Parents use a number of methods to try and raise their children well – rewards, punishments and consciously modelled behaviours or instructions. These approaches are steeped in a country’s traditions. But such practices are not without problems. In most societies, boys and girls are raised very differently. And in Ghana, this almost certainly reinforces the notion that men are “better”.
Our research explored how parents “train” their children to fill certain roles in society and at home.
Raising boys and girls in Ghana
Traditionally in Ghana, the moral and ethical instruction of children was and remains the responsibility of the immediate and extended family. There are rites of passage at every stage of life, each of which introduces the individual involved to his or her new social status and roles. Folk tales, proverbs and songs are also used to teach young people about their roles in the home and society.
Research has shown, though, that proverbs and folk tales are used to romanticise or underscore elements of both masculinity and femininity. Growing children can internalise such ideas if they are repeated often enough.
Adults are assumed to know what is best for the young. Proverbs are frequently used to exert the supremacy of older people and command implicit respect from the young.
In almost all parts of Ghana, the general practice is for mothers and their female relatives to be responsible for the early care, training and discipline of children. From between the ages of six and 10, and certainly by the time of puberty, boys are generally expected to be brought up by their fathers – often outside the home. Girls are raised by their mothers in domestic spaces, especially the kitchen.
Girls receive profound affection from their mothers, and are taught how to serve and be submissive to their fathers, brothers and any other older person. They are equipped with the kinds of skills thought necessary to make one a good wife and mother, such as being diligent and productive.
Crucially, girls are conceptually viewed as “minors”, sometimes even alongside their younger brothers. This view persists until their maturity is “proven” through marriage or independent productive work.
Boys, meanwhile, drift slowly towards their fathers or uncles as they grow up. These men often treat them sternly: it is regarded as a father or uncle’s duty to prepare his son to shoulder the responsibility of looking after his mother, sisters, future wife or wives and children.
Boys participate in “female” activities such as cooking, sweeping the house or eating with a group of women when they are young, but this is increasingly discouraged as they move towards adolescence and young adulthood.
© and read the rest of this piece on the conversation: How parenting in Ghana shapes sexist stereotypes
(Excerpt etc. first posted on. Orig. attribution above.)