The Difference Between Boys and Girls

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Boys and girls are different. Give a toddler girl a G.I. Joe and she'll probably try to mother it. Give a toddler boy a Barbie, and he'll pull off its head or pretend it's a gun. Boys and girls are psychologically different, physically different and also mentally different.

In January 2006, Newsweek ran a cover story on the difference between boys and girls called "The Trouble with Boys" written by Peg Tyre. Boys are many more times to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Boys are more likely to drop out, and sooner, to get lower grades, and to be diagnosed with learning disorders.

Newsweek attributes these alarming trends to, of all things, schools and how they teach students.

Boy brains are drastically different than girl brains. Girls, even young students, tend toward multitasking-an ability that serves them well later in life, juggling work, family, and a social life. Boys work on one, maybe two, tasks at a time-something that annoys women everywhere when the boys become men and cannot grow out of that.

Boys learn by doing. Boy brains are kinetic and tactile. They are stimulated by taste, touch, and smell. Girls use their eyes and ears to learn.

Ask any boy in elementary school and "Lunch," "Recess" and maybe "P.E." will be in their top five subjects in school. Ask girls, and you'll probably also find lunch and recess on the list, but not as high. For both girls and boys, lunch and recess are social times. But while boys are playing tag, Dodge Ball, or "Bumper Bodies" on the slide, girls are over near the bars talking and playing "10 tricks."

In the classroom-especially in the lower grades-boys can create havoc for their teachers and classmates. Boys are more likely to fidget, get up, lean back in chairs, and be a disruption.

But does this mean that boys are just bad? Of course not! Boys are just being boys. It's how their brains work. Boys are more active, and more apt to get frustrated when they don't live up to the expectations of their teachers and parents.

Where did these expectations come from? Before any of us attended school, the big push in public academia was to get girls' test scores up. Thirty to forty years ago, girls were on the "losing end" of the academic stick. The government and school officials decided that something needed to be done. The school format changed to the one we know now-sit down, be quiet, and do your work-which works wonderfully for the girl brain.

Since then, and especially in the last 10 years, expectations for boys have changed dramatically. As early as kindergarten, kinetic, impulsive boys are told to sit down, be quiet, and do their work. Parents and administrators demand teachers to have a calm, controlled classroom, rather than teach the students in the way they learn best. As Ms. Tyre write for Newsweek, "Instead of allowing teachers to instruct kids in the manner and pace that suit each class, some states now tell teachers what, when and how to teach."

In kindergarten, boys have a better hand-eye coordination while girls can sight-read more words. According to the Newsweek article, "In elementary-school classrooms-where teachers increasingly put an emphasis on language and a premium on sitting quietly and speaking in turn-the mismatch between boys and school can become painfully obvious. Girl behavior becomes the gold standard...Boys are treated like defective girls." However, states the article, although there is a discrepancy early in life, by age 18, boys and girls are processing information at the same rate.

Because of the gap between girls and boys, some schools have experimented with separating girls and boys and creating more interactive lessons. The results are more disorganized boys-only classes, more rowdy interactive lessons, but better participation and better test scores all around.

While not all teachers and school administrators will change school policy because of a few anecdotal positive results, there are still things that parents can do to make school more fun for boys. Make homework more fun and interactive for younger students. Give plenty of time for running around between homework assignments.

What can you take away from this? What should you do when your teacher suggests your boy may be ADHD? First, remember that the teacher is not a doctor, and even the doctors don't know everything. The long-term effects of the common drugs prescribed for attention deficit (Adderol, Ritalin) have not been studied. Above everything else, talk to your son. If you do decide on medication, make sure you're medicating a disorder and not "normal".

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