been a more important time for parents to know what to say and how to act. The world is changing at such a rapid rate, it feels impossible to keep up. Here is your challenge. It is up to you to say and do things that empower your child - help them develop confidence, self-esteem and a strong feeling of their place in the world. Parenting today is an evolving, dynamic and demanding job and the way you manage it is crucial.
In particular, the role of gender stereotypes is a topical issue. Here are some things to think about:-
A recent study showed that the performance of 4- to 7-year-old girls was impaired when they were told that another group ("boys are good at this game") was successful at the same task. Those in the study often gave up without trying because they said 'what's the point if the boys are better anyway'.
How often do you do this? Do you hear yourself saying, 'but your sister could do this at your age' or 'don't worry then I'll ask your brother to help me instead'? When dealing with gender and what's "right" and "wrong" we have to guard against preventing our children (in particular our girls) from reaching their full potential.
Children start to understand gender roles at around 30 months and social prejudice kicks in before they start school. Age 5 - 7 is prime time for the 'us' vrs 'them' mindset and this is where your parenting is so important.
- Work hard to keep your comments balance, open-ended and without limitations. When you see a plane flying overhead speak to your daughter about becoming a pilot, commend her for her intelligence and abilities and not only how she looks or how 'good' and quiet she is.
- Watch for stereotypes (which you can't avoid in life) and counter-balance them with pointing out this is one option - but there are others available.
- Share out manual and intellectual tasks in the house and don't make them gender specific. Your daughter is as able to learn to fix a plug or take out the rubbish as your son.
- Don't put yourself or your body down in front of your children. Be proud of who you are and how you look and be an example for them with your own self-esteem.
- Try and make sure your young children socialise with girls and boys and learn how to befriend members of the opposite sex and development friendships across gender lines
We have a chance to give our children the right start in life...so say and do things that matter!