Gifted Until Proven Average

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I started my babysitting business when I was around eleven-years-old, consistently babysitting for little girls for the majority of the past six years. I have watched in awe as one of my first “babies”, who I started sitting for when she had just turned three, has now grown into a brilliant eight-year-old, reading chapter books and helping with her now three-year-old sister. However, I have recently started babysitting for a family with two boys, one four months old and the other four years old. The little boy has terrific manners and is competent for his age, but I notice a great difference in both his and his parent’s attitude toward his abilities than the girls I have babysat.

The parents of the girls knew that their daughters had above average intelligence and had achieved some milestones more quickly than other children, but they never seemed in awe of their daughters. However, the boys’  parents seemed particularly impressed by their four-year-old son. As a result, the boy seemed to believe he was the best at sports and the smartest child, while the girl, when I asked about school, would immediately describe her struggles in handwriting class.

Something about the disparity in confidence between these two children irked me. Both sets of parents seemed pretty “with it”, and I questioned if in 2018 people could really be raising boys and girls differently. I figured it was simply the result of the children's differing personalities, but decided to do a quick google search. I was astounded at what I found.

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According to a 2014 New York Times article, people are 2.5 times more likely to Google “is my son gifted?” than “is my daughter gifted?”, even though girls are 11% more likely to be placed in gifted programs (Stephens-Davidowitz).  However, the problem is not that parents are neglectful of their daughters. They simply focus on different things. Parents are 1.7 times more likely to search “is my daughter overweight?” than “is my son over overweight?”, despite the fact that boys are 9% more likely than girls to be overweight (Stephens-Davidowitz).

I remember my own time in grade school and recollect my anger at the double standard of intelligence. If a boy had the ability to sit still and focus, teachers considered him gifted, meanwhile, all the girls would sit still no matter what. It always seemed to me that boys were “gifted until proven average.” In the twelve years since I finished kindergarten, it seems that the introduction of pink legos and a Wonder Woman movie has impacted little in the way of parents’ differing expectations between their sons and daughters.


Author: Erin Sheedy

Erin Sheedy is a seventeen-year-old from Pittsburgh, PA, which if you ask her, she will tell you is one of the top five cities on Earth. She is a rising freshman at Boston College, where she plans to study history and hopes to one day take an underwater basket weaving class. You are most likely to find her sipping a bubble tea (passion fruit, almond milk, light sweetness, and tapioca please) on a Pittsburgh Port Authority bus while listening to Anna Karenina on audiobook.