If you have a son and daughter, or brothers and sisters, you already know that boys and girls learn differently. The differences in boys’ and girls’ brains result in behavioral distinctions in the classroom. It is this neurobiological difference between the two that gives girls their natural tendency to develop in language and writing, and boys a stronger pull towards movement and visual experiences.
What’s important to know about the way your children learn:
- We tend to gravitate toward activities that are easier or more pleasurable. In school, girls and boys engage in activities that align with the way their brains work, but also with the way parents and teachers encourage their participation.
- Actual physiological differences between boys’ and girls’ brains decrease significantly over time. The physical differences are much more subtle between two twelfth graders than two first graders. However, this narrowing of differences may not be obvious to you from your child’s performance or preferences in school – depending on their school and home experiences.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to stereotypes – whether they are implicit or explicit. In fact, the study referenced below on Women’s Math Performance found that when women are told that men are expected to do better on a particular math test, the women scored lower than the men. When no such statement is made before the test, women performed as well as the men.
As stated in Connie Matthiessen’s greatschools.org article, “Girls’ and boys’ brains: How different are they”: “The more we as parents hear about hard-wiring and biological programming, the less we bother tempering our pink or blue fantasies, and start attributing every skill or defect to innate sex differences. Your son’s a late talker? Don’t worry, he’s a boy. Your daughter is struggling with math? Its okay, she’s very artistic.”
What are a couple of misconceptions that we can dispel?
- Stereotyping our children may not just limit them from reaching their full potential; it may distract us from recognizing possible developmental delays that could be addressed by early intervention.
- Considering their full K12 and college experience, boys and girls are both capable of excelling in a range of subjects that fit their learning style, interests and commitment.
How can you help your child reach their full potential?
Dr. Gail Gross gives sound advice in her blog on The Huffington Post: “How Boys and Girls Learn Differently”:
- Choose toys and activities that encourage girls to use their spatial relationship and manipulation skills
- Support study breaks for boys and let them be active in those times
- Ease your daughter’s emotional experience in school by helping her talk through her feelings about school and schoolwork
- Encourage your son’s interests through reading, drawing, writing, humor, journaling, and other literacy skills
- Support your daughter’s participation in sports to build confidence
- Give your son a chance to express himself creatively
- Provide opportunities for your daughter to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
By helping your children stimulate parts of their brains that they aren’t nurturing on their own, you help them develop well-rounded skills. You can spark their interests in things they may not otherwise explore. Additionally, you’ll give them the skills they need to learn and excel in school and in life.
Jeanine Roddy, M.A., CCC-SLP
Frisco Feeding & Speech Therapy