Kindergarten is an exciting time for kids — it’s often a big step onto an elementary campus with higher expectations and stricter rules than play-all-day preschool. Of course, most kids are excited for kindergarten or kindy as many would call it! It’s a fun time with friends, full of recess and learning new things, and there’s always something interesting happening.
Most kids are excited to enter kindergarten, especially if they’ll be attending with friends or at the same school as big siblings. After all, they’re finally becoming big kids! But with the transition into kindergarten also comes new restrictions that kids may not have run into before.
From rules about going to the bathroom alone to having to sit at a real desk for part of the day, there’s a lot to adjust to. There are high standards for kids’ behavior throughout kinder classrooms, and there are even seemingly oddball rules that only apply to either boys or girls.
While they’re busy making friends, learning new skills, and navigating their way on a bigger campus, kindergarteners are also subject to some restrictions that divide them up into groups of boys and girls. From dress code problems to rules about classroom behavior, boys and girls are often treated differently—even if there aren’t any written rules making it so. Here are 20 ways school restrictions are different when it comes to boys versus girls.
20 Dress Codes Are Very Different
There are plenty of school rules and restrictions that affect girls and boys differently, but the most notable is that girls are often watched more closely for dress code infractions. And most of the time, it’s not even their fault.
Shorter cut shorts, thin shirt straps, and dresses themselves are all staples in the girls’ section, but when parents send their daughters to school, they’re often breaking dress code.
Boys, on the other hand, have fewer clothing options overall, but when was the last time a boy was sent home for his shoulder straps being too narrow or his shorts being too short?
19 Personal Grooming Isn’t Consistent
Kids are all expected to be reasonably clean and well-groomed for class. But there’s another difference between boys and girls, and it comes down to what they put on their bodies and faces when prepping for school. Girls are often allowed nail polish, even in private schools with more strict dress codes or even uniforms, while it’s a total taboo for boys to even consider it.
Unfortunately, it’s just another one of those masculine versus feminine arguments that school administrators and even parents can’t agree on.
But at the end of the day, how does a bit of polish on their fingers say anything about a child other than they like the color?
18 Girls Can Go Together
Kindergarten is often the grade when young kids have to start venturing to the bathroom alone. In preschool, there was probably a bathroom right in the classroom. But on elementary campuses, which is where most kindergartens are located, there may not be bathrooms conveniently inside the classroom. So kids have to ask for permission to go, then take a pass and get there themselves. It can be a lot for a five-year-old to handle alone, which is why some teachers will let kids go together.
But it seems like it’s more acceptable for girls to go in groups than it is for boys—and that’s something that continues all through high school and even beyond.
17 Expectations For Appearance
Though many kids (and their parents) are rocking the boat when it comes to their kids’ appearance in kindergarten, schools often have rules on how they’re supposed to be groomed.
For example, girls are expected to have their hair neatly pulled back, whether that’s in a braid or a ponytail.
For boys, the expectation is that they’ll have short, often buzzed, hair that isn’t in their faces. But some schools will even send boys home if their hair is deemed “too long,” and then parents make the news trying to fight back. In the end, though, it’s just hair—another extension of who kids are, and often something they’re proud of.
16 Hands-Off For The Boys
Another noticeable difference between how boys and girls are expected to act in kindergarten is in regard to how “touchy-feely” they are.
In general, teachers and staff seem to be okay with girls hugging, holding hands, and otherwise being close.
But when boys start to do it? Apparently, kindergarten is the grade when children are suddenly expected to not want to hug and touch their friends. The thing is, as long as the kids are consenting to the hugging or touching and it’s not inappropriate, why can’t we let kids show they care about their friends—whether they’re boys or girls?
15 Dresses Are Sometimes Banned
Who would have thought that a kindergarten girl could be judged as being “inappropriate”? But in many cases, schools have changed their restrictions to ban girls from wearing dresses simply because they’re concerned about seeing kids’ underwear. After all, most five-year-olds don’t have the self-awareness to make sure their undies aren’t showing while they play.
And honestly, should they have to worry about that at this age? But oddly enough, while many schools restrict girls wearing dresses—or at least require leggings underneath—there’s usually no verbiage specific to boys. Of course, the boys who like to wear dresses are often very few, but it’s interesting that girls are the target for this restriction.
14 Boys Are Disciplined Differently
Knowing the statistics for how many boys versus girls are affected by ADHD and similar diagnoses, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out that boys are usually punished differently even as early as kindergarten. But is it about their behavioral struggles, teacher expectations, or some kind of bias against little boys?
Sometimes it seems like schools come down harder on boys for their behavior, even if girls act the same way.
Some teachers even admit they’ve noticed they discipline boys more harshly or differently than girls—a restriction that can definitely affect the kids’ education and self-esteem, whether teachers intend to or not.
13 Boys Will Be Boys
Another restriction that’s different with girls versus boys is the expectation of behavior from the start. A lot of teachers and administrators seem to think boys are bound to be troublesome, but instead of dealing with it, they just tell girls “boys will be boys,” and the boys get a free pass.
This is more common in high school, of course, when boys are testing limits—but even in kindergarten, boys who are rougher and tumble are not expected to change—instead, it’s the girls who have to get out of the way or avoid playing near said boys.
12 Girls Are Always Bossy
Another way that girls are treated differently based on rules and expectations is in how their attitudes are received.
A boy who always tells his classmates what to do or helps the teacher get everyone to settle down is seen as a leader. A girl who does so, however, is often perceived as being bossy or a know-it-all.
It’s sad that at this age, kids are already making judgments of each other that way, but it’s ingrained into society that women as leaders are somehow too emotional to be effective. Because of that, it’s not surprising that society starts them out with low expectations from a young age.
