Is There A Double Standard For Sons And Daughters? Should There Be?

I was flipping through channels earlier today when I came across a National Geographic documentary about teenage sex. Of course, they showed images of teenage girls dressing in sexually-provocative ways and 'putting themselves out there'. It reminded me of how some of my high school girl friends' parents would be more restrictive on them than they were on their brothers, even though they had never given their parents a reason not to trust them. It got me thinking, is there a double standard when it comes to parenting boys and girls? Should there be?

There are reasons both for and against this standard. For instance, take teen sex. Most documentaries we see on the subject focus on the problems that can arise when girls become 'sexualized' too early in life. However, we don't hear the same concerns for boys. I think part of this is because boys can't get pregnant, but pregnancy isn't the only consideration. One way to handle this is to teach both sons and daughters a healthy view of sex and the responsibility that may come with it. Help build your daughter's self-esteem so that she realizes that she is worth more than 'the sum of her parts', since it's not uncommon for a girl to do things because of pressure from a boyfriend or feeling as though she 'has to' to fit in. Reinforce these same lessons in your son in terms of how to treat a girlfriend or how to deal with peer pressure.

The 'double standard' isn't just about sex. Although it's not as prevalent as it may have been when we were kids, there still seems to be this idea that it's 'cute and tomboyish' for a girl to do 'boy things' like sports and action figures, but that there's something wrong with a boy who does 'girl things' like cooking and playing with dolls. This is unfortunate because, in addition to being completely false, it can be really hard on a boy who doesn't 'fit a mold' to be picked on while his sister isn't. For example, a friend of mine felt that his father was bothered by the fact that he liked to cook and would play with the girls. This may have been true at first but, once his father began to see that it was unfair and hurting his son, he came around. Help your children have a strong sense of self so that, even if their interests are of 'the opposite gender', they don't feel they have to pretend to be something they're not. Sometimes it's a phase they go through but, even if it isn't, let them know that you love them for who they are, not who someone else thinks they should be. While we might wish this weren't the case, they will need a good self-esteem to deal with any possible flack they may get from others.

While it has gotten better since we were growing up, it seems that there still may be a double standard when it comes to boys and girls. If you don't think this is fair, there are many ways to deal with it so that your own children will see that you love them no matter what. What do you think? Is there still a double standard about boys and girls? If so, how do you feel about it?

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