Why do we react so strongly?
During the 1970s I was working in a progressive day care setting in Canada. It was not uncommon to have little boys arrive with barrettes in their hair or donning their sister’s skirt over their pants. Many of the parents were very accepting of their boys and girls trying out a variety of roles and viewed it as healthy explorations. We still had the hippie generation influence and relished freedom of expression.
In retrospect the general feeling was that there were no real differences, other than physical ones, between the two genders. It was a progressive idea for the time, but there was still, for me, a nagging feeling that there was something still a little bit off.
Current research is showing that the differences in boys and girls may be more of a result from how they are being raised in our society, although there is recognition that, yes, there are some differences.
When parents are aware of some of these differences, we can better support our children as they grow. If we understand the sensitivities, the triggers, the effective communication and discipline strategies that work, then we have a chance to ensure a healthy environment for our son’s emotional world.
It will take parents being able to examine their own beliefs about gender, to evaluate how they were themselves raised. We need to look at what is that triggers us when our son’s behave certain ways or want to do things outside our comfort zones. Too many times it really is more about us than our children. We have an ingrain, often unconscious, set of rules of behaviour and those may be interfering with raising our boys to be better than previous generations!