Learning and Behaviour

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Learning and Behaviour
This essay will be identifying and examining the factors that gender differences have in influencing children’s learning of behaviour. Children learn what it means to be a boy or girl at a very early age. Identifying gender and its roles in early childhood is a vital moment in the human development. In many societies, families set different standards and expectations of what their children are to do in life. One factor that plays an important role in gender identity is a child’s exposure to the definition of what a female versus a male is. Another factor is the parent’s upbringing of the child and family traditions.

By the age of two years most children know whether they are a boy or a girl, and children begin to understand the difference and gender norms between girls and boys by the age of three – four years old. Gender norms surround things that society expects a boy or a girl to do, like ‘boys should not play with dolls, and girls should not be builders, men can not be nurses, and girls can not be doctors” (Dermon – Spark, as cited in New Zealand Tertiary College {NZTC}, 2011, p.24). “Gender stereotypes are widely held beliefs about characteristics deemed appropriate for males and females” (Berk, 2006, p.520.). Gender stereotyping is present from a very young age as parents dress their babies in pink for girls and blue for boys. “Parents create different environments for boys and girls. Parents give their sons toys that stress action and competition, while giving their daughters toys that emphasize nurturance, cooperation, and physical attractiveness’ (Berk, 2006, p.531.).

Social and cultural beliefs and expectations can influence children’s understanding of their gender identity and their roles as they may observe different gender behaviours by others. “Gender roles are cultural prescriptions about the way males and females should behave that are passed on by families, peers and social institutions such as the school” (Smith, 1998, p.143.). It is important to remember that in many societies that children are brought up and learn very narrow gender roles. Such narrow gender roles as the fathers are the breadwinners of the family, while the mothers stay home caring for he children. But in today’s more modern society the roles of breadwinner and caring for the children is seen that both mother and father actively sharing the roles. “children’s understanding about normality can also be challenged by offering them lots of images of non – traditional family lifestyles” (MacNaughton & Williams, 2004, p.23.). Early childhood educators can extend this through stories about different families and during art activities by cutting and pasting or drawing pictures that will extend and challenge the children’s understanding about all different families.

For early childhood teachers it is important that they provide the best possible environment for the children that is challenging for all genders, “ensuring that they expend equal efforts on girls and boys as part of the process of encouraging them to try different activities” (MacNaughton & Williams, 2004, p.83.). Early childhood teachers should also consider whether this method is culturally appropriate and supportive with all the families in their care. Teachers should encourage all children to explore the areas of the classroom and to be supportive, nurturing and gentle, and not be restricting on behaviour that is seen as what boys or girls should be playing with, this can help early childhood teachers gain gender equity within their program. Within an early childhood class room there are normal areas, like blocks and building in one corner and family and dress ups in another corner, having these corners set out like this helps develop a traditional gender stereotype environment, with boys toys in separate corners to girls toys (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2004). Strategies that early childhood teachers can do to make the class room...
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