When Tasmin asked me to write for her blog I asked if could I choose the topic or did she have something in mind. She said she wanted me to write about the double standards that parents apply when raising a boy versus a girl. My first thought was, is she suggesting that her mother and father’s parenting skills somehow put our son in a more favorable position to succeed in life because of double standards.
As a parent I understand the feelings that girls have about there being double standards, but I would argue that there are also societal pressures that influence the way we parent our daughters as opposed to our sons. As a society we tend to “protect” our daughters and “permit” our sons. We expect our sons to “emulate” (be like Mike) and our daughters to “admire” (I love your hair). Society expects boys to seek out power while girls are encouraged to seek out relationships. Boys are taught that they should never hit a girl at a very young age instilling a belief that they are the weaker sex. Girls are taught to express their emotions while boys are taught that this is a sign of weakness. When boys are being taught to compete girls are taught to support. These messages and others like them become a part of a child’s development and I would contend, is something any good parent has to consider when raising a child.
Because all parents were children at one time these philosophies became a part of our belief system and carried over into our adulthood. And because parenting does not happen in a vacuum parents have to be cognizant of these outside pressures when raising their children. Not only do parents have to consider the issues noted above, but we must also take into consideration our children’s personality and treat each child as an individual. We need to look at their strengths and weaknesses and the way that society impacts them and parent accordingly. And I would further argue that girls have a degree of culpability in how they are treated. For example, there was a time when I got a call from Tasmins’ mother on a wintery day telling me Tasmin had an accident and was stranded. Immediately, the protective father in me emerged and I made a phone call and a brother-in-law was dispatched to pick her up (keep in mind I was in Kentucky at the time, not Columbus). Contrast this with how my son would have handled the situation. He might have made a call to his mother about the accident, but more than likely he would have called one of his buddies to come pick him up. I probably would have never heard about it.
This difference between girls and boys was further exemplified in last week’s blogs about how women have to deal with unwanted attention from men. Any parent reading those articles immediately would have been concerned for the safety of their daughter. Whether we want to admit it or not, parents feel the need to protect our daughters. This leads to the double standards. Boys having a later curfew, being trusted with the family car even though they have a higher incident of accidents etc. can and should be something parents try to keep from happening so as not to perpetuate the double standard cycle. But the need to protect our children will always be a part of a father or mother’s parental DNA and right or wrong our daughters are the ones most affected by this need. Ultimately, parents should not be judged by these double standards. Because there is no society or culture anywhere that treats boys and girls the same (at least none that I am aware of). The measuring stick for successful parenting should be how successfully your children can navigate the pitfalls of life once they leave home.
From a Daughter: Raising boys vs. girls – The Double Standard
I recently asked my father to contribute to my blog by writing his view-point on the double standards that occur when raising boys vs. girls. This was in no way an accusation of bad parenting on his or my mother’s account. I was just curious as to his opinion on the topic. We have discussed many topics over the past few years, but this was one that I had never heard his thoughts on.
You see, I have always felt that my mother and father had very different parenting styles when it came to my brother and I. My father worked long hours most days and my brother and I saw him most often during the late evening on weekdays and on the weekend. My mother on the other hand was a constant figure in our lives during the weekdays. She would play a game of 20 questions when my brother and I got home from school and made sure she stayed completely immersed in the on goings of our every day life. My father was more the silent, but direct type. If there was an issue or something he wanted to address it was straight and to the point. He didn’t spend as much time as my mother catching up on our lives. Probably because he knew my mother would do it for him. He bonded with us in other ways. Neither parenting style was bad, just different. Which is what I think led to the different double standards that were applied.
Funny enough, for me, it wasn’t my father who adopted most of the double standards. It was my mother. The most prominent double standard was the idea that you protect your daughters, but you permit your sons. That the world is a scary place, females are the weaker sex, and should therefore be protected from it. This standard when it applies to females, the way I see it, is fear based. But statistics show that male teenagers are more prone to drug use, violent altercations with other people, committing a serious crime, frequent alcohol use, car accidents, and to commit suicide, than their female counterparts. In this day in age it is much less safe to be a male, and a black male at that, than it is to be a female. Do females experience some very intimidating and scary situations. Of course we do. As my last blog post can attest to, but most of those situations are attributed to males. If a male is raised correctly when it comes to females most of the situations wouldn’t even occur.
But the interesting thing about my parents was that my mother wanted to “protect” me at all costs. I had an earlier curfew than my brother. If I were going to stay at a friend’s house she had to have met the parents and I had to call when I arrived. I wasn’t allowed to ride in a car if my friend had just gotten their license. I definitely wasn’t allowed to attend any parties, but on most of those terms for my brother it was the opposite. My father on the other hand I felt wanted to “prepare” me. I never felt like he saw a weakness when it came to me being a female. He understood my personality and most of the time when we did discuss important topics he didn’t use scare tactics, he used facts. He would talk with me in a way that I felt he was trying to get an understanding of where my head was at so he could parent towards that.
