DOs & DON'Ts

Go Against the Grain Even if a girl doesn't show interest in math and science, you can still gently encourage her; the same with gently encouraging your son when it comes to art, music or dance.*

Check Your Baggage Statements like ‘I was never any good at that,' or ‘I never liked it,' can lower kids' expectations as well as your own. Support their exploration of new interests and activities, even if they weren't your strengths.*

Expect Well-roundedness Don't give boys a pass on knowing about cooking, sewing or cleaning up. Don't give girls a pass on being able to kick, throw, and do math. If you set high standards for them to be well-rounded, they will.

Counter the Compliments Nearly everyone compliments girls on how pretty they are and boys on how strong and brave they are. You can create balance by commenting boys when they are especially sensitive to someone's needs, or girls when they are particularly smart or daring.

Stress Similarity Suggest games, materials and exercises that encourage boys and girls to explore similarities rather than differences, and that don't pit them against one another. Instead of boys' and girls' lines or teams, group children by birthdays or first names.

Walk the Walk Be a man who talks about doing dishes, cooking or being family-oriented, or a woman who talks about doing yard work, fixing things around the house, or understanding science.  

Reinforce Tell stories with women who are doctors, pilots and construction workers, or men who are nurses, schoolteachers, or stay-at-home dads. Pick out books and DVDs that reinforce these messages too (our TrueChild Report Cards can help).

Use Teachable Moments Question it when a child says or hears someone say “boys are smarter than girls” or “girls don't like to get dirty,” or even “all girls have cooties.”

Connect with Action Rather than nudging our boys and girls to sit down and share their feelings, just join them in an activity they enjoy. Often simply doing something with children enables them to share feelings they would otherwise keep hidden.**



Play Favorites Don't always stroke or hug a girl, and then bounce or mock-punch a boy. Both boys and girls need all kinds of affectionate interaction.

Set Different Standards Don't tease boys for crying over a bruise that you would coddle and sooth a girl over ;*** Don't accept rambunctious behavior in boys that you would tell girls to tone down. 

Miss the Fun No child wants to be deprived of a fun time because certain activities are “only for boys” or “just for girls.” If a girl likes playing with blocks at school, encourage her to continue doing so – even if she is the only girl in the block area.**

Don't Rescue Providing ready answers for girls actually undermines their confidence. Letting boys ct selfishly, irresponsibly, or aggressively because “boys will be boys” only sends the message that they're not expected to do better.

Don't Assume Don't assume that boys are the ones who will always be ready to toss a ball, or girls the only ones who will want to go play at cooking in the kitchen.

Don't Let Discomfort Win “No boy of mine plays with dolls.” “No girl of mine is going to wrestle!” It may challenge you to see boys playing with Barbie, or girls rough-housing outside with the boys. That just means you have some attitudes you might want to explore further, but you should still support them in being themselves. Try to give boys the same praise when they draw or read poetry as you might give another boys for excelling at sports.

Additional Resources

* is an online community that provides expert advice and articles on preteens, tweens and teens.

** is one of the top 10 most-visited websites for women, providing current information on health and beauty, parenting, human connections and other relevant topics.



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