What are little boys made of? What are little boys made of? “Frogs and snails, and puppy dog’s tails That's what little boys are made of!”
What are little girls made of? What are little girls made of? "Sugar and spice and all things nice That's what little girls are made of!"
I have been teaching two-four year olds for the last 10 ½ years. Four years before that, I worked as a counselor for troubled teen boys and girls. Two and a half years ago I became a mother (of a boy) for the first time. If you had asked me before I gave birth if I thought boys and girls were inherently different I would have said no; that they were only different because we, as adults, treat them differently. Since I have become a mother I have had to change my view on this matter (along with so many other things, it seems).
A review of the literature out there mostly presents very conflicting ideas. On one extreme there are those who are adamant that girls and boys are poles apart in all aspects of development. Talk to mothers that you meet and you probably will get the same response; boys are magulo because they are boys and girls are masunurin because they are girls.
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On the other extreme are those who advocate that it is society that dictates them to be so. A study that best describes this tested how adults would behave depending on the gender of a baby. They used the same baby throughout the experiment, but when the adults were told that the baby was a boy, they offered him boy toys, and when they were told the baby was a girl, the adults were gentler.
So what are these differences and why all the hullaballoo about them? I have put together a chart based on my observations as well as those of two other teachers who have been teaching children from infancy to twelve years old and from other sources:
I have to say that, based on my readings and my experience with children; all of these observations are true. Yes, society does influence the way we deal with children and how we mold them.
However, we also cannot ignore the fact that, innately, there really are differences between boys and girls. And, perhaps this is why it has evolved that we do not treat them the same way. It is not because society is sexist, but because it was a way of coping. We allow boys to be loud and obnoxious because that is how we think they should be and we compel girls to be quiet and polite because that is what we expect of them.
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An article I came across that is worthy of note is from an organization that promotes single sex or exclusive schools. They site various studies that have found that boys and girls do not necessarily develop differently, but that certain areas of their brain that control different functions, develop at different rates and different times.
Therefore, it would not be correct to say that boys will always be better at building things because their tower of blocks at three years old outshines anything girls can or will build at that age. One cannot also say that girls are the better artists because their fine-motor skills mature earlier than boys. A lot will also depend on individual preferences. Maybe some girls will not find building things exciting just as some boys may find the arts boring.
These findings support the fact that girls can do the things that boys can do and that boys can be just like girls provided that adults (parents, teachers, caregivers) are aware of their differences, can get past gender stereotypes, and help each develop in a well-rounded manner.
Photography by Ocs Alvarez
References: • “Boys vs. Girls”. DifferenceBetween.net. n.d. Web. 1 March 2011. differencebetween.net NASSPE VI. NASSPE. n.d. Web. 1 March 2011. singlesexschools.org • Sethi, A. “The real difference between boys and girls”. Parenting. n.d. Web. 1 March 2011. parenting.com Stossel, J. “Difference between boys and girls”. abcNews. 17 Oct. 2006. Web. 1 March 2011. abcnewsgo.com