In many cases, says Rita Santoyo Venegas, Ph.D., violence against women begins in words. «Before there is usually a verbal abuse. For this reason, it is important to educate parents about the importance of taking care of language and how we speak to our sons and daughters. The expressions that we use since they are little and that, sometimes, differentiate boys from girls, are fundamental and can make a difference», Explains this professional, also an expert from Babbel’s Didactics department.
Perhaps many are unconscious, but what expressions do we use from a young age to differentiate boys from girls are the most harmful? Give examples.
There are many phrases that are used on a daily basis without realizing it. An example is assuming that girls are fragile and delicate and that boys are strong. Likewise, if we start to label certain activities as just boys or just girls, we limit their tastes and the way they discover the world. DSaying “that only for girls”, or conversely, “that only for boys” will not allow boys and girls to develop their abilities and discover their aptitudes. Girls should also be encouraged to build with blocks and boys to play kitchen if they wish. It is important that both girls and boys know that their intelligence and their curiosity to know the world are qualities much more important than their physical appearance. Likewise, expressions such as “you run like a girl” or “you cry like a girl” should, of course, be avoided at all costs, since they immediately qualify being a girl as something of lesser value.
These expressions, if they are repeated a lot from childhood, do they end up being labels that the little one ends up making his own?
Undoubtedly. If a child is told “you are lazy”, he will end up labeling himself that he is lazy. If a girl is told, “You’re not good at math,” she will come to believe it is true. In the same way, if girls are told that certain activities are not for girls, such as playing with tools, running or playing soccer, they will end up feeling limited to activities that are perceived as appropriate. And it’s the same with children: it is perfectly acceptable for a child to play cooking.
For this reason, you emphasize that it is especially important to take care of the language and expressions that we use with children.
Indeed. We must also avoid phrases whose intention is to flatter, but which continue to perpetuate these gender stereotypes. If a girl is told, “You are not doing it wrong to be a girl,” you are not paying a compliment, but you are emphasizing, again, that being a girl is a quality that negatively affects her abilities and aptitudes. Parents are the first influence on their children, since the phrases they use with them in everyday life will become their internal voice, and of course, the labels with which the little ones will form their own self-concept.
What other expressions can be substituted for?
It is very important that adults are aware of the language they use with children and that they stop to reflect before continuing to perpetuate these common stereotypes and phrases. Instead of saying “you are messy”, you can say: “There is a lot of disorder in the room, let’s tidy up”. This is how the situation is qualified and not the child. Instead of saying “you’re not good at drawing,” you can say, “Let’s practice more, you’ll do better and better.” It is recognized, then, that skills can be developed, and that children can practice new skills. It is essential that we put aside the phrases that separate the qualities of boys and girls. Boys are not stronger than girls, nor should they be, and girls do not have to be delicate and fragile.
What else should we work on to make a change in this regard?
It is essential to put aside gender stereotypes that have become part of the everyday way of speaking without one noticing. It is very common for girls to be flattered for looking good or for wearing nice clothes. Boys are encouraged to explore, but girls should only look pretty. On the other hand, crying is fine if you are a girl, but is frowned upon when it comes to a boy. It is more important that both girls and boys receive compliments when they attempt a difficult task or when they explore their world than for their physical appearance. Thus, the little ones will not grow up thinking that physical beauty is their most important attribute. On the other hand, children should be encouraged to express their emotions, either through crying or physical expressions of affection such as kisses and hugs, since this is essentially human, and not only typical of girls. Parents are fundamental figures in the development of children, but other adults who live with them must also take care of the expressions they use in front of them. You have to become aware, stop before acting or saying something, and think that words have a huge impact, as they shape your world.
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