Raising girls and boys: Are there differences?
Parents with both a son and a daughter might immediately say yes. But those without children or with only sons or daughters may wonder if raising girls looks different than raising boys.
Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a pediatric psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, weighs in on three of the most commonly discussed differences between raising boys and girls.
“Studies have found that, on average, girls tend to develop language and other social communication skills faster, such as making eye contact, using gestures and reading social cues,” says Dr. Roberts. However, the differences are often minor, and this does not mean that all boys will develop language later than their female counterparts.”
“It has been widely observed that boys take longer to potty train than girls, but this doesn’t mean that is the case for all boys,” she says.
Dr. Roberts adds there is a lack of scientific evidence to explain the observation, so it can’t be said for certain if there is a specific biological underpinning.
“Some explanations that have been offered include the fact that young boys are often more active. Taking it a step further, it has been suggested that boys may be encouraged to be more active and run about while girls may be socialized to be more still and focus longer on a single, calm activity — the latter possibly being more conducive to potty training. Girls also tend to develop language a bit earlier on average, which is thought to possibly put them at an advantage for toilet training. Boys may take longer because they are often taught two different ways of using the toilet (sitting and standing). Ultimately, what’s important is that most children get through this stage and figure it all out!”
On average, girls begin puberty between 8 and 13 years old.
“Puberty brings a slew of physical and psychological changes. Parents with girls on the early end of this spectrum may need to pay particular attention to how their child is navigating these changes socially and emotionally. Are they receiving a lot of new attention? Being treated differently or bullied? Feeling more insecure or embarrassed? Checking in with children and having conversations can allow parents to provide support, teach problem-solving skills and intervene or ask for help when necessary.”
Dr. Roberts encourages parents to engage their children in conversations about puberty and what to expect.
“You can also coach your child on how to appropriately respond to peers who may show signs of early development. This can be very awkward and uncomfortable for parents,” says Dr. Roberts. “Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to help. Even a quick internet search yields a wealth of guidance on how to talk about puberty.”
Differences (or lack thereof) aside, every child is unique and develops in their own way. “Developmental trends are just that – trends. Children will be influenced by factors specific to their environment,” says Dr. Roberts. “Whether late or early in acquiring a developmental task like talking or potty training, most children get where they need to be. If you have concerns, reach out to your child’s pediatrician. There is no stupid question, especially if an answer can bring you peace of mind.”
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About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.