The Gender Bias You Show As Parents Can Harm Your Kids In Longterm Ways

As parents, it's easy to behave in gender biased ways and hard to challenge traditional norms. But it's more important that you might think! Here's why!

As parents, it’s easy to behave in gender biased ways and hard to challenge traditional norms. But it’s more important that you might think! Here’s why!

The traditional bifurcation of roles meant that the job of a mother was predominantly to be a home-maker, while the fathers went out to fend for their families. While we know that today, most mothers are equal or greater financial partners, this post talks of those parts of society, where the old, traditional thinking still lingers in those who simultaneously wish to reap the benefits of the modern ways of life.

The traditional way of thinking set apart and held the mother primarily responsible for the upbringing of the children. A mother was labelled incompetent if the children failed to shape up well. Though times have changed, and women have evolved in terms of education or careers, instead of being able to win any freedom or independence for themselves, in many cases, it has only led to magnified expectations from women, not only in terms of financial partnership, but also where most of the domestic responsibilities are concerned, gradually leading them to feel more trapped.

Even in an era of equal partnership, most things are left to be shouldered by them. Women today get sucked up in the process of multi-tasking, juggling and thinking out of the box in every situation. Life has ended getting more tough and complicated. While society has certainly made the woman forward (but only in terms of responsibilities, it seems!), in many ways, it has failed to concurrently prepare the man to keep in sync with the evolved woman. This major divide in attitude, is seemingly a leading cause of failed marriages, unhappy relationships and failed parenting as well. So the question that’s in the forefront in today’s times is, aren’t the dads responsible as much?

Coming to think from the child perspective, who is a father and who is a mother? To a child who comes into this world, the first and foremost people whom he looks up to are his parents. To him, they are both the same (i.e. until such role divergences are communicated to him). When it is hungry or wants its diapers to be cleaned, in the absence of mother, it will naturally go to the father. Contrarily, when it wants anything to be brought, involving a financial expense, in the absence of father, it will innately go to the mother. So why are we trying to demonstrate ourselves as ‘different’ before the children, when it comes to role-playing?

Today, where a mother reinforces the masculine force and financial confidence in the family, a father replacing the mother in her role, in times of need, fortifies the feminine form and team-spirit, by cohering the gaps caused by her absence, thereby maintaining stability and equilibrium in the flow of love, support in the family environment. Children of such parents grow up with an inbred sense of security and belongingness in the family. They learn to value a ‘relationship’ rather than a ‘role’. They have no hiccups in adjusting to situations or sharing of work while living together.

Fathers need to step up too

So how important is the active presence of a father in his children’s life, besides his role as a bread-winner? I have come across fathers who dissociate themselves when it comes to bathing, cleaning, feeding the children or taking their lessons. Either they blatantly refuse to do it or shrug it off saying that the kids do better when the mother handles them.

Fathers are integral to the emotional, physical and cognitive growth of child belonging to either gender. A son idolises his father right after his birth like a daughter does of the mother. Fathers have a powerful influence on their growing sons, right from way he talks, reacts, behaves or acts as a father, husband, brother or son. A father who stays actively involved in the life a son, inculcating in him a positive, practical and level-headed way of thinking, can prove to be an extremely beneficial factor in shaping up his son into a emotionally healthy individual. Lack of this kind of a presence can hamper the emotional growth of the child in many ways. Such a child, after growing up, continues to remain an ‘Adult-child’. Either he stays inadequate or becomes abusive. He may fail to become the confident, positive ‘Man’ that he could have otherwise been.

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Likewise, a daughter, looks out for her father in her future husband, if she chooses to get married. The father is a classic benchmark against which a girl would measure her prospective groom for how he should be and all that he should not be. A positive parenting aided by a close father -daughter bond, can create the sense of trust and security in a daughter in her expectations of her future family. Besides, it moulds her into an individual who can be giving, loving and someone who would not have trust issues. She knows what to expect of a relationship and approaches it with the confidence and faith inculcated by her parents. A bad or inadequate father could end up confusing the daughter. She would not know what to expect from her husband and cannot even recognise abuse when she receives it. She may not know whom to look up to in times of difficulties with her man.

Everyday examples of sexist (and positive) parenting

I would like to highlight simple evidences of bad and good parenting that we come across in daily life.

