Here’s some advice from the experts about what to do at every age when kids complain that you’re favoring the boys or the girls.
What do I do when kids complain that I’m favoring boys or girls?
“The youngest preschoolers might not be keyed in on distinctions between boys and girls, so we keep small groups mixed and focus on getting all kids to participate together. When it comes to fairness, however, preschoolers make a lot of complaints. Developmentally speaking, preschoolers are just beginning to learn to consider others—and a preschooler’s idea of fairness is often that he or she gets all the toys, attention, snacks, and so on. At my church, we consistently remind kids to share, be kind, and see other children’s perspectives. Calmly guiding kids to others-centered thinking slowly works wonders for preschoolers and reminds us of what we’re all striving for as Christians as well.” —Rebecca
“Start by listening; there’s probably a kernel of truth in those complaints about favoring boys or girls. While we’d like to think we treat all kids equally, we’re often unaware of how biases influence us. When we’re working with children, our biases are revealed in subtle ways; we may call on boys more often or praise girls more often. The way you’ll receive feedback from elementary kids will usually be through complaints. Rather than becoming defensive, take complaints as an opportunity for self-reflection. Invite someone to observe you leading, looking for biases that affect your interactions with kids. Keep a log to help you discover how you treat kids differently. If you intentionally combat your unconscious biases, you’ll become a better teacher.” —Henry
“When this happened to me, I found I was guilty as charged on favoring boys over girls. Some of my preteen girls complained that I always chose boys during large-group activities. The best thing you can do in this situation is to be humble and teachable. When I realized the girls were right, I let them know I was wrong, and I started focusing on giving each preteen an equal opportunity to participate. Preteens are beginning to learn and accept that things won’t always be fair or perfectly equal in their lives, but they still strongly desire fairness. Ultimately, help preteens feel heard by treating boys and girls equally, and help them navigate unfair scenarios outside your program in healthy ways.” —Annette
Rebecca Barnes is the Summit Kids ministry curriculum director for Flatirons Community Church, with five campuses in the Denver area. Henry Zonio has over 25 years of experience as a children’s ministry leader in the U.S. and Canada. He is a sociologist with expertise in child development, religious education, and social inequalities. Annette Safstrom has over 20 years of children’s ministry experience. She’s a children’s ministry coach and consultant with Ministry Architects.
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