Contrary to the popular nursery rhyme, boys are not actually made of slugs, snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails. Nonetheless, fundamental differences between boys and girls do exist, and they can have a significant impact on the manner in which boys are raised. While fathers benefit from the experience of their own gender, mothers may feel themselves lacking in knowledge of boyhood.
Biochemical differences -- lower levels of serotonin and oxytocin - mean boys actually cannot remain as calm as girls. Boys may seem constantly on the move because their brains are made that way. This propensity for rough and tumble play sometimes comes with a cost, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that boys are approximately twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
The physiology of boys’ brains is also different from that of girls. The hippocampus is slower to develop in boys, which means they lag slightly behind girls in verbal development and other sensory categories such as sight, sound, memory, smell, and touch. This may contribute to the fact that boys are five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed somewhere along the autism spectrum, according to the CDC.
Many people argue that boys like puzzles, blocks, and tools, while girls prefer dolls, tea parties, and dress up. These gendered ideas actually do have some scientific basis. Zero to Three points out that by age 3, boys’ brains are better developed than girls’ brains to navigate how things fit together and relate to the spaces around them.
Mothers of boys benefit from letting them move as much as possible. Unstructured outdoor time is essential. However, as Zero to Three notes, the brain is wonderfully plastic in the early years and parents and caregivers do have the chance to help boys compensate for the slower parts of their brains. Mothers should also try to engage boys in conversation as much as possible and, of course, read plenty of books to them.
It is easy to fall into gender stereotypes: boys like to run wild while girls like to sit and play quietly. But these are merely general differences between boys and girls. There are, of course, highly verbal boys who would rather sit quietly than play rough and loud. A mother knows what is best for her boy, and she must always remember that his life is a combination of nature and nurture.
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