Grade Expectations: I Can Completely Understand Why Parents Spend More Time Teaching Girls Than Boys

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teaching girlsGrade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between. 

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.

(Photo: Goodluz/Shutterstock)


  1. Ashley

    March 26, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    This is really interesting, especially considering studies that have shown that teachers pay more attention to boys in school.

    • Brigitte

      September 5, 2014 at 11:47 am

      In my experience as a teacher, I cannot say I totally agree with that. My perception is that boys in general are divided in two main groups: the ones that are truly interested and mostly independent thinkers and others that really struggle to keep focused. The “easily distracted” boys demand more attention, in the sense that often they tend to distract the rest of the kids as well, demanding teacher’s intervention. I’m not saying that girls don’t present a similar behaviour, but much less so. Here I’m talking about children from 6 to 14 years old, more or less in this range. As a mother of a daughter, I can relate to you Linda, and I often find myself demanding a lot from my lass as well, in order to prepare her to whenever a situation presents, and it won’t matter if she’s a girl, I want to make sure that she’ll fully embrace whatever is presented to her. I just have to watch myself and refrain to overwhelm her with my demands. That’s a difficult task, but also beautiful, since we become students again in the parenting issue. I’m 100% sure you’re doing great with your lassie!

  2. jla158

    March 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Education is very important, if you are educateted you have more opportunities. If parents don’t teach their children, they won’t get good marks at school and they won’t go to college. In all three country, in education there are a far larger gender gap in the poorest population groups. For example in the US almost same number of white male and female go to college, but twice as many black women than black men. And what will the consequence? Not better opportuntity in the workplace for women, but more homeless people, more crime, more rape etc.

    About the gender discrimnation in the workplace:
    Right, in some workplace there are gender discrimination, but in some not. If you expect that a girl must compete with boys in those workplaces, where there are gender discrimination, why do you not expect that boys must compate with girls in those workplaces, where there aren’t gender discrimation?
    For example in my workplace it must have a diploma and my male and female colleges earn the same (and I too). But without a diploma you can’t application for the work.
    It is a bad thing that in some workplace there are gender discrimation, but the solution is the elimatiate that and not create more gender discrimation.

    Moreover, I think every parents should his/her best way to help his/her son/daughter. What a bad mother/father can discriminate his/her children?

  3. jla158

    March 26, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Sorry, but I wrote wrong:
    colleges -> colleagues/team mates

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