Brief description of the issue
Gender stereotypes are harmful and limiting for all children, boys and girls alike. If many gender stereotypes have, in the end, a more negative impact on girls (low self-esteem, too much importance put on looks, less-paying jobs, lower political & negotiation power, etc.), masculine stereotypes still have a negative impact on boys. First of all, a strong endorsement of gender stereotypes is associated with a higher risk of dropping out of school. More and more voices are speaking up against “toxic masculinity”, which encourages boys and men to show aggressive and violent behaviours and discourages them to express their emotions. However, many activities can be done with all children, especially boys, to allow them to free themselves from toxic masculine stereotypes.
The endorsement of masculine stereotypes such as competitiveness, the will to defy authority, and aggressivity also impacts negatively school retention. Masculinity is also reinforced in opposition to femininity. Yet, something as essential to school success as reading and writing skills is perceived as feminine and will therefore be rejected by boys looking to build up their masculinity. It is therefore crucial to deconstruct gender stereotypes with boys.
Emotional maturity and social abilities
At the beginning of elementary school, boys already have difficulty to express their emotions and can only find more synonyms than girls to one emotion: anger (BBC, 2018). A lack of emotional maturity and a difficulty to express emotions lead boys to aggressive behaviours or to hardly accept their emotions, which is often linked, later for men, to higher incarceration rates and higher suicide rates. Here are a few activities to help boys express their emotions more easily:
- Emotional literacy among First Nations students: The Jasmin Roy Foundation, in collaboration with the Centre des Premières Nations Nikanite and the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, has put together pedagogical tools to foster social and emotional learning among Quebec’s aboriginal students. Download posters & guide in Mi’gmaq, French and/or English to use in your classroom!
- Emotional literacy and needs in early childhood (preschool): a few videos to share strategies with children to express their emotions and be comfortable with them.
- The Emotion Game (preschool): The Emotion Game is like a board game and comes with 16 emotion cards (“I’m feeling”) and 16 desire cards (“I’d like”). The goal is to help children understand their emotions and express their feelings so they can ultimately adopt positive behaviours in school.
- “It’s OK to feel” poster: to put on your classroom’s wall, by Elise Gravel
- “Boys can be” poster: to put on your classroom’s wall, by Elise Gravel
- Activities about feelings (K to Grade 2): various activities to help kids name their emotions and express how they feel.
- Getting Emotional: Learning About Feelings (K-6): lesson plan adaptable to the different elementary levels allowing students to develop an ability to read other people’s emotions, to identify and express one’s own feelings or emotions, to receive permission to have a wide range of feelings and to build a vocabulary of words for naming feelings.
Fine motor skills
Adults tend to physically handle boys more than girls when children are very young, which brings boys to develop their gross motor skills more than their fine motor skills. Here are a few activities to facilitate with all your classroom and that will benefit a lot to the boys:
- Fine motor skills outdoor activities (kidergarten):
- Fine motor skills activities (kindergarten): numerous ideas of small activities you can do with younger students.
- Fine motor skills activities for older kids (K-2): a Pinterest board with tons of activities, and links to many other boards… Enjoy!
- Preschool Fine Motor Skills Activities: creative art project to help kids develop fine motor skills.
Dancing, drawing and arts are fields often associated with femininity, boys being more associated with sciences, maths and sports. Arts must be perceived as accessible to all children, no matter what their gender is, to allow boys having an interest in arts to live their passion without fearing of being stigmatized (in elementary school, boys who show more feminine behaviours are more likely to be victims of bullying than girls showing more masculine behaviours). Here are a few recommendations to develop boys’ artistic creativity:
- Wapikoni Mobile: invite this well-known organization to come to your school to give students a chance to express themselves through art. They also facilitate awareness workshops for non-Native schools and organizations to allow the audience to discover and appreciate Quebec First Nations culture through a selection of high-quality cinematographic works.
- The Primadanse organization facilitates dance workshops in schools exploring various themes such as hypersexualization, intimidation, gender stereotypes, assertiveness and self-confidence, etc. This type of activity can benefit all students and allow boys to discover dancing in a safe space with inspiring role models.
- School-age creative learning and development ideas and activities (K-2): Visual and digital art, drama, music, dance and writing activities for 5-8 years old children.
- Imagining, creating and play: school-age children (K-2): activities designed to boost 5-8 years old children’s creativity and imagination.