Kate’s Corner
Nov 13 2015

  Boys Can Be Doctors Too

I was talking with parents of preschoolers recently and a young mother told me this story;

Her family’s pediatrician is a woman, the mom’s doctor is a female (her children have gone to appointments with their mom and have met the doctor) and the family’s dentist is a woman.  The children in this family have been cared for, in large part, by professional medical women.  The family has made decisions in medical care based on expertise and recommendation – not gender.  It seems it just has turned out that way.

At a recent visit to the pediatrician’s office, this mom was told that her daughter would be seen that day by a covering pediatrician.  Once settled into the examining room, a gentleman walked in the door, greeted the little girl and began the visit’s protocol.  All was well.

On the way home in the car, this little girl looked at her mom and with wide eyes and in an incredulous voice asked her mom if boys can be doctors too?!  Without showing surprise (but reportedly with a very satisfying grin) her mom said “Yes, boys can be doctors too.”   And that was that.

We have come a long way.

Young children learn the role and probability of society‘s and culture’s gender expectations.  This idea of gender “ownership” i.e. men are firefighters, teachers are women is learned.  Children are not born with it.   Over the years there has been a high increase in attention to the elimination of gender stereotyping.  Acceptance and inclusion is increasingly the norm not the exception.  This is good for kids.

There have been long standing research projects, census studies and examination of novels, books, movies and play that focus on gender roles and expectations.  This is adult study.  But how do young children become ingrained in this and what happens on purpose to broaden perspectives that include both genders’ expectations of success and opportunity?

  • High quality early childhood settings introduce children to pictures, stories and play props / toys that are an invitation for all to engage and be supported in learning and fun. The role of men and women as family care providers, successful workers and important citizens is found throughout the classroom environments.
  • Children’s stories include men and women as “heroes”; smart, resourceful, accepted and successful. Try In Christina’s Toolbox by Dianne Homan and The Story of Ferdinand by Munroe Leaf.  Young children’s cartoon characters and beginning movies often include both male and female heroes; Skye in Paw Patrol comes quickly to mind.
  • Help children see men and women in adult roles that rely on knowledge and expertise as the “norm”. Young children interact with mail carriers, merchants, medical personnel, educators and restaurant workers all of the time.  Special events include firefighters visiting, dental hygienists and police officers talking with classrooms; women and men are represented.
  • Conversations about families and neighbors celebrate accomplishments, support projects and commend deeds , not gender. Include the youngest baby in these important cultural traditions.  Families, neighborhoods and friends look the same and different – again good for kids.
  • All children run, play, catch balls, read books, paint pictures and tell stories together. Childcare centers, schools and families celebrate the child as an individual, loaded with talents and skill – ready for the world, not as a girl or boy.

As a family, you send the loudest and clearest message to your children.   They will model their world after you; they will do what you do and think what you think.

What do you think your daughter is capable of?   Who will your son be?