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wundayatta's avatar

How is raising boys different from raising girls?

Asked by wundayatta (58591points) September 30th, 2010

Do you teach them different things? Do you worry about different things? Do you have different expectations? Do you relate to them differently?

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33 Answers

arturodiaz's avatar

My parents raised me to become a hard working men, my sister was raised to become a gentle girl. I just have one thing in my head at a time, my sister multitasks. I became atheist, my sister is hardcore catholic. I am pragmatic, I buy my clothes once in a year in about a three hour shopping center session, My sister buys her clothes all through the year, she goes to the mall once a month at least. My sister is more the creative type. Girls and boys are really different. Personally I believe is easier to raise a boy than a girl, is cheaper too.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would never raise them differently, obviously but I would explain and prepare them for the world that would treat them differently. I have 2 boys but I never think of them as boys, you know? I just think of them as my children – big bird and baby bird, I call them and they’re these incredible beings I’m privileged to raise and no phrase to the effect of ‘don’t do that, boys don’t do that’ ever leaves my lips.

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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@noelleptc My son loves clothes just as much – he tells me exactly what patterns he wants on his underwear and I better buy those, :).

Seek's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, the only differences are physiological.

I know several parents that filter their kids’ TV time (for example) on basis of gender. I couldn’t care less that Ian likes Dora better than Diego, or that his favourite colour (this week) is pink. I try to offer my son all sorts of different experiences and allow him to choose which appeal to him. As of right now, he’s into baseball and crayons and cars, and has never touched a stuffed doll or a dress-up costume. But they’re there.

(My son is also into money. He gets my spare change and spends ages putting it in and dumping it out of his monkey bank. He’s even got down the names of the different coins. Not bad for two, I think.)

kenmc's avatar

I’m not actually raising kids right now, but I do baby sit a lot and my approach is pretty much what @Seek_Kolinahr said. I don’t care if my nephew wants to play with a doll, nor would I care if my niece wanted to play baseball instead of house.

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Otto_King's avatar

My son is almost 2 years old, and he is in the age when pushing the boundaries is his favourite thing to do. It’s really hard now to pay constant attention to him. My cousin has a daughter tough, and his brother has 2 daughters, and they are absolutely different from my son. More calm, more understanding, no pushing boundaries game, etc. Up to this age, the girls are better… :)

Seek's avatar

@noelleptc He loves it, and we have a goal – as soon as he gets enough money, we’re going to Ikea to buy him a train set he asked for.

muppetish's avatar

My uncle has three sons and one daughter and each child requires different parenting tactics. They aren’t taught different things (as in how they should behave) but they respond with variation to situations and need to be addressed based on their individuality. From a teaching standpoint, I think this is plausible. Not all children behave the same, regardless of their biological sex.

In my Children’s Literature class, I was shocked by the number of parents in the room who still maintained that boys and girls should be raised entirely differently based on societal gender norms. Even when it came to toys. I suppose in my insular bubble, I thought we were past the “dolls are girl toys and trucks are boy toys” mentality.

I can’t really think of a principle that I would teach a boy but not a girl or vice versa.

GladysMensch's avatar

I have 2 daughters, and I can’t say that I would raise boys much differently. Both girls play sports and instruments, have lots of friends, love video games, and have great imaginations. I think boys would be much the same. The main difference between them and boys (besides their body parts) is that girls get a much wider variety of clothing and hair options.

However, my oldest just started middle school, and I’m probably going to be more protective of her when she starts dating. Boys tend not to get date raped.

GladysMensch's avatar

@mupperfish; I agree. Marketing for toys is probably the most gender specific example there is. Just watch the commercials. “Girl” toy commercials usually have soft, melodic music with sweet, gentle voices. “Boy” toy commercials usually have loud music and announcers with lots of rapid cuts. I explained this to my daughters as soon as they started watching television.

wundayatta's avatar

@GladysMensch You have raised the issue or age that I am most interested in: teens I overheard some women talking about raising boys and girls, and how boys are getting into trouble and they have to keep the girls from having boys get them into trouble.

I was/am interested in how parents go about this. Do you watch and intervene, if necessary? Are you more protective of girls? Are you more afraid for boys? What do you do? Do you give girls earlier curfews? Manage their dating? Do you try to keep boys extra busy? How do you treat them differently?

