• Should girls and boys be disciplined differently?
  • Is it fair for children to expect different rules, boundaries and consequences from each parent/guardian?

I follow a page on Facebook that I rather enjoy, Life of Dad, which is linked to their website and online community of dads. Today they posted a picture with a caption “What do you think?”

A large number of the comments and reactions to the post supported the statement attributed to Jimmy Fallon (I have not checked to see if this has been correctly attributed, but the author is not really the focus here) and men and women alike confessed they, or their partners respectively, could relate to this comment.

But it raises some interesting questions about our social views of boys and girls and the way we should parent them. Is there an argument for having different approaches to discipline purely on the basis of gender? Is it ok, as the comment suggests, for men to say they will back out of taking a crucial parenting role with daughters because they’ve fallen in love with them and have ‘become soft’?

“Even the maniliest guys will become softies when they have daughters. Dads immediately fall in love with their little girls”

I have a son and a daughter. I am a softie because of both of them. But also because I’ve always been a bit of a softie; because you know what? It’s OK for a man to be soft without having to qualify their gentle qualities with the ‘magic’ fathering offspring. I immediately fell in love with both my daughter and my son. I actually fell in love with my son first; he came first.

“and will let them [daughters] get away with everything”

I want to let them both get away with everything, but I try to remember that’s not what is always best for them.

“So mom’s are going to have to be the disciplinarians when it comes to daughters”

So seriously, you’re just going to back out of that parental responsibility entirely? My wife and I back each other up in terms of discipline and boundaries – teaching them right from wrong, but also trying to role model an equal relationship and unity.

At the heart of this seemingly benign stereotype that doubtless we all have heard is something more troubling and points to why we should take issue with this perspective. I don’t like an attitude that prevails that suggests men might treat daughters with more leniency simply for being girls – because you have to ask why is this so? Because girls are weaker? We need to treat them more gently?

And on the flip side; are we going easier on girls but boys are tougher and so can put up with more? Or boys don’t need our affection as much?

This can be written in the classically damaging way “boys need to man-up“. If we discipline a boy he won’t cry. Boys aren’t supposed to cry and need to learn to tough it out. Girls? Well we know they’re weak, let’s not even test their resolve.

Where does this lead us? What does this teach our sons and daughters about what we think about boys and girls, men and women?

I want to provide an example to my children, my son and daughter, of how we can strive to equality. I want to show them both that they can be tough, that they can be sensitive.

I want them to both know that I love them. I want them both to know that they have equal rights and responsibilities as they develop in to adults.

Should we discipline boys and girls differently?

So what do I think in conclusion? Well it’s simple; I will not make excuses to treat my children differently based on what’s down the front of their trousers.