Josh Brown

Let kids be kids. Allowing one to seal off childhood as separate from harsh realities is a reassuring mantra. Indeed, childhood can be reduced to a place of play and comfort unrelated to the adult world, with many complex issues being of no use to children and potentially even being damaging when parents are trying to explain them. The simple truth is that children live in their own real world and communicating complex issues to children is unnecessary. 

Children are sponges

Children absorb the myths and narratives of the world around them. For example, by age 6, girls are already less likely than boys to say that girls are “really, really smart”. This perception changes their behaviour, they avoid certain games and activities that they deem not for them. By that age, young girls have already identified with who they are and it seems clear how this deeply seated belief formed so young could shape their future career choices, steering them away from jobs where talents such as having academic brilliance, like in science, are necessary. 

Parental awareness 

Parents should be aware that the world around their child shapes their plastic brain from a very young age. Gender stereotypes are all around children, in the media they are exposed to; cartoons, stories and advertisements, in the activities they engage in, toys provided and praise given. 

This combines with the relationships on show in the child’s life. How parents interact with each other and what roles they each perform in the home teach children the rules of what behaviour is acceptable. Unavoidable in this barrage are gendered messages. It’s no wonder children as young as 6 display these biases but being aware of them is the first step to addressing them. 

Parents need to be aware so they can challenge these narratives at the age they appear. All girls should feel that they can be really, really smart,  and not just beautiful princesses. This may shape up children’s behaviours so that they are keen on exploring studies and careers that will most likely be in high demand in the future, enhancing their opportunity for independence, and indeed contributing to a more equal society. 

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