Gender Stereotypes Influence Learners' Sense of Self
By now, children are piecing together the puzzle – boys act one way; girls act another. Their self-constructed understandings are beginning to provide a basis for their sense of self, and guidance for how they should conduct themselves when it comes to choices of toys, clothes, interests – and even what school subjects to pursue.
What You Need to Know
Since these gender schemas are self-constructed, the specific, self-imposed regulations might vary from child to child, but tend to be consistent with stereotypes about what males and females are “good at” respectively.
- Some adolescent girls may incorporate the media's standard of unrealistic beauty, inevitably coming up short and causing decline in self-esteem, falling victim to eating disorders in extreme cases.
- Some adolescent boys may go to extremes to live up to self-imposed macho standards with tough guy acts and bragging about (real or imagined) sexual conquests.
- Researchers find that boys generally rate themselves higher than girls – when it comes to abilities as well as physical appearance – partly due to their gender's tendency to overestimate abilities, contrasted with girls' tendency to underestimate theirs.
- Even when ability levels are determined to be equal, on average, boys rate themselves more highly in math and sports, while girls rate themselves more highly in reading and literature.
How You Can Help
- Nurture your child's confidence and self-esteem with sincere praise about both efforts and victories in any respect. Encourage participation in activities of interests that will help build strengths and introduce friends with shared values. Encourage realistic goal-setting and celebrate every milestone on the way to accomplishing these goals. Seeing goals come to fruition is one of the greatest confidence boosters and self-esteem builders for your child.
- Don't be shy about letting your child know how much you love her and why – every reason you gives only informs your child of one more basis for loving herself as well. Make sure to make your child aware the the bodily changes that are occurring and that are still to come are normal and will happen on their own time. Particularly, when it comes to girls, take advantage of every opportunity to make her feel attractive – compliment her best physical features or the sweater she's chosen, and realize that sometimes a new 'do or the new earrings she's been gazing at in a store window may be what she needs to help see in herself the same things you see.
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