There can be little doubt that many of our most important beliefs about other people are developed at a very young age. When growing up, adults’ attitudes in our household can create a lasting impression on our notion of the world around us. This is especially true concerning how we think of gender roles within society.
Early Ideas of Gender Equality
Too often, for example, father figures intentionally or unintentionally model behavioral roles that put women on the back foot in a relationship. Unconscious biases can do much to promote unhealthy and unequal behaviors in a household and in society. Sadly, children tend to learn more from what their parents do than what their parents say; the effect of seeing gender discrimination at home can set a pattern that can last a lifetime.
Examining Our Deeply Held Beliefs
In the broader sense, how we behave as parents are predicated on how we think of the world around us. On a very basic level, who we are as people often springs from what we choose to believe. At some point, moreover, our beliefs tend to rise to the surface of our behavior.
For example, suppose that a person wants to believe in gender equality but does not address deeper prejudices that they may have learned over time. On a conscious level, this person may tell themselves that their own belief is that women are equal to men and deserve equal rights.
Gaining a Deeper Understanding of the Self
However, on a deeper level, the same person may hold beliefs that stereotype women or prize specific gender roles that disproportionately benefit men. These stereotypes might involve the belief that women should take on a more significant share of housework or that wives should not earn more than their husbands.
Without intending to, in other words, such a person might feel a deep sense of inadequacy when their wife delivers news about a raise at work. They may feel anger when housework does not get done “on time.”
How Children Learn From Observation
Despite their lack of worldly experience, most children are adept at putting these unintentionally communicated ideas together to form a concept of the wider world. They may connect ideas about gender equality with images of personal conflict. In their minds, they may develop beliefs about themselves or others that are rooted in discrimination.
This is why it is often said that gender equity starts in the home. To properly model gender equality, we must first seek to understand our own biases better. After all, we are much more likely to pass on notions of who we are as people to our children than notions of who we would like to be. When it comes to raising children, the difference can be enormous.