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How to Get out of a "Girls Do This, Boys Do That" Mentality with Kids *and* As Parents
Melissa Gorga is fighting to raise her daughter to have the same opportunities as her sons, while Jennifer Aydin wants more support from her breadwinner husband.
Whether you already have kids or hope to one day, finding a parenting style that works for you and your partner is a necessity. This week on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Melissa Gorga expressed that she wants Antonia to be raised to explore the kinds of career opportunities she didn't have as a child, while Joe Gorga seems to still be stuck in a “girls do this and boys do that” mentality.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Aydin and her husband are not seeing eye to eye about their expected parent roles, which are influenced by traditional Turkish values. Jennifer wants her husband to spend more time with their kids, while he would like her to be more of a disciplinarian since she is the primary caretaker.
While every family has its own customs and beliefs, the key to successful parenting is “communication and being on the same page,” according to Laura Knoll Myers, a child therapist who offers personalized guidance services to help parents “approach raising children as a team.”
Whether you believe in stereotypical gender roles for parents and kids or not, the most important part of the parenting process is that both parents “agree on how and when to discipline their child.”
Think Back to Your Childhood
Some families organically fall into a traditional parenting dynamic, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their parenting style has to reflect that. A useful exercise that Myers suggests is having parents “reflect on specific memories and traditions from their own childhood” in order to “re-focus their parenting on the core messages they want to teach their own children.”
Having them tap into what they liked or didn’t like in their own upbringing can help them shift their behaviors with their own children. If you have been on a traditional path, but are no longer satisfied with it, “talk with your partner about both of your expectations.” Myers suggests collaborating together “to figure out what makes the most sense for your family in terms of how to manage decision making, discipline, financials, etc.”
Abandon Rigid Gender Expectations
Myers explains, “There is not a right or wrong way to parent, it is all based on the family’s culture and personal values.” However, it is important to note that if parents have “rigid gender expectations,” that “can set children up to expect and accept power imbalances in their relationships and can promote inequality.”
Myers also says that raising children differently should be more about age and personality than the gender of the child. For example, “two same-sex siblings often have completely different personalities and behaviors, and therefore need different things from their parents.” Myers finds that usually if parents are treating their sons and daughters differently, there is an underlying reason.
“Sometimes it’s for safety reasons, cultural reasons, or something else entirely.” Not letting a daughter go to a party can “seem arbitrary or unfair” and “can often have the opposite effect of what you want to do.” Therefore, it’s better if a parent can “communicate about rules with your child in a way in which they can understand and hear your perspective.”
Talking with your daughter about potentially risky situations that can happen at parties and discussing safe boundaries will go a lot further than just barring her from going entirely.
Myers explains that “since the home environment is one of the strongest influences for gender roles,” it is also one of the “best places for parents to create opportunities to counteract some of the societal pressures for boys/girls to act in certain ways.” Because “children learn about gender roles from their parents from a young age” it is important to reflect on how certain things are presented in your household if you want to raise your boys and girls equally.
Some examples include how tasks are shared in the home such as “cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, managing finances, working” or “how parents praise or discipline” certain behaviors. Being careful to keep a neutral mindset (and not use phrases like “boys don’t cry” or praise girls primarily on their appearance) is a good start.
Catch up on the full season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey here.