Think There’s An Answer To This Famous Parenting Question? Not So Fast.

The world is a scary place for today’s conservative families, with many dangers facing our children.

We do our best as parents to raise them up with our values, protect them and teach them how to stay safe, but we really never know how they will react to situations until they are presented with them.

With some help from the experts, we can better understand the reasons behind why our kids behave the way they do — and gain insight on the one thing that every parent wants to know.

It’s an age-old question – is it easier to raise boys or girls? While it may seem like there would be a simple answer, it is actually quite a complex issue.

There are some key differences between boys and girls – we all know that.  But what we may not know is the biological foundations behind decision making and processing risk and consequences.

Typically, experts agree that boys are more physically active, enjoying rough play, while girls are more verbal and emotional.

Part of this is environment – nature versus nurture – but the brains of boys and girls really are wired differently.

It turns out, girls are actually born with more sensitive hearing than boys and the areas of the brain responsible for speech discrimination develop more quickly.  This may mean that girls respond better at a young age to verbal warnings and praise.

Boys really are more physically receptive – they take in more information by exploring, touching, and doing, hence the fact that they really are more active and rambunctious in the early years.

Parenting reported:

In a nutshell, girls are rigged to be people-oriented, boys to be action-oriented. Because girls study faces so intently, they’re better at reading nonverbal signals, such as expression and tone of voice. Boys not only learn to talk later than girls and use more limited vocabularies, they also have more trouble connecting feelings with words.

These early developmental phases are crucial to how kids will react to danger or risk later on.  Boys are natural risk-takers and may need to be encouraged to tone it down depending where and when they are displaying this behavior.

Girls, on the other hand, tend to shy away from extreme risk – but this can be a drawback.  Experts say that risk-taking builds confidence and independence when done in a safe and appropriate manner.

Herein lies the problem, though, with raising kids in today’s culture.  Risk-taking is tied to our sense of right and wrong and our level of confidence.

Too much access to risk at an early age can lead to inappropriate and unsafe behavior as kids enter adolescence and early adulthood.  Too little inhibits their ability to keep themselves safe when confronted with danger (think “fight or flight”).

This, combined with self-esteem, which is thought to be significantly harder to develop in girls than boys, will form the foundation for how kids react to situations like bullying, sexual harassment, and peer pressure.

Studies have found that the brains of teenage girls – the areas related to processing emotions and social memory – respond differently than those of teen boys.  They appear to be more susceptible to peer pressure.

The danger lies in them going into a potentially dangerous situation before their “fight” response kicks in because of the differences in their reactions to peer pressure that makes them want to conform or back down during confrontation.

Parenting continued:

“This cultural pressure to put others’ needs first, ignore one’s own gut feelings and avoid asking for what one wants has traditionally harmed girls,” says Jenn Berman, a California family therapist… “Despite the fact that she enjoys the positive attention and accolades that people pleasing brings, the more a girl pushes her own needs and desires underground to please others, the more likely her own self-esteem will suffer.”

Much has been in the news lately about women coming forward as victims of sexual harassment.  This is a grave concern for parents because adolescent and young adult women may be more easily pressured to do something they are not comfortable with, especially if there is an underlying issue of low self-esteem.

They may be victimized and afraid to report it until years later when they mature, whether through experience or the physical changes in these brain functions as they age.

In the same regard, teen boys and young men far exceed young women in committing aggressive behaviors like fighting, assault, hate crimes, or rape.

If their perception of risk is not properly developed when they are young, they are far more likely to misrepresent levels of risk and inappropriate aggression when they get older.

Boys are also thought to engage in risky or aggressive behavior due to the “wiring” in their brains that center around protective instincts and self-defense.  Experts agree that many assaults, hate crimes, and even murders are committed by men who are doing it to defend themselves or someone they feel protective of, or in retaliation for feeling they were wronged in some way (their self-esteem).

Communication is also an area where there are true differences between boys and girls.  As mentioned above, girls start out more verbal and connect speech with emotion far more than boys.

This perhaps explains why parents with girls say there is always some form of “drama,” with girls talking all the time or being emotional, whereas parents of boys seem to complain more of wrestling, fighting, and the kids breaking things in the house.

All of these biological differences in girls and boys translate to their performance in school as well.  Those verbal girls tend to exceed their male counterparts in testing and other indicators of academic performance.

One reason for this?  Because boys are wired for physical activity, they are not as able to focus when stuck in a classroom for long periods of time.  Although academic performance varies depending on each child’s personality, environment, and other factors, the results in the early years cannot be denied.

This is also why more boys are labeled as “disruptive” in class, or worse, mislabeled as having a learning disability or behavioral problem.

If you thought you’d get a simple answer to your question of “who’s easier; girls or boys?” there really is no distinct answer.

The bottom line is understanding our children – their unique character, their personalities, the reasons they react to situations the way they do – and then doing our very best to give them a well-balanced perception of the world.

Balanced and appropriate risk-taking, watching for struggles with self-esteem or confidence, teaching them safe and appropriate reactions to dangerous situations – these are all vital to raising healthy and safe girls and boys.

Let’s face it, kids are hard to raise.  The girls who may be overly dramatic and the boys who may be destroying your house each have strengths that we need to encourage and celebrate and weaknesses that we need to help them with.

So, who’s easier?  If you have girls, probably boys, and vice-versa.  And if you have both, you be the judge and cherish the differences in God’s amazing design for our children.

Do you have boys, girls, or both?  Do you think one gender is easier than the other?  Leave us your thoughts.

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