If you haven’t had or got a teenager, have you seen other parents treat teens differently? How so?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta I know my parents raised my brother and me differently – he had no curfew, was allowed to go out, etc. I was scrutinized. Years later, he’s dead (at age 23) because of drunk driving and I’m the one with degrees and kids. My parents were wrong to think I’d be in constant danger and that he wasn’t, as a teen. I know some parents who don’t treat their teens differently and these teens are growing up to be incredible activists. Here, in some pockets of NYC, it is considered very antiquated to raise teens based on limited gendered notions. I think we, as parents, strive to hear what each of our kids say to us, individually while understanding what pressures they face out there where most peoples still socialize their kids, according to gender. I know, here in Brooklyn, it’ll be tough for my boys, as teenagers, to not act like douche bags who call each other faggot for fun at 12 years old but I hope I can do something right to make them be a bit above that.

GladysMensch's avatar

@wundayatta I’m not afraid that my daughters will be more likely to get into trouble because of boys… I’m sure they’re more than capable on their own. I just want them to be aware of potentially unsafe situations.

cazzie's avatar

My son is going to be 6 in two months and he’s been really picky about his clothes and hair for some time now. He is also very money motivated, so we have an old Pringles can where he can put money he earns with his chores every week (taking out the small bags of garbage, emptying the silverware out of the dishwasher..) He likes to go look at the girls clothes in the store and says that the boys clothes department is ‘boring’. I’ve managed to avoid buying any girls clothes. I think he just likes the looking because of the brighter colours. He’s a real rough and tumble kid. If he falls attempting a trick at the park, even if he hits himself really hard, he HAS to get up and do it again until he gets it. I’ve never seen that in a kid so young.

As far as toys, he’s always wanted cars and trains and boys stuff. But he really loves his tea set and playing tea party. He asked for a play kitchen last Christmas. I would have gotten one, but we just don’t have the space. He didn’t attach to a soft toy to sleep and cuddle with until he was about 3. His father has been absent for about half his life and I have no family here so his examples for male behaviour has been an autistic older half-brother (which has caused some issues) and, thankfully, a decent daycare ‘uncle’ or two. (It used to break my heart listening to him accidently call them ‘pappa’.)

Boys and girls can be different, but all kids are. He has a little friend who is really really careful and wouldn’t even think to pitch a fit or do anything risky where he might fall.

I think it’s best just to take kids as they are. All that gender stuff will work itself out during puberty, hopefully, but first and foremost, they’re just little people, especially when they’re young.

The ONE thing I see that is different about the boys and girls now at 5–6 years old, is some of the girls, when they get together in groups, are all about drama or creating it, if it’s not exciting enough. Most of the boys just get down to playing with their toys together.

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Seek's avatar

@noelleptc Same here, Ian just likes handing the money to the counter person. ^_^

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YARNLADY's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir What do you make of scientific studies that state that boy’s brains are demonstrably different from girl’s? And what role does estrogen versus testosterone play in your view?

casheroo's avatar

Well, you don’t have to teach a girl to aim their penis down.
I did not know this when it came to potty training. It has led to a very messy bathroom! I’m still working on it, and my son likes to pee outside..I still can’t figure out how to help him without getting urine on my feet. Ugh. lol

I don’t relate any differently. They both watch me do “girly” things, such as doing my hair and make up. I let my oldest use my blow dryer and if he ever asked for make up, I’d let him (I don’t really wear much but I do wear eyeliner…I’d probably get some blush or something for him to play with. )
My son is very boyish, it’s just who he is. I do feel like we mold him, but he picks what he likes..we just encourage it.

Seek's avatar


That WebMD article does not give any numbers. That’s disappointing, because clearly those “males do this, females do that” statements are not absolutes. There are many girls who excel in math, and many boys who begin speaking quite early. I’m wondering exactly how disparate the differences actually are, and the scale of the study.

Also, the article does not at all address children or adults with a biological sex other than their gender. I would be interested to know whether a transgendered individual’s brain matches up more completely with the average related to their gender or their sex.

The article also mentions that the differences between “male” and “female” brains are the result of conditioning,and can be altered with same. Something as simple as girls being (gasp!) allowed to play sports traditionally reserved for boys could reduce the discrepancy ni female spatial ability.

roundsquare's avatar

I’ve never raised kids, but I did get to observe my sister being raised. Although my parents treated her a bit differently, the mostly just let her do what she wants. It turns out that she fits some stereotypes, but not others.

My person (and of course, inexperienced) view would be let them do what they want, but just keep the real world in mind. Before they go to college, teach your daughters that there are a lot of men out there that like to get girls drunk and take advantage of them. Teach your sons not to do that. They will fill into some stereotypes, but as long as they are happy, thats good enough.

