Discipline. The general consensus is that boys are more difficult to discipline. Does it seem like they don’t listen? It appears that boys’ hearing is not as good as girls, from day 1. Girls’ hearing is more sensitive to the frequency that is critical to learning speech. Because of brain imaging, we can see that the little girls’ verbal centers develop before the verbal centers in boys’ brains. In his book Boys Adrift, Dr. Leonard Sax observes that the brains of 3 year-old girls are similar to those of 5 year old boys in the area devoted to verbal development. Girls are better able, therefore, to respond to teacher and parent directions to “use your words.” Boys’ energy is higher, their listening skills are lower. Is it any wonder that ADD/ADHD (not to mention CD or conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, ODD oppositional defiant disorder and autism spectrum difficulties) is diagnosed earlier and more frequently in boys than girls? Boys need to try things or touch things. Time outs work better for young boys. Girls can be told “no” or it can be explained to them and they are more likely to accept that more quickly.
Physical safety. Parents who have raised boys and girls don’t hesitate to say that boys are more difficult. Because of their energy level, need to try and touch things, and desire to experiment make them more prone to injuries. Often girls are told to be careful, not to do that, or you could get hurt and that is enough to stop them from trying something. Boys? Not so much. Knowing they might get hurt is often all it takes to stop girls. If boys are told they might get hurt, they’ll be MORE likely to try it. What if they get hurt? Well, that’s just bad luck. However, allowing boys to explore, and yes even get hurt occasionally, develops confidence and self-reliance in them. As a matter of fact, boys consider their casts and stitches as badges of honor. Parents: be sure to buy extra bandages and take a deep breath.
Boys and girls might both enjoy playing with stuffed animals. The boys will line them up to launch them out the window or to otherwise involve them in something dangerous. Boys will engage in parallel play or team, play--not to mention war of some kind. Girls would line them up to have a tea party or do some more collaborative things like playing school or playing house,
Communication. The answer to the question about who is harder is “both.” Boys are more difficult at first then girls are more difficult later. At the beginning, girls are more interested in colors and textures whereas boys are more attracted to movement. These differences are responsible also for the differences in what and how they draw. Girls use more rainbow-hued colors to draw nouns while boys are drawn to blue, black and silver to produce pictures that are more verb-like, action oriented, according to Dr. Sax. Another important note for parents to understand is that boys hold eye contact for a much shorter period than girls do. In families that have girls first, parents can be concerned about this issue as this can be an early indicator of autism. It is because of the way a boy’s brain is structured and allows them to develop this skill as they (and their brain) mature.
When girls turn 8 or so, everything changes; little girls have been more drawn to faces and non-verbal cues. Because they are more adept at reading faces and at communicating, they spend a lot of time doing it. There can be a big deal about who’s mad at whom, and who’s friends with whom, etc., etc. It is important for parents to establish an open line of communication from a very young age so that as the social drama increases, she will turn to her parents for help.
Self esteem. Hands down, it is harder raising a girl who has healthy self-esteem. Because girls are typically more “other oriented” it can result in being care takers and people pleasers. According to Jeann Berman who wrote The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids, society puts pressure on little girls to “put others’ needs first, ignore one’s own gut feeling, and avoid asking for what one wants has traditionally harmed girls” more than boys. Although being caring and nurturing is important and something we want both our boys and girls, parents need to be sure to encourage their daughters to explore unknown things and to pay attention to what they want.
Body image is a large part of self-esteem. It is most troubling to see and hear young g elementary school aged girls worrying about their weight and thinking about dieting. In the effort to offer healthier school lunch options, the question we need to ask ourselves, “are we unwittingly ‘feeding’ our daughter’s obsessions with body image?” Mothers have to be careful not to spend too much time focusing on their own physical appearance. Fathers it’s up to you to nurture your daughters’ self esteem. Dads to a large extent, responsible for their daughters’ self-confidence and self esteem. As dads encourage their daughters to be successful, they need to be sure to compliment their character traits and encourage them to be adventurous and try new things.
School. Boys are mostly more difficult to help through schools. In his book Gender Matters, Leonard Sax observes that one of the things that make school achievement more difficult for boys is the growing tendency of even pre-school and kindergarten to become more academic in their approach. Kindergarten is more focused on indoor, verbal tasks rather outdoor, hands on activities. Boys need hands on activities such as music, clay work, finger painting and physical exercise. When kids have a hard time finishing their school work, it is common place to have them miss recess, have silent lunch, stand “on the fence” or sit on the bench. We are doing exactly the wrong things for what would be most helpful for our boys. One area that girls tend not to do as well boys is in spatial relationships, such as geometry.
Based on an article in Parent Magazine, June 2008 by Paula Spencer