If you're trying to keep up with the latest headlines on gender equality and parenting, it's hard to tell if Canada is really having a girl crisis, or if girls are more empowered than ever.
While girls clearly have never had more education opportunities, they still face enormous struggles, particularly when it comes to self esteem. And there are signs that girls still have a long way to go in shattering the glass ceiling in the workplace, whether or not you agree with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" ideas about feminism.
Now a recent working paper by two Canadian economics professors concludes that for preschool kids in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom, it is girls — not boys — who receive more teaching time from their parents.
The study's authors, University of Toronto's Michael Baker and University of British Columbia's Kevin Milligan, noted that in all three countries, parents spent more time teaching their daughters across the board, including reading, telling stories, singing songs, drawing, and teaching new words and letters.
The only activity that was spread more evenly between boys and girls was teaching numbers.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, the authors say that spending equal learning time with boys and girls could reduce the Canadian kindergarten achievement gender gap by up to a third.
The conclusions were even true for fraternal girl-and-boy twins in cases where parents were determined to treat both children similarly. And it looks like the reason is simply because girls are easier to teach and "more rewarding" and they tend not to wiggle and squirm as much as boys do.
"This finding is consistent with a story in which boys are less rewarding to teach, and parents are more willing to persevere with boys once they are not responsible for their care throughout the day," say Baker and Milligan in the report.
The benefit of more time learning with parents is that it may embed certain behavior patterns that children need to do well in school, and may be a reason that boys are falling behind academically.
Their study was a follow-up to a previous report that showed boys actually received more parental time than girls because their dads spend more time with them. However, the evidence that fathers may prefer sons didn't seem to apply with children under the age or five or six.
The lesson for parents here? We all know little boys can be more of a handful than little girls, but that doesn't mean it's okay for parents to spend less time nurturing them. (That includes you too, Kate Middleton, since you say you want a baby boy.)
It is alright, however, to explore how girls and boys have different learning styles when you're trying to educate your preschooler.
Also on HuffPost:
Attention-Seeking Children Are Better Learners Later On
Toddlers who constantly demand ""look at me!" are most likely to become better collaborators and learners when they're older, a study published in the journal <em>Child Development</em> found. <a href="http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1112497156/attention-seeking-children-learn-better-later-on/" target="_hplink">Author Marie-Pierre Gosselin said that</a>, "Toddlers whose parents have consistently responded positively to their attention-seeking expect interactions to be fulfilling. As a result, they're eager to collaborate with their parents' attempts to socialize them."
It's Not Their Fault They're Selfish
Researchers studied the behavior and brain scan images of kids while they played with others, were given rewards and prompted to share with their playmates. <a href="http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/07/10602433-selfish-kids-blame-it-on-their-immature-brains" target="_hplink">The findings revealed that</a>, "even though young children understood how sharing benefited the other child, they were unable to resist the temptation to make the 'selfish' decision to keep much of the reward for themselves." But thankfully, as a child's brain matures, so will the child. "Brain scans revealed a region that matures along with children's greater ability to make less selfish decisions," the study found.
Snorers Might Later Become Hyperactive
Children who snore or have sleep apnoea are more likely to be hyperactive by the age of 7. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17237576" target="_hplink">Researcher, Dr. Karen Bonuck said</a> a toddler's "sleep problems could be harming the developing brain."
They Hear Their Own Words Differently
<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/12/23/toddlers-hear-their-own-words-differently-says-study/" target="_hplink">According to Ewen MacDonald</a> of the Technical University of Denmark, adults monitor their voices so that the sound reflects what is intended. But, "2-year-olds do not monitor their auditory feedback like adults do, suggesting they are using a different strategy to control speech production," he said.
Missed Naps Could Lead To Mood Disorders
<a href="http://news.yahoo.com/missed-naps-could-put-toddlers-risk-mood-disorders-140406546.html" target="_hplink">Researchers found that depriving toddlers of a daily nap</a> led to "more anxiety, lower levels of joy and interest, and reduced problem-solving abilities." Kids in the focus group who missed naps were not able to "take full advantage of exciting and interesting experiences and to adapt to new frustrations."
They Succumb To Peer Pressure
Two-year-olds in a focus group "were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by three other toddlers than if they saw an action repeated by just one other toddler," a study published in the journal Current Biology found.
Their Memories Are Better Than You Think
<a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/04/children_s_memories_toddlers_remember_better_than_you_think_.html" target="_hplink">In a recent Slate article</a>, Nicholas Day illustrated a timeline of what scientists have learned about toddlers' memories over the last few decades. Before the 80s, it was believed that babies and young toddlers lived in the present with no memory of the past. Twenty years ago, however, a study found that 3-year-olds could recount memories of Disney World 18 months after they visited. And recently, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01699.x/abstract" target="_hplink">research noted</a> a "27-month-old child who'd seen a 'magic shrinking machine' remembered the experience some six years later."