Or… maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY I believe that socialization actually causes changes in the brains leading to these ‘results’ you hear all the time in kids and adults. I’d suggest you read “Brain Storm” by Rebecca M. Jordan-Young to see what I’m talking about and for some incredible debunking of the popular studies claiming differences – btw, there are about 80% more studies showing no differences and in terms of hormones, I think they play less of a role than we think and we know little about them, to begin with (in terms of interaction with environment and brains). I am not saying there aren’t physiological differences but we pay too much attention to differences between the sexes even though there are more within each sex. Another issue I have is the leap people take from biology to behavior when what they’re actually talking about are social norms that are culture and time bound.

rooeytoo's avatar

@YARNLADY – have a look at this as well. It is interesting reading. How in heaven’s name could anyone ever tell what a non-conditioned male or female brain would be like. From the minute a child is aware there are messages coming at them saying blatantly or subliminally this is what girls like and do and this is what boys like and do. There is no unbiased existence unless you kept someone locked in a room with no outside influences from the minute they are born. Not really a realistic experiment.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@rooeytoo Yes, and totally unethical – I would love to do those experiments, though if there was some ethical way to do this – if, say, 10 parent teams agreed to live in isolation and send zero messages to kids about what genders do and model no distinction themselves (it’d still be muddy, though) and then we can look at how those kids turn out.

YARNLADY's avatar

So the question is, how do so many children who are raised to be “boys/girls” manage to be ‘different’ anyway? My niece was raised as a cute, ribbons and lace little girl in dresses, and has managed to grow up to be a prize winning gymnast, slow pitch baseball playing, athletic teenager. She has chosen to dress like a boy and cut her hair short now.

My point is, is doesn’t hurt them to be raised a certain way, as long as the parents are in touch with their child and can allow them to grow into their own person.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@YARNLADY Because children see (the lucky ones, anyway) other ways of being and other choices. I was raised as an uber girl and turned against all that come high school and it never made sense to me again. People learn beyond what their parents teach ‘em but they’re also screwed if their parents don’t accept their new way of being. Besides, there are many girls like you describe whose parents still expect them to get married and have babies and get out of that ‘tomboy’ phase.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know. To suggest that these differences are purely cultural is to suggest that there is a massive, world-wide conspiracy to impose gender roles on children. If it weren’t innate, you would expect more than a few children to grow up without standard gender orientations.

I know tons of parents of my generation—early feminists, who were bound and determined to raise children without the burden of gender roles. These are people with a serious theoretical need to make this happen. I don’t recall hearing a one of them say they succeeded.

I always tried to push my daughter to participate in sports, but she shied away. I never had to do any pushing with my son. He was always into physical things. He was climbing trees at age three. My daughter climbed trees, but not so soon and not so willingly.

Of course, my daughter is an ace at schoolwork. I expected my son to be, too, but he hates it. He hates reading. And we are a family full of academic types.

There’s no way I can believe that socialization can achieve an equalization of talents and interests. It hasn’t worked, and I’ve really tried. It’s beyond my control.

One thing that kills me is the rat issue. My wife expects me to take care of rodents and when we set traps, she puts all kinds of barriers up so that if we catch one, she doesn’t have to see a dead rat.

This one feels like socialization, but it may not be. My wife, to my great annoyance, seems to have trained my daughter in this dislike. My daughter was at least willing to look at the dead animal when she was younger, but no more. I was pushing her to be girl who would grow up to be able to handle these things on her own, but I failed, and my wife didn’t help.

My son has changed, too. He has always let his sister play with him like a doll. She would dress him up and put make up on him, and toenail polish. This last really bothered me, because I hate the smell. But I am an equal opportunity smell hater. I don’t like it when my daughter does it, either.

But here’s the weird thing. My wife doesn’t put on makeup and I don’t like makeup. How the hell did my daughter become so interested in looking good? She does makeup and clothes. No one in my family history has ever done clothes. My wife’s family doesn’t look all that trendy, either.

Where does this shit come from? Well, for one thing, TV. My daughter started watching those makeover shows—make-up, clothes, interior decorating, you name it.

I also suspect that school and peers have a lot to do with this. My son stopped really being into make-up as the years in school go by, and my daughter becomes more interested—lip gloss, for one thing. Actually, my son is still jealous, I think, of the lip gloss thing. But, in this case I believe, socialization has taken things out of our hands.

Socialization, I believe, can change some things, but not the overall tendencies. Underneath socialization, I think, has to be biological pushes in certain behavior directions.

