We have a 5-year-old son. Mom and Dad both work. A female nanny manages the kids once they return from school. Mom manages the household with help from the nanny. This is something we are changing so that Dad also helps with household chores.

Our son seems to think that girls can't compete with boys. He recently used the phrase "girls s***, buys rock". I'm alarmed by this. I get the feeling that he truly believes this.

Each time he indicates a gender bias, we convey to him that girls are as strong as boys and can do everything that boys can do. However, we don't think that we are able to convince him that this is true. We are at a loss of how to be effective in communicating with him on this topic.

How can we teach him that it's not true that girls can't compete with boys?

  • 6
    In our house, I often heard, "Girls go to Mars to get candy bars. Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider." Yet they all still married in spite of these little ditties. Aug 31 '19 at 13:01
  • 1
    Come on, he's 5 years-old! How many nonsense things does he say in a single day? I gues you don't care about most of them. Why about this particular one?
    – David
    Sep 6 '19 at 9:23
  • Aw c'mon he's just a 5 yo old kid!
    – Somanna
    Sep 6 '19 at 10:28

I think you shouldn't overthink this. Five year olds are too young to truly have a gender bias. This is usually the first period in their young life that they even realise there are differences between boys and girls. Maybe you can ask him who told him that "girls suck, boys rock"? What makes you think that he truely believes this? I just hope that you don't go around punishing him for this, since he probably barely understands what he's saying and won't understand why he's being punished either. This might make him resent you, since it would be unclear to him why he was punished. I've also noticed that you censored the work 'suck'. Now I know this word can have a very 'adult' meaning, but once again, don't overthink it.

Don't overthink a childs statements with the logic of the adult world. I used to think girls were weird and yucky when I was a little boy (and I'm sure I would've thought the same of boys if I were a girl). There is nothing wrong with this, it's just a normal part of growing up and realising that differences exist. I didn't grow up to be an evil misogynyst because of things that I thought as a young child. Growing up with a loving and strong mother and a grandmother who is deeply valued by the entire family, I learned to respect women just fine. Children can say and/or think very irrational things. I used to think that my parents might be robots, was scared that the Nazis might attack my country again and I also feared that my deceased grandfather might come back to haunt me as a zombie. Clearly, none of these childhood irrationalities persist into my adulthood.

Don't try to fight his 'gender bias' yourself - it will probably just make things worse, since you're trying to argue rationally while a five year old child is, naturally, barely able to do so. He probably just overheard it somewhere. If you make sure he plays and/or comes into social contact with girls during his childhood, he'll grow up just fine and he will learn that girls might be a little different from boys, but are cool in their own way.

  • 1
    I think many parents can remember the things that their kids were spouting around the age of 5, perhaps to be regaled during the relevant wedding speech, however, not sure many parents got those things entered into the Encyclopedia Britannica so they could be properly referenced here... Plus 1...
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 31 '19 at 19:33

I agree with Amenhotep II's answer. At that age, I and all the boys I knew just thought that girls were weird. Of course, in perfect kid logic, that mostly didn't apply to our sisters. Our attitudes changed massively once we became teenagers. So don't take your boy's attitudes at 5 too seriously. I think you're doing all that's necessary for now - you're telling him girls can do everything boys can do.

I'd just like to point out something you might think about:

Each time he indicates a gender bias, we convey to him that girls are as strong as boys and can do everything that boys can do

I realize your son is 5 and at that age, your statement is obviously true. But it won't stay true - a large percentage of boys will grow stronger than girls in the same age cohort in early puberty. He might already realize that this is going to happen sometime in the future because he's seen TV programs or comics where gender roles are clearly defined, especially in respect to strength. Think about how many superheroes are depicted as female, for example, or how many football/soccer games with mixed teams you see on TV. Females actually can't compete with males in several sports.

So maybe telling him that girls can certainly do everything that boys can do, but he's right that boys tend to become stronger once they're older might be the better course of action. You might accompany this with some thoughts about how strength really isn't a very important property of a person, unless the person is living about ten thousand years ago and hunts saber tooths and mammoths...

Acknowledging physical differences between genders doesn't strike me as a problem. You're not denying that some people have darker skin color than others, either,or that some have black hair while others are blond, or that some people don't grow as tall as others, or that some people have a genetic tendency to grow heavy while others stay skinny. The important thing would be to make sure he understands that yes, girls might be less likely to win a push-up competition against boys, but that doesn't imply that they're less capable in any other respect, just as a heavy person might not win a race against a skinny one, but it doesn't tell you anything about what that person is capable of in other areas.

I'm tempted to add that you could tell him that while boys tend to grow stronger than girls, boys are more likely to die than girls starting from conception, a trend which continues to old age, which is probably why slightly more boys are conceived than girls. But I realize this is a fairly stupid thing to tell a 5-year-old boy.

  • "You might accompany this with some thoughts about how strength really isn't a very important property of a person, unless the person is living about ten thousand years ago and hunts saber tooths and mammoths..." Or a member of the military where you're expected to, for instance, be able to pick up and carry a 200-pound comrade to safety through enemy territory after they've been wounded. Similarly for emergency services like firefighters where physical strength is also important for similar reasons.
    – nick012000
    Sep 6 '19 at 8:57
  • @nick012000: Fair enough - I should have qualified that statement. You're absolutely right that strength is still important in various professions - what I meant was that it hasn't been one of the properties that societies valued as of core importance in people for quite some time, and so the possible lack of strength in women and girls doesn't matter all that much today. Sep 6 '19 at 18:47

Your son is just a 5 year old kid. Don't try to implement feminism on him. And moreover if you think girls are as strong as boys, that's your opinion and not your son's. Even if you manage to somehow get him to believe that girls and boys are equally strong he may when he grows up stop believing in it or may be he'll continue to believe in it. We can't say what he'll end up believing in when he becomes an adult.
What he believes or doesn't believe is upto him.

I think instead of telling him that "girls are as strong as boys" you should instead tell him this-

every child, boy or girl is a unique individual and has his/her own abilities, talents, strength and weaknesses. You should recognize the talents and strengths of other children, girls included and point out their weaknesses in order to help them become better kids.

Saying this might make him think that girls and boys as individuals have their own strengths and weaknesses, and though girls are not physically strong as boys, they as individuals may be strong in other areas.

Note, there are obvious gender differences between most males and females. It's a fact. And it will remain a fact weather you believe in it or not. Instead of telling him the above statement I had quoted, if you simply tell him that girls and boys are equally strong, your son might end up becoming a delusional feminist.

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