Boys vs. Girls - Part II

Monday, March 19, 2012 Submitted by Shannon
If you missed our last article on Boys vs. Girls, where we talked about the innate differences between them, check it out HERE.
Once these differences are understood, the more practical questions can be addressed, such as Which gender is more “difficult” to raise?  What potential issues can we expect from each gender? And, should we parent boys and girls differently?  In short, every child is different.  They each have different personalities and temperaments but, in general, there are some commonalities between the genders.

Which gender is more “difficult” to raise?
This question largely hinges on what difficulty is being addressed and at what age.  For example, boys tend to be more difficult regarding discipline.  This is largely due to their challenges with communication (as expressed in our previous article), as well as their higher levels of aggression and energy.   Because of this, boys may require more opportunities to expend energy as well as firmer limits.
Concerning communication, although boys are more challenging at a younger age, things get a little more difficult with girls in the pre-adolescent stage.  They can create a lot of drama, such as who’s mad at whom and who said what.  Parents should establish open communication lines beginning at a young age with both genders — and aim to continue this throughout the teenage years.  
In general, however, to answer the question of “Which gender is more difficult to raise?”, most experts agree that boys are more of a handful in the younger years, and girls become more challenging around age 8-10.

What problems/issues can we expect from each gender?
Boys — Discipline Problems in School
The discipline difficulties in boys may contribute to the mislabeling of normal behavior as problematic.  Five boys for every one girl are diagnosed with some “disorder” (such as bipolar, ADD, ADHD, sensory integration, ODD, etc.), says David Stein, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at Virginia State University.  William McBride, Ph.D. and author of Entertaining an Elephant, states that boys make up 70% of learning disability diagnoses, 80% of those who are diagnosed take Ritalin, and 80% of HS dropouts are male.
The problem is that many of the modern teaching methods are geared more towards girls.  Music, art, and physical exercise — activities that help lively kids acclimate to school  have been given less priority over the years.  As Dr. Michael Thompson says, “Girl behavior becomes the gold standard.  Boys are treated like defective girls.”   
Boys — Physical Danger
“Boys are significantly more likely to do something dangerous,” says Leonard Sax, author of Why Gender Matters.  “Boys systematically overestimate their own ability, while girls are more likely to underestimate their abilities.”  As natural risk-takers, it’s important for parents to let their sons explore, but within clearly established guidelines to ensure their safety.   
Girls — Self Esteem
Although both genders can struggle with self-image, girls tend to be more people-oriented and less confident than boys.  This has implications for their self-worth, as they have the tendency to find their worth in what others think of them.
Low self-esteem is the root of many problems girls encounter as they grow, such as drugs, sex, and bullying.  According to McBride, the number one risk factor for girls using drugs is low self-esteem. Regarding sex, girls will “hook up” with someone just to feel accepted in a peer group.  Low self-esteem can cause girls to bully, and has obvious implications for the girl who is being bullied. 
Body image is also a big part of self-esteem, and in our dysfunctional society, the natural curves a girl develops in puberty (and beyond!) clash with the unnatural slimness of the women of Hollywood.  It’s important that moms of girls are especially careful not to look at themselves critically — their daughters will catch onto that critical spirit and treat themselves similarly.  

Should we parents boys and girls differently?
Although parenting tactics will vary with each child — some, for example, are easily persuaded through words or even a “look,” while others will require more stern and strategic disciplinary actions — there are a few things to look out for when raising boys vs. girls.
For starters, girls tend to be easier to reason with regarding discipline, and they also read facial expressions more easily.  Boys, on the other hand, tend to be less verbal, more impulsive and more tactile.  This means that although parents may be able to “talk to” their daughters and see a change in behavior, their sons may need to be physically removed from the situation and placed in time-out.
Parents also need to be attentive to what their child needs regarding education.  Parents of boys may need to explore the various options open to their sons for “out-of-the-box” education.  In addition, they should not merely accept the labels that educators place on their sons, but should research and discuss them with their doctors and other experts.  It's important to get a second opinion regarding your child's "label".  Parents of girls may need to encourage them to take more risks — whether trying out for the school musical or participating in a team sport.
Parents also need to be careful how they guard their children.  For boys, it may be necessary for parents to set extra limits on risk-taking — such as climbing trees in the younger years and driving too fast in the teen years.  For girls, however, parental guarding may mean protecting them from bullies and reminding them of their self-worth.  
Although parenting boys and girls presents different challenges, the key is to give both boys and girls many growth opportunities and raise them up in a home balanced with discipline and love that meets their unique needs.  

Shannon is a youth pastor's wife and full-time mommy to two little girls. She has a BS in Secondary Education, works as a part-time children’s ministry director, teaches piano, and writes for her own blog (Key MOMents)
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