It might seem pretty obvious but boys and girls are definitively different! Most parents could tell you a number of things about how their boys and girls are different and really, those differences go all the way to the brain, including how our eyes and ears work!
Our culture so badly wants to tell us that there are no differences between boys and girls and that they can choose to be whatever they want. The truth is that there are major biological differences between the sexes. Boys tend to be loud, are attracted to things that move and make noise, and love taking risks!
The best part is that these differences should be celebrated and encouraged because our world needs strong men. And that’s why it’s so important to be encouraging masculinity in our boys.
Boys and girls are different on many levels, but one of the more basic ones is literally how they see the world. Their eyes contain more rods, which are color-blind and see in black-and white. This makes boys’ eyes (and therefore, their brains) more wired to detect direction, location, and speed. Girls’ eyes contain more cones, which makes them more attracted to colors, textured and faces.
Because the eyes are an extension of the brain, the way a person sees determines the way their brain processes information. Boys are more easily able to focus on movement, particularly the movement of small balls whizzing through the sky. This is one physical reason why boys gravitate to sports and motion, while girls gravitate towards faces, whether faces on people or on dolls or characters.
Obviously this isn’t a hard and fast rule (plenty of girls like sports!) but in general, boys love cars and balls because their eyes and brains are wired to look for movement and speed!
These differences extend to the ears as well! Studies show that girls of all ages can hear better than boys of the same age, from infants to adults. This is one reason why boys can tend to be louder in talking and movement: they simply don’t realize how loud they are (to a woman’s ears). They aren’t trying to be loud, they just are because their ears aren’t as sensitive.
These two major biological differences may contribute to the other big difference that you might already be aware of if you’re a parent to a boy.
Risk taking is one big thing that sets boys apart from girls.
Boys thrive on risk: girls avoid it to some extent. In almost any situation, boys will look for ways to make a task more challenging or exciting: and they will increase the risks automatically (and astronomically) when other boys or men are present.
This is true across the animal kingdom: the males of different species are more likely to take risks and to get killed while taking risks. Physiologically, boys experience a tingle or a charge from risky behavior, whereas girls may feel more nauseous or fearful. This makes boys more likely to do things because they are dangerous. Moms: they aren’t trying to freak you out, they just can’t help it!
Boys will do risky things if they find those things adventurous and exciting. Boys are also less likely to report injuries, especially if they took a risk and failed, and they are more likely to attribute a mishap to “bad luck” rather than an error in judgment.
Scientists have documented (as if parents needed to know this) that boys in groups drop a point in IQ and judgment for each boy who joins the group. As one teen guy put it, boys are “stupid in groups.” It’s one reason why parents need to monitor a group of boys under their supervision almost minute by minute: boys in a pack could start doing literally anything at a moment’s notice!
Boys crave risk and adventure, but they need to be educated into doing it wisely. Learning a skill from an experienced person keeps a boy in touch with reality and teaches him to more accurately assess his own abilities and progress.
We want to be careful not to squash the risk-taking, but to give guidelines and allow them to explore! Supervise your sons during risk-taking: give them rules and stick to them. We understand why moms tend to try to stop their boys from taking risks (they don’t get that “adventure tingle” their sons do!), but risks are important in letting a child develop judgment. Taking little risks now will help them face big risks later on with better discernment.
If you find your child doing inappropriately risky things, don’t kill their spirit of adventure. In fact, part of parenting is providing kids with opportunities for adventure!
So give them adventurous things to do! Campouts, sports, martial arts, traveling, exploring new places and things can provide good risks that dare both sexes to be brave and wise. Provide your children with contact with reality so that they don’t try to assuage their appetite for adventure with video games or inappropriate and morally suspect behavior (stealing, promiscuity, bullying). Kids building bike ramps and climbing trees might make a parent nervous but a better stance is to supervise the risk. “Ok, you can build a ramp but I need to inspect it first. And you need to wear a helmet.”
Even if you have to say no to an activity, recognize that boys, in particular, will still be seeking an outlet for adventure and risk, so provide those outlets in other ways.
Boys and girls are very different. You probably already knew that. But our culture wants you to think they aren’t. Our boys will one day be men and it is so important that we encourage them to embrace first their boyhood, and then, their manhood.
Give them opportunities to explore the limits of their bodies. Let them take calculated risks. Let them fail. Encourage them and train them in how to treat people well and not abuse the power that comes with the strength of their bodies.
Our world needs good men. And we’ll only get them when we encourage masculinity in our boys!
If you’d like to hear more on this topic, check out our most recent podcast episode here.
Watch our podcast episode on this topic on video!