Often to the chagrin of my husband, I’ve been reading (and quoting from) a lot of parenting books lately. One that should be required reading for all parents and teachers: Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax, MD, PhD. If a teacher tells you your child has ADD, do not pass go, do not fill a prescription, read this book immediately.
Why Gender Matters describes the physiological difference between boys and girls, and how those differences affect children, particularly in how they learn. According to Sax, age and gender are the “two great organizing principles in child development.” For example, boys and girls develop different parts of their brains at different times. “Trying to understand a child without the role of gender in child development is like trying to understand a child’s behavior without knowing the child’s age,” Sax writes.
Boys and girls play, fight, see, hear, speak, think, and learn differently, but that doesn’t mean that nature trumps nurture. Sax helps you understand gender differences and then gives you practical advice about how you can best help your son or daughter learn. Here are a few issues he addresses:
• In school, overly academic kindergartens can set boys up for failure from the get-go, while girls more likely will feel the negatives of “gender-blind” education in middle school and high school.
• If you have a son who’s a daredevil, saying “don’t do that” isn’t going to cut it, so find a safe outlet for that energy. On the other hand, there are ways to encourage your daughter to take more risks.
• A boy, whether 6 or 17 years old (and I’m guessing up to at least 46), may really not know how he feels, much less be able to talk about it, whereas your daughter more likely has the awareness of her emotions and the vocabulary to describe them in detail.
Most important, boys and girls are different—neither are better. As parents, it’s our job to understand that, let go of the illusion of gender neutrality, and embrace the differences.
My friend Robert, who went back and earned his teaching credentials through Stanford University, recommended that I read Why Gender Matters. I’m glad I did. Do yourself a favor and read it. Then do a friend a favor and pass it along.