(May 15, 2014) — From the first day of their lives, most of us treat boys and girls differently. Those differences begin with a pink versus blue nursery, clothes with laces rather than ribbons, sports equipment or dance lessons, and on and on right through to “manly” careers versus “feminine” jobs.
Across the country, devoted parents routinely treat boys and girls differently because their parents, sundry child rearing experts and psychiatrists, and ultimately all of society has taught us to believe that boys and girls are fundamentally and radically different. But what if we are all wrong? What if treating boys like boys and girls like girls is not a good approach to bringing out the best in every child?
In “Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes” author Christia Spears Brown bridges what she knows as a developmental psychologist with what she faces as the mother of two very different kids, who both happen to be girls, in a culture obsessed with fitting everyone into his or her prescribed color box.
“When we put together all of the research on gender differences, the complete picture is less dramatic than a Mars-Venus mindset suggests,” said Brown, associate professor of developmental psychology and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences.
“Seeing gender differences in adult men and women doesn’t tell us anything about the ways we are innately different or about children,” she said. Citing copious studies, she focuses on the often-striking similarities between boys and girls, from infancy through adolescence. Rather than advocate extreme gender-blind parenting, Brown offers concrete, realistic, encouraging advice to help parents recognize how they habitually use gender to explain their children’s behavior, stop relying on stereotypes, and truly embrace, validate and cultivate their children’s unique strengths.
“Basically, ‘Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue’ aims for a little less focus on gender and a little more focus on individual children. With this approach, children can be more secure, happier, more well-rounded, and better able to reach their full potential,” said Brown. “And it can be a lot more fun for parents.”