I’m probably going to offend someone here. Okay, a lot of someones.
But I have something I need to say.
And it’s about little girls.
So here goes: I think boys have gotten a bad rap. And I think (some, not all) little girls, smart and sweet as they are, are taking advantage of that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard girl moms complaining about “wild boys” who “don’t know their strength” and “don’t know how to treat girls right.” And I get that. Boys do tend to be wild. And boys do tend to be boisterous and rude and aggressive and all sorts of things.
But truth is, it’s not the boy at the playground who is jumping and screaming the bridge pretending he’s a pirate while swinging a stick that I’m worried about. Or the boy who pushes the girl at the top of the slide because he wants to go down. Or even the boy who is throwing a massive tantrum because his mom told him he has to stop playing Ninja Warrior next to the girl’s tea party.
Yes, those boys are misbehaving. They may be being too loud or too aggressive or too… boyish. And with some good parenting and a little bit of time, I have a feeling most of these boys will learn to hone these behaviors into things that are more… productive.
But when I see these things going on at school or on the playground, it’s my daughter that I’m worried about.
I’m worried that she’s learning to shun boys for being boys.
To feel like she’s entitled to certain treatment and certain privileges because she’s a girl.
To believe that she’s “good” and the boys are “bad.”
A few weeks ago, we were at a jumpy place and two girls (probably five or six) were sitting in the foam pit pretending they were mermaids. Adorable, right? But then a two boys (probably three or four) ran in and boisterously jumped into the pit and started throwing foam at each other. Maybe not quite as adorable, but completely appropriate behavior for a foam pit in a public jumpy place. And honestly, the foam pit was big enough to where the girls could have played on one side and the boys on the other and no one would have gotten hurt.
But the girls whined. One of them even started to cry because the boys were “too wild.” And so the girls’ mom turned to the boys’ mom and said “They need to get out, the girls don’t like them being so rough.” The boys’ mom’s face fell. But as most of us would do when publicly chastised, she obediently pulled her sons out of the pit and asked them to play somewhere else. To be less rough. To play nicer.
I felt horrible for her. And for her sweet boys who were just being boys.
But here’s the thing: It wasn’t the boys who were ultimately hurt by this. It was the girls. The sweet girls who now have learned that a) their way of playing is “nice” and b) the boys isn’t “nice” and c) if they just whine and throw a fit, an adult will intervene and give them what they want.
I don’t want this for my daughter.
I want my daughter to be strong. Smart. Assertive. Brave enough to stick up for what’s right and for herself. I want her to know that if there’s a group of boys playing too rough and too close to her, she can turn to them and say something like:
- “No thank you!”
- “Can you please give us some space?”
- “That’s too rough. I’d appreciate if you stopped.”
- “I don’t like that. You need to move away.”
- “Why don’t you play over there?”
- “We’re playing mermaids. Do you want to play with us?”
- “Why don’t you be the mermaid pirate over there and we’ll play over here.”
There are a million smart, strong responses for girls in these situations, responses that teach them that as women, we are not the weaker sex. We are not to be pitied or defended or coddled. We are strong enough to do what’s right and to get far in life… on our own. Without our mommy’s help.
And without being entitled, whiney, demanding or rude.
A few months ago, I signed up to supervise first grade recess with a group of moms at school. I watched as a group of girls ran and stole the boy’s soccer ball and then said “na-na-na-na-na.” The boys ran after them, chased them down and grabbed back their ball. Typical playground behavior, wouldn’t you say? No one got hurt. No one was upset. It was all fun and games.
But one of the girls told on the boys.
“Hey! They boys are chasing us! They aren’t treating us with respect!” She came over and whined to one of the other recess monitors, who promptly told the boys to treat the ladies like ladies.
Not because girls shouldn’t be treated like ladies, but because they need to act like ladies if they want to be treated like them. And by chastising the boys for chasing them and not treating them like ladies, the girls learned once again that a) the girls way of playing is “good” and the b) the boys is “bad” and c) they just have to whine to get what they want.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Anyway, I’m probably being a bit too harsh on girls, because there are many, many, many lovely, strong, assertive girls out there. In fact, my son Joey was just talking about the girls in his class—and while he would be mortified if he knew I was telling anyone this—he actually admitted to me that all four of them are really great friends to have. I asked him what made them so great and his response was very telling: They don’t whine and they don’t tattle tale. They just tell us what they want to do and we listen.
For example, he explained to me on Wednesday that the boys wanted to play soccer and some of the girls wanted to play tag. Guess what they ended up playing? Tag. Because “the girls asked nicely and it was fun.”
Yes, that’s right: My third grade son admitted to me that he listens to the girls in his class because they don’t whine or tattle, but instead they tell them what they want to do.
Those are some smart girl moms who have taught their daughters to be wise and assertive, not whiney and demanding and entitled.
Don’t we want that for our girls as they grow up?
I do. And that’s why I’m making a pointed effort with my daughter—not to defend her or allow her to get her way when she cries, but instead to teach her to stand strong. To play bravely. To ask for what she wants. And to be kind and respectful in the process.
Because the truth is, it’s not the boys she’s hurting when she shuns them.