11 Being Gross Is For The Boys
Did you know there’s an entire niche of books dedicated to boys’ love of potty humor? If you haven’t yet read Captain Underpants, brace yourself for it, because while your kinder child might not read yet, by the time he hits third grade, it will be a household staple.
But that’s only for boys—girls are often discouraged from potty humor and just being gross in general. Somehow, it’s another “boys will be boys” scenario, where the boys can get dirty and girls are expected to sit primly by and watch, reading proper stories about princesses and flouncy dresses.
10 Fidgety Boys Don’t Fare Well
If you thought school restrictions weren’t that different for boys versus girls, maybe this article by The Atlantic will convince you there is something fishy going on. The publication featured a story written by a teacher who realized at the end of the year that she had been coming down far more heavily on boys for things like fidgeting in class than anything else.
The teacher also noted that she gave out nearly twice as many behavioral warnings to boys than to girls.
She continues on to cite the statistic that “boys get expelled from preschool nearly five times more often than girls,” meaning your guy may not even make it to kinder without running into biases.
9 Diagnoses Become Desirable
The teacher who penned her opinion for The Atlantic also noted the fact that boys are “diagnosed with learning disorders and attention problems at nearly four times the rate of girls.”
She also explains that one study predicted teachers graded boys worse than what testing predicted—and that teachers’ biases on behavior begin affecting the grading as early as kindergarten!
While you’d assume this would mean more action on the part of teachers to get boys to cooperate, it often results in more punishment and even medication as teachers plea with parents to get their kids to calm down and focus.
8 Behavior Standards Suit Girls Better
The thing about behavior standards in kinder is also that they’re not really standards at all. If you’re discounting half the population—boys—though, then you’ll notice the rules and standards better fit the girls in the class.
This is because girls mature faster, PBS explains, and they’re not only ready for social interaction, but they’re also well-prepared for academics.
Boys, in contrast, are less mature and have more difficulty focusing on academic subjects.
Therefore, this one-size-fits-all approach is leaning toward accommodating kindergarten girls, not boys. Of course, the fact that boys are often more active doesn’t help classroom expectations, either.
7 Ready (Or Not) To Read
Another problem with classroom restrictions is that even kindergarteners are often expected to spend a lot of time at a desk.
For girls, this isn’t often a huge issue—on average, girls are able to sit still longer than boys, PBS points out. And the main focus of kindergarten is often on learning to read, something that boys aren’t always ready for since girls are, on average, more adept at language than boys.
And, elementary classrooms focus more on language than any other subject—four-fifths in most classrooms—meaning boys are at a disadvantage from the first day of school.
6 Literacy Leads The Class
With the focus on learning to read, literacy is often a top priority in kindergarten. That means restrictions on curriculum are automatically pushing boys out. As PBS highlights, most schools don’t offer hands-on learning, even at the kindergarten level.
And it’s too bad, because kids most often learn through movement at this age. But most kindergarten curriculum puts boys behind from the start, and then they struggle to keep up throughout elementary and higher grades.
Boys may even learn “coping strategies where they fake it,” one expert told PBS. This also makes boys feel like failures, the article notes, since they feel inadequate from the moment they get left behind in class.
5 Some Topics Aren’t Approved
School restrictions may not specifically dictate what kindergarteners can and cannot explore in class, but most teachers somewhat unconsciously tend to prefer girl-oriented topics.
For example, PBS notes that most teachers are female, and most also tend to prefer “girls’ interests” like diaries and first-person narratives when exploring literature.
Boys, on the other hand, do better with comic books and science fiction subjects like robots, machines, and science concepts.
And while it’s unfortunate that there is actually “boys” and “girls” literature, the fact remains that boys aren’t able to have access to the materials they want and need for success.
4 Girls Can’t Be Loud
Another interesting restriction that’s more subconscious on the part of teachers rather than a set-in-stone part of the rules is the expectation that girls will be quiet.
One study by the Department of Early Childhood and Education at the University of Stavanger in Norway found that teachers often scolded girls for being too loud.
The phenomenon was actually fascinating, yet wholly disappointing: teachers would witness boys playing loudly, look on and say nothing, but when a girl joined the fun, they would scold her and remove her from the game. Teachers didn’t seem to be aware that they were being biased, but the students observing them definitely noticed.
3 Expectations May Vary
Another finding from the study in Norway was that many teachers expected girls to be helpers, while boys continued playing or making messes.
In fact, the teachers not only solicited the girl students’ help with tending to other kids (helping find and put on shoes), but they also scolded them for not volunteering to help.
Boys, on the other hand, got to do whatever they wanted and weren’t expected to help at all. And the boys were also more likely to be on the receiving end of the shoe-finding help and other scenarios. The girls were also tasked with cleaning up boys’ messes.
2 Passivity Is Praised
That same study from Norway kinder students found that passivity was almost praised in little girls. When little girls raised their hands or asked for help, teachers and staff often ignored them. When boys raised their hands, however, the teachers went to them, helped them, and even took them aside to play or engage in further educational activities.
Girls, however, were scolded for bothering the teacher when she was busy or asking for help when it wasn’t clear that they needed it.
Of course, this is a sad reflection on how girls in classrooms all over the world are encouraged to be passive and let boys be the center of attention.
1 Rules Based On Bullying
Another restriction in schools that can often go both ways is the rule on bullying. While most schools claim to have a zero tolerance policy with bullying, they also fail to recognize bullying more often than not.
In some cases, kids as young as kindergarten are exhibiting bad behavior, like girls being “catty” or rude toward one another. But in some schools, this behavior is ignored as being part of how girls make friends and develop personality.
At the same time, boys are severely reprimanded for trying to joke around with friends.
It can go the other way too; girls get in trouble for being mean to one another while “boys will be boys” becomes the mantra for managing boys’ bullying behavior.