Boys vs. Girls: Who's Harder to Raise
Can we finally answer the great parenting debate over which sex is more challenging to raise?
Who's harder? Girls
Developing a healthy self-image is critical to all kids. But as the more compliant and people-oriented gender, girls tend to grow up less confident and more insecure than boys, researchers say. Famed gender researcher and psychologist Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., calls this "the tyranny of nice and kind" -- unwittingly raising girls to be people pleasers.
"This cultural pressure to put others' needs first, ignore one's own gut feelings, and avoid asking for what one wants has traditionally harmed girls," says Jenn Berman, a California family therapist who wrote The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. "Despite the fact that she enjoys the positive attention and accolades that people pleasing brings, the more a girl pushes her own needs and desires underground to please others, the more likely her own self-esteem will suffer."
"I see a natural nurturing instinct in my daughter and her friends," says Tracy Lyn Moland, a parenting consultant in Calgary, Alberta, who has a girl, 11, and a boy, 8. "I find myself saying, 'I can take care of that -- you get yourself ready,' when she's trying to mother her brother."
Make no mistake, helpfulness and nurturing are virtues for everybody. But this tendency in girls makes it smart to help her explore and strengthen her inner nature and encourage her to try new things.
Body image is a big part of self-esteem, and though there's certainly body-image dysfunction in boys and men, it remains mostly a female issue. The natural rounding out of the body that happens in puberty clashes with the unnatural slimness girls see in the culture around them.
Be aware of the messages you convey about your own body, diet, and exercise. "It's painfully obvious that girls' negative body image can come directly from seeing their moms look critically in the mirror and complain," says Berman. "Teach your daughter to listen to her body's signals of hunger and satiety. Girls who listen to their bodies tend to listen to their instincts in other areas." Sports are a great way for girls to build confidence and a healthy appreciation for their bodies.