Correlation is not causation, and it could be true that all the different behaviors are caused by socialization. However I don’t think that explains how pervasive these behaviors are, particularly when people work diligently to overcome them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta It’s not a worldwide conspiracy – gender socialization is due to everyone and no one, really. It is important to have clearly defined roles for men and women for, I’m sure you can guess, many reasons not the least of which is control and economic structure. Gender identity is so inherent to people’s core beings that they can’t see outside of themselves, sometimes, to see that they were socialized to believe one norm is better than another. There are many people that feel limited by their gender roles but are kept in place and policed (subtly and not so subtly) by others around them to continue to be properly gendered. There are many times kids are told (if you ever spend an hour at a playground) to drop this game or that or this action or that because ‘only boys do this’ and ‘that’s only for girls’...(as a side note, there is a mom with a son who loves to wear rings on his fingers at the playground and she gets crap all the time from other parents, for no good reason, who feel it is their purpose to tell her how to properly gender her son…I feel terrible for her and have stood up for her son to a number of strangers after I gave him my own giant ring to wear…he was so happy, I can’t even tell you…to have parents go consistently against what makes their and other kids happy in order to uphold this ‘order’ is beyond me)...gender socialization and reinforcement is constant and consistent and it has to be…because if it wasn’t, you’re right…you’d see a lot more kids not interested whatsoever…and sure some girls would act like girls are ‘supposed’ to act but so would boys and whomever else and vice versa…

You don’t have to pressure your daughter into sports or your son into veterinary school because you think that’s what makes them less gendered…because you’re not the only influence in their life and and they care a lot more about what their peers say even if they say they’re independent…children aren’t raised in a vacuum, ever…not even when they’re tiny…most of my son’s ‘this is what boys do’ lines come because he heard the educators at his pre-school say it and he follows that rather than what I say because it matters more to him that he’s not bothered in pre-school and I understand that but wish our society wasn’t one where my children have to make such a choice…in terms of innateness and biological tendencies and all the studies pursuing those lines, I really (once again) recommend reading Brain Storm by Rebecca Jordan Young or Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine to really have your eyes opened in that regard.

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thank you for endeavoring to explain your perspective on this.

I urged my kids to do a lot of things they didn’t do, and most of them didn’t have to do with gender roles. I want them to try things and I want them to learn things that I believe will be very helpful to them in the long run, even if they don’t pursue them when they are older.

However, I do respect their choices a lot. My daughter just entered high school, and I was kind of shocked to find that other parents were choosing the high school their children went to. We left that choice to our daughter (except she had to go to a public school). She’s very independent (and has been since she was in elementary school).

She’s not afraid to push for what she wants. In our house, she does that in a different way than my son does it. My son begs and begs, hoping to wear us down. My daughter earns some money and then asks to be taken on a shopping trip. Or she just goes out on her own to get what she wants without asking anyone.

I don’t know if that goes against traditional gender roles or not. Maybe it’s just a difference between two siblings. My son, though, is much more affectionate than my daughter is. When he sees us hugging, he comes over and tries to get into the hug. My daughter sees us kissing and says, “Yuck!” Both kids, however, are peacemakers and organizers in their school groups.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta Your kids sound great and you’re a good parent. Point is, no matter their gender expression, tell them you love them and they’re okay by you. That is all any of us want, really.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have 4 nieces, 2 epitomize the typical female stereotype, 3rd is very feminine but is in her last year of med school the last is a sports fanatic, has been involved in some sort of sport since she was very young. She is also very into stunt riding on dirt and quad bikes, horses and fingernail polish. She is in her freshman year of high school, very attractive and has a boyfriend. (3 different sets of parents involved here) I want them all to have an equal chance to be anything and do anything they want without society making them feel odd. I wanted to be a veterinarian oh so many years ago but the small catholic high school where I graduated had a head nun who did not think this was a woman’s job and also was opposed to good catholic girls attending secular universities so would not sign the transcript and I missed an opportunity to be the only thing I really ever wanted to be. In another thread in Fluther @mattbrown insisted on saying that no “normal” girl would be interested in race car driving. It infuriated me. how many young girls get messages like that and are prevented from doing something they truly want to do.

So yes there probably are some boys who are more male and some girls who are more female from birth or maybe conception but the great majority fall in the mid ground and perhaps never have the chance to fully explore all facets of themselves because society and culture and people who know everything (because of the behavior of rats in a maze) tell them they are not normal or effeminate or tomboyish, etc. if they try.

I can’t understand why so many people are so intent on emphasizing differences when it seems to me life would be so much simpler for all if the similarities were the focus instead or even better just allow everyone to be whoever or whatever they want to be.

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