The story my father told on his blog post in regards to my car accident is a perfect example of my mothers “fear” based response to a situation. I only called my mother to inform her of the car accident because we lived together at the time and I knew she would have a bigger melt down if she heard about it when she got home. She was out-of-town. When I got into my accident, and before I even called my mother, I had already called my insurance company and made my claim and called for a tow truck that would take myself and my car to our mechanics shop. When I got to the auto shop I spoke with our mechanic and he called a man at Avis rental to come pick me up and take me back to Avis to rent a car. By the time my aunt and her husband got there I had a rental car and could have just went home. My mother’s fear of my safety led to her reaching out to my father. I never would have contacted him because for me it hadn’t been that serious. I had everything under control. On the other hand my mother never would have contacted my father if it were my brother in the same situation. My brother definitely would have made a phone call to her, but that’s where the communication would have stopped.
When I was 17 my mother took me to a dealership and co-signed on a 2000 Dodge Neon. The only caveat was that I was responsible for paying for the car payments. A couple of years prior my brother was given a 1986 Crown Victoria to drive. He didn’t have any car payments. It was free and clear. While he was upset because I received a newer car, I had been upset because he got a car bought for him. My mother was trying to build my sense of responsibility, but it felt like my brother was being handed things. Sometimes it felt like he was being rewarded for his bad behavior. As a girl I was supposed to have straight A’s, stay out of trouble, not date until 16, and stay close to home. There was a higher expectation for me than there was for my brother. I don’t believe my mother intentionally applied the double standards. I don’t think any parent deliberately has double standards for their children. Societal pressures coupled with generational rearing can attribute to most double standards. Because lets face it the double standards my mother had for me were the same ones that she herself was raised with.
But there was a certain freedom when it came to my father. I saw myself more as an equal with my brother because on most occasions my father didn’t treat us differently. I was treated as an individual in a lot of ways as opposed to a girl. He took into account how I viewed the world and how I would handle a situation when it came to his parenting. I like to think I am a lot like my father in a lot of ways when it comes to my mentality. I think he saw a lot of himself in me which I believe helped me in being treated equal. Yes, there was still those moments when he was concerned for my safety and felt the need to protect me. That’s why he agreed with and went along with some of the double standards my mother had in place. But for the most part he trusted in and believed that as an individual I could make the right choices for myself, including choices that involved my safety.
I think a detriment is done when parents don’t see their children as individuals. How do they think, act, react to situations? A decision should not be solely made because you are dealing with a boy rather than a girl or vice versa. For a girl, learning equality starts at home. We get our first glimpse into what it can look like to be equal to a man or NOT to be equal. When we are set to standards that make us seem weaker than the male sex, that not only affects our idea of equality, but it affects our self-confidence as well. Girls should be enabled with the right tools to handle situations and left feeling empowered. As well as boys should be allowed to have weak moments. To understand that emotions and feelings are a positive thing. As my father said in his post boys are taught they should seek out power and girls should seek out relationships. But why can’t either sex seek out both? Both sexes should be held to the same standard when it comes to responsibility, accountability, and life aspirations.
I’m one of the lucky ones. While I had a parent who at times held me to double standards to “protect” me I also had one that “prepared” me. It all balanced out for me. I came out of it with a very strong sense of empowerment. Because while it might have seemed unfair that I was given all this responsibility by my mother, and my brother didn’t have as much, that standard made me extremely self-sufficient. I believe I’m a step ahead of my brother in that aspect. I haven’t had to rely on others for a very long time. What I tend to struggle with to this day, however, is the idea of women being the weaker sex. It’s based off a societal fear that we still haven’t outgrown. I may not be physically as strong as my brother, but I feel as if at times I’m emotionally and mentally stronger. Not every situation that I will be in will be one in which I will have to physically respond. Most of my day to day experiences are mental. I have to be quicker at making decisions and choices than most men. I have to present myself at times on a higher level of emotional stability than men. Most of this is due to being in a male dominated workforce. There’s more to being a woman than the physicality and when we put a double standard on young girls that they are weaker because they physically might not be able to defend themselves we negate all the ways in which they are strong.
It all comes down to what type of “individual” you want to give to the world. They need to have the right tools to navigate this sometimes chaotic, but beautiful world we live in. A world that is just as dangerous for boys as it is for girls. A world where we need more sensitive and caring boys and more enabled and powerful girls. I don’t think the double standards will ever fully go away because there are some occasions where they are necessary. However, parents need to be aware of the messages those double standards are sending to their children. Because there is always a message…..