Case 1: Mr. A and Mrs. A had good jobs. Mrs. A, after a hard day, comes home and settles down with her dinner plate, looking forward to brief moments of peace when their four-year-old wants to pee. Not knowing whom to tell, he goes to dad. Dad, who’s catching up on the newspaper, not even looking up, dismisses the child saying ‘Go and tell your mom’ while being aware that Mrs. A is having dinner. Poor Mrs. A is left with no choice but to attend. – Negative parenting

Case 2: Twisting case (1) above a little, when the child approaches dad, even before the dad could say anything, granny immediately intervenes saying ‘Go and tell your mom. It’s her job’ while the dad dumbly looks on. – Negative parenting

Case 3: Twisting case (2) a little further, dad, completely ignoring gran, puts his newspaper aside and gets up, turning to the child in full concern, saying ‘You want to go pee-pee baby? Come, let me help you’. Mom is silently thankful, and the child feels more confident about his parents. – Positive parenting

Case 4: Mr. B and Mrs. B are working parents. On a Sunday afternoon, Mrs. B, for whom it’s the busiest time of the year in her office, sits engrossed on her laptop when her three-year-old who was sleeping wakes up and asks for Mom. Mr. B immediately calls out to Mrs. B and orders her to leave everything aside and take him over. – Negative parenting

Case 5: Twisting case (4) a little, Mr. B carries child to Mrs. B who is working in the living room to give him the comfort of her being around but then goes to ask the kid if he wants to drink a glass of milk and play his favourite cricket. The child is happy at the proposition and goes along with dad. – Positive parenting

Case 6: Mr. and Mrs C are working parents. Mr. C is hardly at home. He comes home quite late and works on weekends too. Mrs. C must juggle between office and the domestic chores that completely run on her shoulders. Amidst all this, she also has to look into the daily studies of both her children. The younger son can be quite difficult to handle at studies and gives her a hard time. Not only is it very difficult to make him focus but at times, he does not even take down proper notes of what is being taught at school. When she raises her concerns to Mr. C, he simply shrugs it off. Mrs. C is not only exhausted but also feels extremely helpless and frustrated. – Negative parenting

Case 7: Mrs. D is a stay-at-home mom. Strangely, her seven-year-old daughter is not comfortable with the way her mom takes her lessons and refuses to sit with her. Consequently, Mr. D has taken full charge of his daughter’s studies. He regularly sits with his daughter and goes over the lessons taken at school, gives her assignments to be done in his absence, keeps a tab on her through regular phone calls from office and checks her progress over the weekend. In the future, as the daughter will progress to higher classes, he even plans to hire a private home tutor for her. Mrs. D lives her life in peace. – Negative parenting

Case 8: Mr. and Mrs. E are working parents of teenage children. Mr. E is self-employed and can afford to work at his own time. Mrs. E is employed in a private company and is resultantly out of the house during the day. They have a 15-year-old daughter followed by a 13 year old son. They don’t explicitly follow gender-wise division of roles at home and make sure to be there for each other. One day Mr. E and Master E found Miss E curled up in bed, crying in debilitating pain owing to menstrual cramps. Immediately, Mr. E sent off his son off to buy a tablet while he sits down to apply a hot water bag to her hips. Miss E could not but feel overwhelmed at this gesture of love and care by her family. – Positive parenting

Case 9: Mr. and Mrs. F are senior parents of a married daughter. Mrs. F is unwell while their daughter who is pregnant, has come down to stay with her parents for a while. Suddenly, she is feeling fatigued and develops painful cramps in the lower back. Mr. F immediately calls up the doctor and taking the prescription goes to the pharmacy, gets the ointment and does not hesitate to give a gentle message to his daughter on her lower back. He feels relieved when her pain subsides after some time. – Positive parenting

Case 10: Mr and Mrs. G were working parents. But even with their total income they could not afford a maid or a cook. They divided the household chores between themselves in such a way that Mr. G cooked in the evenings while Mrs. G sat the children down for their studies. After dinner, they jointly cleaned the kitchen and put the children to bed. – Positive parenting

Case 11: Mr and Mrs. H were not only a fighting couple but also extremely tough as parents, with their children. They believed that children will rise to be responsible only under hard conditions. With this belief they deliberately made things challenging for the children which led to a lot of conflicts and the kids, as they grew up became difficult to handle. They also followed gender bias in some ways between the sons and daughters. Eventually, after attaining adult age, the kids one by one separated from their parents and today Mr and Mrs. H live alone. – Negative Parenting

Moral of the story is, once we are parents, we are never absolved from our moral duties of parenting. Our aim at any age and stage should be to nurture feelings of love, support, positivity, faith, harmony and team-spirit among our children. But even before their progression into parenthood, it would be sensible for the couple concerned to iron out their personal differences and develop a harmonious, personal concord, for the quality of parents they would go on to become would be highly reliant on this camaraderie.

The love and respect that we would go on to gain back from our children is going to be largely dependent upon how we have handled them as parents and what kind of examples we have set before them. Also, the more we resonate with our children and their needs, at a time when they are dependent upon us, the chances that we would get it back at a time, when we would become dependent upon them, would be greater.

First published here.

Image via Canva

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About the Author

Affinity and Moods

A Chartered Accountant by blogging enthusiast...the philosophical, perceptive thinker in me at times impels me to come up with thought-provoking write-ups that are usually inspired from human behaviours read more...

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