One reason that men and women do not talk and act the same is their brains operate differently. Our youth may benefit from this understanding.
Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do To Shape Boys Into Exceptional Men presents an excellent presentation of how young boys react compared to young girls. The dissimilar reactions are partially caused by actual brain functions, not societal influence. In infants, the female brain develops faster than the male brain. In both genders, the left hemisphere develops later than the right. In males, the lag is greater. When the right side of the male brain is ready to hook up with the left side, the left side is not ready. This results in an even stronger right brain for boys, or an even stronger spatial development. In girls, the left brain is ready to be connected sooner, which leads to their earlier linguistic development.
Little boys are stronger spatially, located in the right brain, and little girls are stronger linguistically, located in the left brain. Most girls have a larger vocabulary by two years of age. Most boys are better at activities involving space. Boys often need more space in which to play while girls may be happier in a small area. These are generalizations and may not be true in all youngsters. Most children in early grades need more physical activity and should not be confined to the classroom all day. Too often discipline problems are simply the result of ignoring basic needs.
There are other female/male brain differences pointed out in Gurian’s book:
The dominance of testosterone in males makes them more aggressive. They are not more violent, simply more aggressive.
The male brain weighs more and has a greater volume than the female brain.
Females have a larger corpus callosum that separates the left brain from the right brain and is responsible for the connections between the two sides of the brain.
The larger corpus callosum in the female brain results in more connections in a female brain. Since the two sides connect sooner in girls, there is an earlier balance of their brain functions.
In adults, more sections of the female brain are at work more often than in the male brain. The male brain tends to turn on and off. In contrast, the female brain tends to be active most of the time.
The female brain is considered nonlinear because of seeing the whole picture while the male brain is described as linear because of the on-off tendency.
None of the above statements makes males or females victims of their brain functions. Research indicates that activities such as spatial awareness can be taught. No one can claim inability. Men are capable of nonlinear thinking, even though this type of thinking comes more naturally to women. Activities are needed to develop skills for all students, with special notice being given to the needs of each gender. These notes are not always gender-specific. Many women are very good at linear, spatial activities and many men think holistically. Often this reflects some training on the part of that individual. We can help our youth with this understanding and training.
This material is revised from Chapter 7 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).