I hate discos…"
Bias is very often unconscious and eliminating bias is not really possible. Our goal, then, is to be aware of it so we can think twice and find other ways to equalize the bias.
Let’s look at some ways to compensate for implicit bias in our parenting:
1. Pause before Telling Your Girls to ‘Be Careful’
I know the feeling of having your teeny baby climb the monkey bars, but you might be more scared simply because they’re girls.
Kids in general benefit from your confidence in them.
Make sure you are giving that confidence to your girls.
2. Engage Girls in Physical Activities
It doesn’t have to be sports (if, for example, you don’t like the competitiveness).
Think hop scotch, balance toys, yoga, and tumbling.
Our girls should have balls around (all kids should)!
The running and kicking and jumping that come from playing with a big beach ball are invaluable to developing physical confidence.
3. Pause before You Shrug off Your Boy’s Tears or Pain
Even if you don’t believe in “boys don’t cry,” you may implicitly give less comfort in an unconscious attempt to make them strong.
When they scrape their knee, don’t insist that “you’re okay.” Instead, empathize and say, “Ouch! Are you okay?”
4. Intentionally Spend 20 Minutes a Day in Positive Interaction with Boy Infants
Since boys can be fussier, we spend more time in negative interaction.
I don’t mean “negative” like yelling or being mean, but negative as in shushing, rocking, and other activities to get them to settle. As a result, we spend less time with eye-to-eye contact and cooing or babbling back and forth.
We do it instinctively with all babies, but be very intentional about doing so with your boys.
5. Allow Safe Expressions of Anger in Boys and Girls
We sometimes treat anger as the forbidden feeling. But with safe expression, anger is a crucial human emotion.
Validate the emotion (“You look very angry”) and give it a positive outlet while limiting inappropriate behavior (“We don’t hit when we’re angry, but maybe we can stomp on the floor?”).
Here’s the kicker: When it is your daughter as opposed to your son, you might be more likely not to allow a physical display of anger – squelching even stomping or hitting a pillow – because girls are “supposed” to be sweet and demure.
But all children need to learn healthy ways to deal with anger – your girls included.