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“It’s Not Fair!”

You have to sweep the steps and the sidewalk while he goes to the park.
You have to mow the lawn while she shoots hoops.
She gets to stay out until midnight — but you’re home by 10.
Guess who has to wash the dishes after dinner?

Double standards between siblings exist for many reasons. Some of those reasons are based on gender and age, but others have to do with your parents’ idea of who you are — and what you’re likely to do given the freedom to do it.

“You’re a Girl — It’s Different”

Many girls think that independence is granted to them a lot later than it is to boys. One of the sorest double standards girls encounter is when they see their brothers given permission to do things forbidden them — like having a later curfew, or traveling alone, or even dating. Most parents would say that it’s about safety.

Rape is a huge concern,” says Donnie McKinney, a counselor at teenoutreach.com. “And that undoubtedly relates to not wanting girls out in vulnerable situations.”

There is also the issue of reputation. We’ve all heard that boys who do a lot of dating are “players” but girls who do the same are “hos.” Your parents might be trying, in a ham-fisted sort of way, to ensure the “goodness” of your reputation.

“Be a Man”

Boys often think their sisters get special treatment — more affection, less pressure to get a job, less dirty work (a backed-up toilet is no fun). And reputation matters for boys as well. How many boys who love to cook take home economics? Today, a girl who joins the football team has a lot better chance of being supported than a boy who wants to be on the cheerleading squad.

Times They Are a-Changin’

Cultural norms have changed since your parents were teenagers. But there are still many parents who believe that a girl has to learn how to cook because she’ll have to feed her family someday and that a boy has to start earning early because he’ll be expected to support a family. The trick is to convince your parents that both skill sets are necessary — for everybody, girl or boy.

Girls, Schmirls, Boys, Schmoys — It Ain’t About That

Often, double standards have nothing to do with trying to peg you as a stereotype. It happens with siblings of the same sex, too. Some of this has to do with age. The older sibling is simply going to have more freedom than the younger ones. When that doesn’t happen, it probably means that parents learned from experiences with the older sibling that they don’t need to keep such a tight leash.

What happens more frequently is that your parents base their decisions on their opinion of you. Are you a really nice person? Your parents may read this as naiveté. Do you have boundless energy? They might see it as a short attention span. Are you a hottie? That might make you a pedophile magnet, in their eyes.

It comes down to this: will my child get hurt or hurt something or someone else?

Demand Your Rights?

Arguing for equal rights might gain you some ground, but proving that you are smart and alert enough to take care of yourself works best. Don’t make it about your sibling — make it about you. Hang out with people your parents know, in places they are familiar with, and come home on time without getting into trouble.

If you want to do something outside the “norm,” convince them of your sincerity. Few parents will turn down their children’s requests to engage in productive activities, even if those activities are “different.” Start small, and work your way up.

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