The answer seems to be similar to “what came first the chicken or the egg?” The big question…Who is harder to raise? Boys or Girls?
Boys seem to be harder to keep physically safe. They are often found running through the house, jumping off the bed and climbing to the top of very high trees, much to their mothers’ dismay. Boys tend to be natural risk takers fueled with enthusiasm to push for adrenalin rushes. Boys will need to be nurtured and encouraged to take it easy, while girls will often need to be pushed to take some risks. It is important to not stifle children’s natural tendencies to play, as trial and error helps them grow, build self-confidence and explore their world. The bottom line is a good balance is needed between taking risks and playing it safe for both boys and girls.
In the realm of nurturing and encouraging a healthy self-esteem, girls definitely present more challenges. Culturally and socially, subconscious pressures are placed on girls everywhere they look, from television and print media to billboards. An unnaturally thin and flawless body-type image is displayed everywhere as the “ideal” way to look. Mothers have to be careful in falling prey to this belief as well, because even more than the advertising, little girls observing their mother frown in the mirror and bad mouth her image will make a long standing impact.
Culturally it has become accepted as proper to put others needs before our own. While young and impressionable, we become very used keeping our desires to ourselves and ignoring our gut instinct, which in turn can create a lack of self-worth. Encourage your children to be open with their desires, trust their gut instinct and listen to their body.
Girls as well as boys will benefit from involvement in extracurricular activities and sports, especially activities that involve team building and working together with others.
The term ‘selective listening’ might have been coined while parenting little boys. Simon Baron-Cohen’s book The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain proposes that “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems.” Little girls will often snap right up and listen to a stern voice or warning such as “get down” or “don’t touch that”. Little boys on the other hand will often need a physical reaction, picking them up and moving them away or removing a toy. “We know that culture plays a role in the divergence of the sexes, but so does biology. For example, on the first day of life, male and female newborns pay attention to different things. On average, at 24 hours old, more male infants will look at a mechanical mobile suspended above them, whereas more female infants will look at a human face.” says Simon Baron-Cohen.
Parents are encouraged to set their children up powerfully to expel extra energy: it could be sports, daily family walks or any other high impact activities. All children, but especially boys, need a chance to wear off excess energy daily.
“Girls tend to talk earlier than boys, and in the second year of life their vocabularies grow at a faster rate. One-year-old girls also make more eye contact than boys of their age.” notes Simon Baron-Cohen
Starting school can be a little more challenging for boys right off the bat because their brain develops at a different rate than girls. The emphasis in modern day school is on indoor, linear and textbook learning rather than hands on or outdoor activities. Boys who begin school less mature can find this more difficult to adapt to. They are still learning self-control, fine motor skills and attentiveness in their early years, while girls are usually farther along.
However, in the pre-teen years the tables turn and boys seem to have an easier time while girls struggle a bit more. The focus switches from academics to concern about interpersonal relationships and worrying about self-image.
Similar to the school trend, boys seem to be harder to communicate with earlier on and then in the pre-teen years they switch. Girls from their younger years are much more interested in watching family’s faces and begin to be able to read expression, emotions and nonverbal signals. Boys are more interested in action and movement. When drawing, little girls often draw using a rainbow of color, focusing on objects, people and places. Boys lean towards black, blues and grays, creating pictures of cars crashing, fires and battles.
In their teen years, girls become much more sensitive and concerned with what other people are saying and they learn that many of their friends are not worthy of the trust they gave them. They become more fearful and start to withhold information. Parents are urged to create open and trusting relationships with their children at a very early age so when school and friend drama arises they will feel safe going to you for advice.
In Nurture the Nature, author Michael Gurian states that children are not blank slates to be shaped as we wish. Rather, each is born with a unique core nature–specific needs, strengths, vulnerabilities, and learning style that cannot be adequately supported with a one-size-fits all approach. In agreement, Baron-Cohen is adamant that the descriptions “male” and “female” simply represent averages, and that either gender can have either brain type.
The bottom line is that raising children has its blessings and challenges, regardless of gender.
What has been your experience? Are boys harder than girls? Vice versa? I’d love to hear from moms and dads who are raising both a boy and a girl at the same time. Do you feel it has to do with age? Genetics? Parenting style? Or something else?