From the moment you knew whether your child was a boy or girl, you probably had ideas about how it would be to raise this child and what your relationship would be like. Even if you try to raise your boy and girl children exactly alike, you will likely exhibit differences in how you raise your children, according to pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton in his book “Toddlers and Parents: A Declaration of Independence.”
From the Beginning
From your child’s earliest moments, there are gender differences in children and in the way family and friends respond. Dr. Brazelton says that infant boys tend to be more active and girls tend to be quieter and more aware of their surroundings. As the child grows, parents tend to play more vigorously with boys and cuddle with girls more tenderly. Little girls may wear pink and lace, while boys wear more masculine clothing such as jeans and T-shirts. Toys differ, too, with boys receiving sports equipment, action figures, trucks and play tools, while girls receive dolls, stuffed animals and dress-up clothes. Parents may worry about both equally, but boys are more likely to die of SIDS, according to KidsHealth. Little girls are more likely to be sexually abused, according to the Child Welfare Information Center.
Preschool Through Elementary
When your child turned 4, he knew he was a boy and she knew she was a girl. If your child has siblings of the opposite gender, your child might even be aware that boys and girls have different body parts. Until your child reaches junior high, best friends tend to be from the same gender. Boys tend to choose more masculine toys and be more physically active with a need for more space to sprawl. Girls opt for toys they can nurture or use to imitate Mom and are more verbal, says Healthy Children. Girls tend to talk sooner and have a larger vocabulary than boys, multitask better, develop fine motor skills earlier, hear better and transition from one task or lesson to another better, according to a study of the learning needs of boys and girls published in the Summer 2010 edition of “Educational Horizons." This can make your daughter’s elementary years much smoother and easier than your son’s.
During the middle school years, you may notice that your son handles spatial tasks such as map reading, geometry and hitting balls better than your daughter. Upper elementary and middle school girls hit a growth spurt between ages 10 and 14 and begin puberty between 8 and 13, according to Dr. Mary Gavin at KidsHealth.org. Boys hit puberty between 10 and 16, with a tremendous growth spurt between 12 and 15, so middle school girls are often taller and more sexually mature than their male counterparts. Both may obsess over looks and body image, with girls usually having more issues than boys.
Parents often treat male and female teens differently. Dads may worry about daughters and their physical vulnerability to others and worry that boys will make foolish and impulsive choices, according to family and school counselor Dale Sadler. Sadler suggests that you talk to your teens about your concerns. You could send your daughter for self-defense lessons to make it less likely that she will become a victim. Teen years are stressful for parents and teens, and can make you worry about your teen's emotional and mental health. If seriously depressed, girls are more likely to attempt suicide and boys are more likely to succeed, reports clinical child psychologist Michelle New. Seek help if your teen's stress levels lead to a fixation on death, withdrawing from friends and family or intense sadness.
- Toddlers and Parents: A Declaration of Independence; T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.
- KidsHealth: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Child Welfare Information Center: Executive Summary of the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect
- HealthyChildren.org: Gender Identity and Gender Confusion in Children
- Educational Horizons: Gender Matters in Elementary Education -- Research-based Strategies to Meet the Distinctive Learning Needs of Boys and Girls
- KidsHealth: Growth and Your 13- to 18-Year-Old
- KidsHealth: Encouraging a Healthy Body Image
- Empowering Parents: Raising Boys vs. Raising Girls: A Case for the Double Standard
- KidsHealth: About Teen Suicide
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images