My sister and I have had a long-running debate about who is harder to raise, boys or girls. She’s the mother of three boys ranging in age from 6 to 18. I have two girls, one is almost ten, the other 28. Over the years, we’ve gone back and forth and have finally come to the conclusion that boys are harder when they are little and girls are harder when they are older.
And it would seem that the experts agree with our assessment. Boys and girls are harder in different ways. And a lot of the differences have to do with their stages of development.
For example, disciplining a young boy can be more difficult than a little girl for the simple fact the the boy isn’t listening to you. According to Michael Gurian, family therapist and author of Nurture the Nature, girls can hear better in the frequency range critical to speech discrimination. When you tell her “stop that,” she is more likely to actually stop. Boys, on the other hand, are less verbal and more impulsive and “may need to be picked up and plunked in a time-out chair.”
And then there’s physical safety. Little boys, in addition to being impulsive, also tend to be more aggressive and rowdy. As a result, they get hurt more than girls. But, as Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., points out, parents of girls would do well to encourage their little ladies to be more adventurous as risk-taking helps build character, self-confidence, resilience and self-reliance.
And when it comes to communication, parents will also find a marked difference in boys and girls. While baby girls are attracted to colors and textures, boys are drawn to movement. What this means is that girls, who are interested in looking at faces, are better at reading non-verbal cues including facial expressions. Boys, on the other hand, generally develop verbal skills later and have more difficulty connecting their feelings to words.
So, up to this point, boys may present more parenting challenges than girls. But as they reach the pre-teen years, girls will more than make up for that.
Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., says that as girls begin to face “cultural pressures” to put other’s needs first, their self-esteem can begin to suffer. They are absorbing lots of conflicting information about how they should look, act and feel and this can play havoc on their sense of self-worth (and your marriage). Throw in some puberty hormones and you’ve got a recipe for non-stop drama that may well last until you send them off to college. And beyond.
As someone who has never been responsible for the care and feeding of a son, I am clearly no expert on this subject. How about you? If you’ve got at least one of each, tell us: Who do you find more challenging – your son or your daughter?
Image: Ken Wilcox/Flickr
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