Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hump Day Hmm - Assertiveness and Gender

Hump Day Hmm

As a follow-up to Julie Pippert's post on Is there gender bias on the playground and political field alike?, here is my take on assertiveness and gender. Since I don't follow the political arena as closely as I should, I'll limit my observations to what I'm supposedly an expert on, my children. Having both a boy and a girl allows us to see differences in assertiveness in action, as well as just about every other area. As all parents, we try not to raise them differently but their natural gender tendencies always show through. Let's just say that when Dova plays with Adam's cars, it's to pretend that families are taking a vacation. And when Adam plays with Dova's doll house, it's to line up the dolls and shoot them down with rubber bands. rolleyes

I hate to make generalizations about gender, as you really need to look at each child individually. But no matter how hard we try to ignore it, there are definite differences in our kids and darn it, they often fall into the temperamental and behavioral stereotypes. Of course we say that we treat them equally, but the fact is that there are areas that they respond to easily and areas that need more work. I like to think that my son is not aggressive, as he is often considerate to other people, but how much was that simply drilled into him over the years? Adam can get out of control and appear aggressive even though it is mostly unbridled enthusiasm and not malice. He will barrel down the slide in front of his sister but not other kids - a double standard or perhaps parenting lessons only apply to the public. He is good about passing the ball in soccer, even to girls, but will take the opportunity to score (many times a games, maybe he is aggressive wink). So the main thing we work on with Adam is self-control, not necessarily for aggression, but for calming the whirling dervish in him.

Dova is extremely defiant and vocal about getting her way, but is quick to say sorry all the time. She says sorry so much that I have to correct her and tell her NOT to say sorry for something that isn't her fault. I've been to professional women's seminars where one of the things they teach you is not to say sorry all the time in the workplace, especially when there is nothing to apologize about. How did Dova learn this typical female characteristic that makes her appear as though she has low self-esteem (from me of course, but I've got my esteem intact)? And what is it about males that make them unable to apologize, do they really hate to admit they have wronged someone (I digress, and this will be coming up in a later hump day)? But when it comes to assertiveness, Dova doesn't have an issue with holding back. She bosses her brother around, demanding that he pull her around the yard on the sled. He has been been coming in complaining that he just can't take it anymore, to which I say "Just say no!" Where is your assertiveness now, boy? I think it is just brotherly love. We tell Dova not to boss her brother around, but she still does. But she is sweet at school and overly nice and considerate with her friends, just like the stereotype. Another disarming trait Dova has is that she sometimes says mean things to us and grandma, where Adam would never utter mean words like that. This is part of the "mean girl" stereotype. Let's just say that we have our work cut out for us with this one. twisted

So for the most part, the kids pretty much fall into the stereotypes in terms of assertiveness with exception of their sibling interactions. I do believe that we treat them equally in stopping aggressive behavior as both of them need some reigning back. I agree that there is the general social standard that women who are too assertive are bitches and men who are aggressive become President (oops, no politics on this blog!). That is unfortunate and will take more than equal child-rearing to overcome. Hopefully our two angels will both become upstanding adults with respectable levels of assertiveness.


Thank you Julie for this award for participating in last week's Hmm. Looks like I'm definitely hooked! As I'm not a very good passer, feel free to take it if you comment!


Melissa said...

Yeah, I always love the assertive woman=bitch thing too. I think that's getting a little better though,but not much. I see that more in older people than younger.

Good post, although I must admit I was hoping for some inspiration for mine. I'm having some serious block today. Very sad. :(

Family Adventure said...

I have two boys...not a girl and a boy...so I see things a little bit differently, because my boys are totally unlike each other. One is much more gentle, the other one is much more assertive and possibly even aggressive.

So even within a gender, there are huge variations.

It may be that this is a spectrum and that girls predominantly are less assertive, and boys predominantly are more aggressive.

Now is it genetics or societal?


le35 said...

I see that with my boy and girl, too. My son plays with my daughters dolls, but he will carry them around under his arm or up on his shoulders. My daugher has always cradled them. I think it may have to do with how he sees us as parents hold the babies?

Robert said...

I think my sister and I definitely broke the stereotypes. She is an engineer, tomboy, tough as nails type. I'm more of a sensitive, peacemaker, eager to please sort. I can definitely be assertive and even aggressive, but I am generally very easy going to the point of being a doormat at times. In short, I've never believed too much in the idea of these stereotypes, even though I've observed them. :)

Julie Pippert said...

Oh this is awesome! I love hearing your perspective and experience in raising a boy and girl.

I think what I see you saying is that both of your kids can be assertive, but in really different ways. But with kindness.

The apology thing is a question for the ages, I swear.