A new study is out showing that parents of young children spend more time teaching their girls lessons like reading and writing, than they do young boys. And while researchers hypothesized that boys’ squirminess and difficulty concentrating might be to blame, I have another theory of a possibly contributing factor. Over-compensation.
The study, conducted by University of Toronto’s Michael Baker and University of British Columbia’s Kevin Milligan, looked at the way parents interact with preschool-aged kids in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. In all the countries, in a variety of different measures, parents spent more time teaching their daughters across the board, in every subject except numbers.
As the mother of a daughter, I am extremely aware of the challenges that face young women today. I’ve faced my own gender discrimination in the office. I’ve grown up learning about and identifying with feminism. And I feel like I have a duty to make my little girl better and stronger and smarter, because I know that’s what it will take to help my daughter compete with boys in the workplace later in life.
Personally, I don’t have a son. So I can’t say if this feeling would lead to my spending more time working with my daughter while simply assuming that my son will catch on or be okay. But I know that the pressure to prepare my little girl for what can be a difficult and challenging world is immense. It’s a stress that I frequently think about in terms of gender and how her sex will affect her.
I’m not saying that learning style doesn’t impact whether or not a parent continues to work with their kids on lessons like counting and shapes and patterns. And obviously, not every parent feels the same way I do about gender discrimination. But at the same time, I think there is a generation of women who feel the need to arm their daughters against bigotry. More than that, I can understand how this determination could manifest into overcompensation.
I want to be clear, I don’t think we do our children any good by focusing varying levels of attention on them based on their gender. Gender inequality is never beneficial. I think we need to look at kids as individuals and work with them in the way that they learn best. I truly believe that this overcompensation is detrimental to both genders. But I can understand the inclination. I think it’s something that I would struggle with, if I was a parent of a boy and a girl.