When learning about the differences between genders or temperaments or learning styles and their effect on your child, try not to think of anything as “here’s what’s wrong with my child” but instead focus on:
- here are things my kid is good at – I should give them plenty of opportunities to do those things so they have a chance to feel competent and successful and
- here are areas my child may need extra support in developing – what are some ways I can gently challenge and nudge them in that direction on good days without pressuring them (especially not pressuring them on days when everything is already feeling hard)
Here are thoughts for supporting boys and girls:
Helping boys succeed
- Physical activity is essential: give him active chores, ensure he has plenty of time for big motor play. If he has a shorter attention span, it helps to break big jobs down into smaller tasks, and switch things around when working, alternating activities.
- While girls learn best with words (spoken or written) as their primary source of information, boys learn better when they can manipulate or view the material.
- Take advantage of boys’ natural curiosity and desire to fix things by giving problems to solve. Take advantage of his desire to compete by issuing challenges.
- If you want to connect with a boy, do something physical together. Especially if you want to have a “serious talk” with him: Do it while walking side-by-side, not sitting and looking at him.
Helping girls succeed
- Encourage physical activity of all kinds. Treat her as a brave, strong, athletic child.
- Encourage her to practice skills that build spatial intelligence – build with blocks, make and use maps, and play video games that let her “move” through spaces and put pieces together.
- Play with toys that move – cars, paper airplanes, balls – these help predict motion.
- When boys are stressed, they have an adrenaline-fueled reaction – either moving toward a danger (fight) or running away from danger (flight). These outbursts are hard to miss, and may be seen as disruptive behavior. A stressed boy might do best to get up and move, especially outdoors where he can be loud. But, he can also be taught to take slow deep breaths to calm his response.
- When girls are stressed, they have an oxytocin-fueled response (the collect-and-protect response, aka “tend-and-befriend”) – they are more likely to turn to other people for support and to help defend from perceived threats. Their stress may be quieter and go un-noticed until they begin to cry. A stressed girl may do best when someone moves in close to her, speaking in a calm, quiet voice, and offering support with problem-solving. source