How to create a gender-balanced household

We need to help our boys grow confidently into gender equality so they can thrive once they reach adulthood. One of the best ways to do that is to create a gender-balanced environment at home where they can practice.

Household responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of others are perfect opportunities for teaching boys gender fairness. Here are some suggestions for creating household routines that reach beyond outdated gender norms.

Household Chores

Two principles are crucial for building an equitable chore routine: 1) children should help equally with household tasks regardless of gender; and 2) both genders can and should help equally with both inside and outside chores.

First, try to keep in mind that chores are practice for adult living. If boys are allowed to continue playing video games while girls help in the kitchen, that’s the model for fairness that your boy will take into his adult life.

Second, try to refrain from assigning outside chores only to your boy. There’s nothing wrong with him saying he’d rather feed the baby or do the sewing than mow the lawn. You know your boy best. It’s completely your decision to assign the amount and type of household chores based on his developmental and physical ability.

That said, here are some ideas that defy the ‘typical’ male chore assignments:

  • empty the dishwasher
  • wash the dishes
  • make the dinner salad
  • organize the grocery list
  • feed the family pet(s)
  • set the table
  • vacuum
  • sew
  • sweep
  • learn to use the washing machine and dryer
  • fold laundry
  • pick up clutter
  • dust
  • help care for baby and/or ailing grandparent​

If your boy complains about his tasks, listen to his complaints, and ask how he would make it more equitable (without saddling you with more work or expense). Talk about it together. He needs to feel like he’s part of the discussion.

Ask if he thinks he can continue with his assigned chores for another week. Hopefully, he’ll agree, his complaints will wane, and then disappear altogether.

If his complaints don’t disappear, offer alternative chores. He needs to know that you’re listening to him and willing to compromise.

How much allowance?

Equal pay? Yes! Absolutely!

Your boy needs to know that everyone should contribute equally to household maintenance, regardless of gender, and receive the same amount of allowance.

If there are special circumstances in any given week (e.g., special chores for bonus pay, sick child, conflicting family obligations, etc.), try to balance-out opportunities and payments in the ensuing weeks. Otherwise, payment should be the same, regardless of gender.

Watch this wonderful video from Expert Market that makes the unfairness of unequal pay easy to understand:

Kids React to The Gender Pay Gap (video)

Equal work deserves equal pay and equal pay deserves equal work. Gender is not part of the equation. Period.

Gender-biased language

Whether we’re aware of it or not, our language sends messages about our expectations based on gender. When we comment on how pretty girls look or how strong boys are, for example, we send messages about our expectations for kids based on their gender.

Watch what you say and how you say it. Be aware that kids pick up not just the words, but the subtext of the words.

Sexist jokes, gentle jabs about a woman’s weight, a boy who is emotional, sensitivity expressed as a ‘girl thing,’ a boy who expresses fear of being called a sissy — -all of these verbal subtleties are retained and absorbed by our children way more than we realize.

These kinds of female-based barbs assume a weakness in girls and women that is unfair, unwarranted, and unkind. Yet these phrases are so ubiquitous and have been around so long, many people don’t even think much of them.

​For everyday conversations, try to use words that are gender-neutral. For example, the words policeman and stewardess are gender-specific job titles; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are police officer and flight attendant.

Phrases like ‘man up,’ ‘mankind’ and ‘drama queen’ are also deeply embedded in our daily language.

We all do it. And our kids are listening.

Because we all are blind to some of our biases, we need feedback. Talk to close friends and family members about your own gender-biased language and ask them to call you on it.

Ask your boy to hold you accountable and give you feedback if you are modeling stereotypes or expressing bias with words. Being willing to admit bias will send a powerful message to him about how important gender equality is. Once he makes it his job to correct any biased language you’re using, he’ll most likely adjust his own language too.

As boys grow into men, they transfer misconceptions about being a girl and a woman onto the women they will meet with, deal with at work and in social circles, and to their own daughters when/if they have them.

Try to remove these misconceptions from your family’s daily language so they don’t get passed on to the next generation.

It’s the little things that make the biggest impressions. It might not seem obvious at the time, but the actions your boy sees at home are etching a permanent opinion in his psyche.

Make adjustments where necessary: ​

  • Who drives during family outings?
  • Who pays at restaurants?
  • Who contributes to household income?
  • Who goes to parent/teacher conferences?
  • Who chaperones school field trips?
  • Who makes final family decisions?

Your boy might not always do what you ask him to do but he will definitely do what he sees you doing. If the work in the house is divided along traditional gender lines with the father doing certain ‘male’ jobs of repairs and maintenance, and the mother doing the ‘female’ chores of cooking and cleaning, this strategy is what your boy will pick up and carry with him into adulthood.

It’s time to change things up.

Originally published at

I write step-by-step guidebooks to help parents raise a generation of open-minded, enlightened kids.

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