Girls love princesses, fairies and twirly dresses. Boys love superheroes, cars and baseball caps. At least that’s what my 4 year old daughter thinks. And really that’s just fine. She is 4 years old and DOES love princesses, fairies and twirly dresses. And all of her little “boyfriends” DO love superheroes, cars and baseball caps. It’s very stereotypical, I understand that, but for her, right now, it actually is real and honest. She also believes that boys and girls are equal. She thinks it’s perfectly normal for boys to cry. Although she imagines scenarios where brave knights rescue the princess, she sees no reason why those knights cannot be girls. One day she says she wants to be a mom when she grows up. The next day she says she doesn’t. She knows that either decision is fine and that it’s entirely her decision to make one day. We are doing our very best to raise her up to be a strong, independent woman without putting a damper on her very “girlie” spirit. I have zero qualms about her desire to wear pink. Her love of Barbie. Her princess fantasies. I was very much the same at her age. And my parents allowing me to “just be a girl” did not box me in. I never once thought that my gender restricted me from doing or being anything.
Yes, I want my daughter to grow up believing that woman can do anything that men can. That being a girl does not place limits on her. There are lots of ways of reinforcing that message. And I strongly believe that just as important as creating positive messages about girls, is to also create positive messages about boys.
Five (Positive) Lessons for my Daughter about Boys
1. Real strength is not measured in numbers.
Physical strength maybe something that can be easily seen. And there is nothing wrong with admiring someone (man or woman) that has it. But real strength, strength of character, may not be as obvious but is far more valuable.
2. Showing emotion takes courage.
Admitting that you are sad, scared or worried is not a sign of weakness. It is exactly the opposite. Opening up and letting other’s know how you feel can take a tremendous amount of courage. Boys are often taught (intentionally or not) that it’s not “manly” to share their feelings. Nothing could be further from the truth.
3. Boys respect girls that respect themselves.
TV and magazine images will try to tell her otherwise, but girls who respect themselves will have more positive relationships with (more positive) boys.
4. Masculinity does not define a boy (just as femininity does not define a girl).
Boys can have long hair, wear pink and not love Spider Man. Gender is not defined by the clothes you wear, the sports you play (or don’t play) or how you style your hair. As I type this I know that this subject can run much deeper. There must be discussions on sexuality and probably gender identity – but this is a good place to start.
5. Boys don’t stink (and men aren’t pigs).
Gender bashing is never a good thing. It’s impossible to deny that boys and girls can be quite different, for lots of reasons, but slapping labels on people, and entire groups of people, is rarely (maybe never) a positive thing.
I have heard so much talk lately about how we need to teach our boys to grow up respecting girls. And I can’t disagree with that. At all. But what are we teaching our girls? They don’t get a free ride on the respect train because they are girls. I see male bashing all the time. I’m sure I’ve even made off handed comments that slander the male population as a whole. Now that I have a daughter I think about these messages. I can’t teach her equality without respect.