Boys can be a mystery to many parents, particularly those who were raised in all-girl households or who have had minimum exposure to males in their formative years.
Research supports the notion that the more you know about boys the better placed you are to meet their needs as a parent, carer or teacher.
Here are nine facts to help you better understand what makes boys tick:
1. Boys are more likely to be heuristic learners than girls.
Boys, more than girls, are likely to learn many of their lessons from experience rather than being told. This can be make parenting them challenging, particularly if you don’t have an appetite for risk yourself. Perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping them safe so some risks need to be out-of bounds. It can also be difficult as a parent being the support person when the lessons that boys learn bring hardship and tears.
2. Boys brains are designed by a different architect
In the first five years of life a girl’s brain is busy developing fine motor skills, verbal skills and social skills, which are all highly valued by parents and teachers. Meanwhile, a boy’s brain is busy developing gross motor skills, spatial skills and visual skills. These are all handy hunting skills. So boys often start school with a distinct disadvantage when it comes to learning and fitting in.
3. Boys mature differently to girls.
The maturity gap between boys and girls of anywhere between 12 months and two years, seems to be consistent all the way to adulthood. Parents should take this into account when deciding the school starting age of their sons. This maturity gap is also evident when kids finish school and move into tertiary studies or the workplace. Girls are often better placed to succeed, and many boys get lost once they leave school.
4. Loyalty is high driver for boys.
Understand that a boy’s loyalty to his friends and family is a key driver and you’ll begin to understanding the male psyche. They are incredibly influenced by their peers, which can hold many of them back. It takes a brave boy to get too far ahead of the pack, so they often hold each other back when it comes to achieving.
Loyalty to others can get boys into trouble. Call a boy’s sister an insulting name and you are in for fight. Insult his friends and you are asking for trouble.
5. Boys are more likely to be visual learners
Boys generally need a reason to learn. If you are having difficulty motivating your son then try linking learning to their interests. They may play a musical instrument when they know they can play in a band or practise their kicking if they can see it will help kick more goals.
If they love skateboarding the chances are they want to know more about it, so use this as a lever to motivate them if reading is a problem.
6. Boys fight more than girls (you probably knew this).
Leonard Sax author of Why Gender Matters reports on the year long study of elementary (primary school) students in the playground where boys fight 20 times more than girls. The fighting wasn’t always destructive, as they researchers found that boys usually ended up being better friends following the dispute. Sax, notes that male primates have the same proclivity toward fighting and theorises that aggression is a part of the socialisation process for males. He asserts that male primates that don’t fight with other males when young, grow up more violent as adults, not less. I’d hasten that even though some boys may fight, an important part of the socialisation process is to teach how to resolve conflict with words, rather than using physical means.
7. Boys benefit greatly from silence.
Boys don’t have the same innate tendency for reflection that girls are born with. Don’t get me wrong, males of all ages have the ability reflect on their behaviours, values and their lives (when older) but they need the environment to be right for them to do so.
Quiet time and down time give boys the chance to let their thoughts wander around inside their heads. It also helps them get to know and even like themselves. Boys will often do their best thinking on their own, so they tend to retreat to their caves (bedroom) when things go wrong at school or in their relationships. They need to go within to find their own answer.
8. Boys just want to blend in
Boys are group-oriented by nature. They want to fit in. They tend to play group games and form themselves into structured friendship groups. Boys generally don’t want to stand out from the crowd.
Don’t put them down in front of their friends and understand that they may make poor friendship choices rather than be in a group of one – by themselves. They prefer the ‘wrong friends’ rather than no friends at all.
9. Approval is at the heart of working with boys
Approval is at the heart of working successfully with boys. They will walk over broken glass or hot coals if they feel you like them. In a sense this notion holds many of them back, as most boys will only work for a teacher if they like them and close down on learning if they sense the teacher doesn’t like them.
Take the time to nurture a relationship with your sons or the boys that you interact with. Some boys like to talk; others like to share an activity; some like you as an adult to do something for them; others are very kinaesthetic and love to be touched, cuddled and hugged; while some just love gifts and mementoes. Work out the relational preferences of the males in your life and make sure you match these.
For more tips and tools for raising boys, please join us for our Parenting Boys online course.