As anatomical differences make genders, differences in brain chemistry make sexes. It is a proven truth that sex differences are real and not just stereotypical brouhaha. To a great extent it determines one’s views, judgement, behaviour, and attitude towards life. Therefore, it is necessary on our part to raise our sons differently than our daughters because their needs and demands are sexually different. Although the differences do not apply to all boys and girls, they apply to most, and their effects on parenting can prove to be useful knowledge.
How to deal differently with boys and girls
Communicate with boys through action and girls through talking
Most mothers claim that communication with their boys, especially teens and above, has been their toughest challenge. Even Bubbles and Bunny’s mother complained about it. Boys
Respect action. So act more and talk less with them. If you say you’re going to give your son a whole bar of Bournville chocolate and then you don’t, you will lose your credibility. If you say that you will lend him your Smartphone to take to college and then back out, he will lose his faith in you. If you explain the situation to a girl, she will usually understand. But boys respect action more than words and when you don’t follow through what you have promised him, it is like you haven’t done much. As a result you may be ignored or dismissed. Even from an adult perspective, men feel unloved and disrespected if they do not get enough concrete evidence from their partner that they are valued more than anyone else. Therefore, not only in parental relationships, but in any relationship with men, act more and talk less. You will be trusted and respected.
With girls, however, it works differently. Just tell them you are angry and stop talking till they can behave better (not advocating that it is the correct thing to do!), they will think over the consequences and come round. Why? Because they are anxious to maintain the relationship and will go a great length to maintain the status quo. They might try to use their superior verbal skills to defend themselves, argue their point, try to blame others, but in the end if you stick to your guns, they generally comply because the relationship itself is very important to them.
What is the justification for this approach?
Girls respond to verbal approach by talking things out. Therefore, talking could be an appropriate parenting style for girls. Boys require a different approach because they not only learn to talk later than girls and use more limited vocabularies, but they also have more trouble expressing their emotions in words. Take the case of Bubbles for instance, he did feel bad that his mother would get into trouble for his misdeeds, but he couldn’t arrange his thoughts into words. All he could say was, ‘I don’t know. Gimme lunch.’ (Perhaps that is why many of my psychotherapist friends claim that there is a much higher number of boys who visit their clinic. Their emotions pile up to a point where they require purging.) Since men do more and speak less, they are more involved in the action of life. They love action packed activities—roughing up, tumbling, and wrestling (usually at all ages). Most Shin Chan cartoons are a hit with all age groups—from 4 to 54—because Shin Chan Nohara is a precocious little 5-year-old, who often drives his mum and dad up the wall, drops his pants, bares his backside, and does a little jig if scolded. Boys make sounds associated with action—such as Vroom! Vroom!—while pulling their toy truck or cars. They do not watch your facial expression as much as they watch your actions.
For your boy child
When your boy reaches the age of 14, explain to him the importance of mastering people skills. Being only action oriented won’t do. So help him in studying faces intently and consciously read other non-verbal signals such as tone of voice while communicating with others. Tell him that words are like coins—they have another side to them, which must be read too. Close observation and experience exposes that side. Teach him the art of reading between the lines even when he is talking to someone over the phone or chatting or reading e-mails and SMSes. Teach him to be people-oriented.
For your girl child
When your girl is around 8 years of age, teach her not to be so overly concerned about other’s opinions because not all criticism (from so-called elders) is well-meaning. This is a tactic many people adopt. Since girls are adept at communicating, they give undue importance to what others say. Bunny was upset that Mamma did not scold Bubbles hard enough but was always angry with her.
Start to establish an open communication with your daughter once she is 8 or 9, so that she can come to you any time for advice to know what criticism is well-meaning and what is not, so that she learns whom to take seriously and who not to. As she grows up, encourage her to confide and seek advice from a trusted mentor or a very trusted friend.
A girl’s hearing is more sensitive and the verbal centres in their brain develop more quickly than in a boy. When it comes to warning or reprimanding her, remember how sensitive she is about her image, so never admonish her publicly.
Disciplining boys and girls
Disciplining is essential for how a child turns out. Just as much as food is essential for the body, discipline is essential to train the mind. The methods of disciplining a child are what make all the difference. Disciplining leads to the ability to work well with peers. It also fosters the ability to think not just about oneself, but also the society at large. Disciplining your child is not about creating conflict. It is about empowering him with the skills to make the right decisions at the right time and right place.
There are three types of learners—visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. Visual learners respond well to visual inputs and stimuli. They are the children who can ‘read’ McDonalds and Coca-Cola before they have been taught the alphabet! Auditory learners can follow instructions and tend to lean a lot on their auditory input. These children can recite jingles from television commercials after hearing them only a few times. Kinaesthetic learners require movement to learn. These children need to physically manipulate things like base ten blocks to conceptually understand numbers. These learning styles not only impact how you will teach your child but also the way children can be taught discipline. Visual learners pick up many visual clues. So if you put your fingers on your lips, they get the message to be quiet. Kinaesthetic learners need to be held, cuddled, and possibly shown how they need to behave. Auditory learners will benefit if you say ‘Shhhh’. What does not work is if you yell ‘quiet!’ to a kinaesthetic child.
For your boy child
‘Finish your studies and I will give you my iPad to play games on.’ Discipline a boy child mainly with a reward because they don’t respond to verbal approach. In the book, The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life, researchers Michael Gurian and co-author Kathy Stevens say that the brain of the boy is different from the girl. Boys tend to be more kinaesthetic, spatial, mechanic, and hands-on learners. They rely a lot on their gross motor skills. (To mention in passing, boys are more impulsive particularly as toddlers and when they are in their pre-primary years. Experts say these developmental differences contribute to the mislabelling of their normal behaviour as problematic.) The mother who has observed them either fighting or turning every activity into a contest will agree. Parents need to be more patient and lenient with them at this developmental stage.