By: Rose Gonzaga-Tacang
“Who is more difficult to raise, a son or a daughter?”. This probably has been a subject of (friendly) debate between parents or even grandparents for a long time. Some parents would say that it is harder to raise boys because they are so makulit or they don’t listen when you tell them to do something they don’t like to do. Other parents would say it is more challenging to raise girls because they can be maldita or they are so sensitive that one wrong word could trigger a tantrum. Being a mom to a feisty 7-year old boy, my patience is tested every single day, but when I hear about stories from parents who are raising daughters, I feel their struggle as well!
Raising a child is indeed difficult. I am yet to meet someone who can tell me that they had a breeze raising their children. But can there really be an answer to over which gender is more difficult to raise? Chill, Moms, and Dads. Here are some things that we should think about before we go into another one of those debates!
Think Thunk (The Croods) and Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup (Powerpuff Girls)
When raising a boy, your days and nights would probably be you chasing after him, making sure that he doesn’t hurt himself while playing. That stuffed animal you bought for him as his nap-time companion would be the poor victim of numerous wrestling matches. When raising a girl, you worry about her physical safety as well, but, it gives you some relief knowing that girls tend to be more cautious in doing physical activities, like running down the stairs or jumping off a chair.
You may also notice that parents of toddler boys are less uptight when their children are still learning to walk – a little bump or stumble is something that they would not worry much about. It is quite the opposite when it comes to toddler girls; parents are inclined to extend more guidance and protection so they won’t get hurt.
When it comes to emotions, boys can pretty much change from being happy to sad or angry. For girls, it’s much more difficult to tell which emotion they are experiencing, especially when they have those mood swings. One minute she’s sweet and in a flash, she can be on maldita-mode.
Studies show that while boys and girls develop motor skills at almost the same age, boys experience fear at a later stage, making them more inclined to take risks. This explains why boys find jumping around or making themselves a human mop so enjoyable. On the other hand, girls’ hearing and language skills develop earlier. Compared to boys, most girls are able to talk earlier and can verbally express their emotions better.
It is the third time that you told your boy to stop playing soccer inside the house and yet he keeps on kicking that ball. You tell your girl not to eat cookies before bedtime and she questions you why she’s not allowed to do so. At preschool age, this type of behavior may be normal and believe it or not, a good indicator of development – this means your child is building confidence and self-esteem.
However, parents should also be aware when assertiveness could already be leading to bad behavior. There are plenty of strategies and techniques that parents can apply to address discipline problems but to make this less difficult, it is important to go back to gender-specific development.
With girls developing hearing and language skills earlier, they are more responsive to feelings and are more open to talking things over. Give out constructive criticisms, make sure that you relay your message in a positive way since girls can be overly-sensitive.
As most boys develop verbal skills later than girls, they express their frustration by screaming, stamping their feet or hitting. While sitting them down and talking to them about what they did wrong is also the most appropriate way to address misbehavior, it is more advisable to apply a more direct or blunt approach. The longer the discussion, the less they pay attention.
Communication is as Different as Night and Day
When you ask your son about his day at school, you get those short, one-sentence answers. You have to pry in order for him to tell you about his school experience, and if you are unlucky, you would probably get a “Mommy, you ask too many questions!” from him. Boys are action-oriented and because they develop language skills later than girls, it takes a while before they can connect their emotions with words. It’s the other way around with girls. Yes, she will tell you about her how her day went, but expect that it would come with questions as well. Since girls progress emotionally earlier than boys, they are also good at reading facial expressions and tone of voice so you should be more careful not only with what you say but how you say it.
Regardless of gender, it is important to establish open communication early on so that when the time comes that your kid needs your advice, he or she would not shy away from you.
Boys, being that they are more physical, tend to think that the tougher they are, the better they would be. It is hard to maintain that balance between being able to stand up for himself and not be seen as a bully and being a gentleman and not be perceived as a pushover. For girls, being better means you must have nicer clothes, nicer hair, nicer shoes, nicer toys. Insecurity becomes one of the many issues that need to be addressed.
In developing self-esteem, the challenge for us parents is how we explain to our child which things are more important in life. This becomes more and more difficult the older they get, and the more they get exposed to societal pressures. As parents, we can help our children develop self-esteem by praising good behavior, offering words of encouragement when they feel like they have not done enough, or avoiding criticisms that comes in the form of shame or ridicule. Keeping a positive environment at home is crucial in influencing how our children deal with life outside the comfort of our homes.
Boys would appear to be more difficult to teach compared to girls because they are restless and impatient. They are more likely to leave their seats and move around. Once again, how children cope in school is affected by where they are in terms motor, hearing and language development. When it comes to learning, boys usually require more hands-on teaching and attention.
For boys, a conducive learning environment would be a busy (or noisy) classroom, with the curriculum focusing on movement and visual aids. They learn quicker through actions. For girls, a quiet atmosphere where they can concentrate is more ideal. They are able to read better and write faster (and more nicely) than most boys.
Taking the above into consideration, is it possible to come up with a consensus on which gender is more difficult to raise? I say yes, but the answer would depend on what you are looking at and at what age your child is.
Our brains have been so wired with gender stereotypes (e.g. boys are stubborn, rowdy and disorganized while girls are too sensitive, talkative and moody) and these biases dictate our perception as to which gender is harder or easier to raise. If we get rid of those stereotypes, we can realize that raising boys and girls are equally difficult – and just different. Boys and girls develop at different rates and instead of focusing on gender alone, we should look into their age and where they are on a developmental scale. More importantly, we need to understand our child’s personality, abilities, and needs so that we can adapt our parenting styles based on these many factors. Remember, children are the greatest imitators so us parents should also be aware of our words and actions and serve as models of good behavior. Yes, it is not an easy task but there is no greater reward when we see our children grow up to be happy, successful, compassionate adults.
Rose Gonzaga-Tacang is a loving mom and wife to two of the most rowdy and hot-headed but most precious males in her life – her son, Luke and her husband, Chris. She has been in the HR profession for more than 10 years and is fondly called as Mommy T by her colleagues. She loves to read and watch movies and is a closet-gamer.