and girls should be treated equally.
But, does reality reflect this goal?
Filipovic, a contributing opinion writer on politics, gender, and law for the
New York Times, argues we socialize children differently depending upon
biological sex. Late last month, she wrote: “Although they may not mean to,
parents and other adults do treat girls differently from boys – often to the
long-term detriment of daughters.”
illustrates that girls are taught to be well-behaved, compliant and emotionally
intelligent. She continues: “While girls are being taught to be emotionally
competent, they also learn to be responsive to the needs of others – not a bad
thing in theory, except that it can cross over into subservience. When boys
aren’t learning the same, it’s adult women who end up serving as caretakers for
adult men, both in their homes and in their workplaces.” This disparity of
emotional education can result in consequences not only for adult women, but for
all children’s emotional development.
Housman, founder and CEO of the Housman Institute, published an article last
week demonstrating the connection between emotional competence and academic and
life-long success. She articulated that “a child initially communicates through
expressions of emotion, followed by rapid development of the ability to
experience and express different emotions, as well as managing and coping with
a variety of emotions.” Thus, when children are taught not to express certain
emotions, we unintentionally stunt their developmental growth.
play a fundamental role in children’s development of self-regulation and
emotional competence skills: a process referred to as co-regulation. Given this
demonstrated influence, we as educators, policy makers, and influential adults
must be mindful of the way we socialize young children. By forbidding boys from
exhibiting sadness, or, as Filipovic writes, not allowing girls “full
expressions of rage or other unfeminine emotions when [they] are mistreated,”
we fill their minds with the understanding that their emotions are wrong,
inappropriate, or simply invalid. We convey the message that they should not
experience the full range of emotions solely based upon their gender.
upon Sweden as a model solution, Filipovic proposes: “What could make a big
difference is raising boys more like our girls – fostering kindness and
caretaking, not just telling them to respect women, but by modeling
egalitarianism and male affection and emotional aptitude at home.”
At our lab school, the Beginnings Child Development Center, our educators and staff understand the deep importance of emotional competence and expression for both boys and girls. Predicated on the understanding that emotion knowledge is a foundational competency essential to instill from birth, the begin to…ECSEL model intentionally integrates social and emotional skills with academic learning. As suggested by Filipovic, both boys and girls are expected to experience and articulate all emotions. Through this active adjustment of expectations, we can begin to shatter gender norms and help all children achieve an emotionally competent and rich future.