Why girls are easier
It’s all in the brain says psychologist Michelle Minnaar.
(Getty Images)
The results of our Parent24 2009 survey revealed that most parents felt that boys were a greater challenge to raise than girls, across all age groups. 

What the survey didn’t indicate, however, was what makes boys and girls so different and why they subsequently pose different challenges. What are these key differences?

Brain size

High-tech scans show that in both boys and girls, certain areas of the brain are bigger or busier than in the opposite sex.

Girls' brains are bigger in the area that handles feelings like sadness and empathy, while boys’ brains are larger in areas that handle emotions like fear and anger. Girls tend to be more considerate, even by the age of 3. Boys are more direct and confrontational, yet they don't take things nearly as personally as girls do. When boys fight, they quickly make up whereas girls remain enemies longer.

The parts of the female brain that process language are more densely packed with nerve cells than corresponding parts of the male brain. This may explain why girls often begin talking a few months before boys do and usually have better verbal ability. In school, girls generally outperform boys in reading and writing.

The part of the brain that handles space perception is bigger in boys and they are better at thinking about objects in three dimensions. This spatial ability is one of the most noticeable sex differences and it gets more pronounced through childhood and adolescence. In school, boys tend to do better at spatial subjects such as geometry.


By age 2 boys are noticeably more physical than girls. They typically start walking three to four months earlier than girls do and usually outperform them in motor skills such as running and climbing.  Girls, however, develop fine motor skills much earlier and race past boys in tasks such as holding a crayon, using eating utensils, zipping a jacket, and learning to write. This head start will stick with them until preschool. 

Girls start using non-verbal gestures like pointing or “waving bye-bye” earlier than boys. Girls understand what you're saying before boys do and start speaking earlier (at around 12 months versus 13 to 14 months for boys).  At 16 months baby girls can produce as many as 100 words, while the average boy only manages 30. However, at about 2 ½, both boys and girls have approximately 500 words in their vocabulary.

Baby boys are better at keeping track of moving objects.  They are about two months ahead of girls when it comes to figuring out the laws of motion (that if you roll a ball under a couch, for example, it will take a few seconds to come out on the other side).

Girls maintain eye contact as newborns longer than boys do and say their first words sooner. They are also master imitators at as young as three hours of age.

Behavioural differences

Boys express fear later than girls, and less often. Young boys startle less in response to loud noises or stimuli. If you warn your one-year-old son with a fearful face as he approaches a toy, he will usually disregard you and go for the plaything anyway. Girls will cautiously slow their approach.

Girls' hearing is more sensitive and the verbal centres in their brains develop more quickly. That means a girl is likely to respond better to verbal discipline strategies such as praise or warnings such as "Don't do that.”  Boys tend to be more responsive to tactile discipline and they may need to be picked up and put in a time-out chair, for example.

Girls are better at reading nonverbal signals such as expression and tone of voice. As girls reach the age of 8 or so, however, this adept skill of communication can become complicated. Girls experience a lot of emotion around how they feel and how others feel. There can be a great deal of drama around who's mad at whom and who said what.

To sum it all up

Girls tend to be the more cautious, caring sex who are skilled communicators. Boys, on the other hand excel at physical activity and tend to be more confident. As young children, these differences are evident in terms of behavior and discipline, which is probably why many of you found your sons more difficult to handle. Once they hit adolescence though, girls can soon become a handful with self-esteem and other emotional battles and can become more difficult to parent than boys. It’s a fun and exhilarating ride either way and one thing’s for sure:

Being a parent will never be boring!

Here's a table of other interesting differences between boys and girls.

Do you think girls and boys are innately different?

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