Boys and Girls

Dr. Miriam Stoppard boysandgirls

It’s a biological fact that there are differences in behavior and development between boys and girls from birth. Don’t enforce stereotypes, but help your baby to develop skills that don’t come as naturally, such as language for a boy and spatial skills for a girl.

Differences in brain development

Gender differences stem from the way the brain develops in male and female embryos. For a baby to learn and develop, certain connections have to have taken place between the right and left halves of the brain. Girls grow these connections earlier than boys (many are already in place when girls are born), which enables them to adapt faster to their new environment after birth. Connections form in a boy’s brain more slowly, and because of this later development, a baby boy will need slightly more help from you to reach his milestones.

Avoiding stereotypes

Stereotypes influence children and, worse, they tend to make people label certain qualities as inferior and superior – the latter usually being attributed to males. When children are taught to think, feel, and act in line with a stereotyped model, it can stunt their personal growth. Individuality should be encouraged, regardless of gender.

Discouraging stereotypes in a boy

Don’t stereotype him into the traditional male role with too-boisterous games, loud talk, loud toys, and by only dressing him in blue clothes.

Don’t burden him with the “big boys don’t cry” attitude; big boys do cry, and he’s only a child!

Little boys are naturally very loving – make him proud of that and don’t sneer when he shows affection.

Stress gentleness from a very young age.

Let him have a doll and soft toy to cuddle.

Play down aggression by being gentle, but firm.

Discouraging stereotypes in a girl

Encourage physical activities usually associated with boys; these will help your baby’s muscle development.

Make her feel important through eye contact and by using her name; this helps her to develop a sense of self.

Don’t always whisper baby talk to her.

Don’t only provide her with soft toys.

Don’t only give her dresses and pink clothes to wear.

Newborn babies

The differences in behavior and development of boys and girls begin at birth and continue as they grow and develop. In newborn babies, the differences are mainly in the way they use their senses to perceive things and in the kind of things in which they show an interest.


Hearing in boys is less acute than in girls, which means they have more difficulty in locating the source of sounds. Girls are more easily calmed by soothing words because of their acute hearing. Whisper close to your baby boy’s ear to stimulate his hearing and to help calm him.


A baby girl uses her voice to get attention earlier and more often than a boy. If a newborn boy hears another baby cry, he’ll join in but will stop crying quite quickly, whereas a girl will cry for longer.


A newborn girl responds enthusiastically to visual things. A boy quickly loses interest in a design or picture and requires much more visual stimulation up to the age of about seven months.

Social skills

Boys are as interested in things as they are in people, while girls show a clear preference for the human face. This female trait continues into later life as an ability to intuitively read facial expression. Encourage your son to develop his social skills by holding him 8 – 10 in (20 – 25 cm) from your face so he can see you clearly.


Think about your attitudes and the types of activities you’re encouraging, since these influence how your child develops and comes to see him or herself.

Influencing your daughter

As a father, you may consciously or unconsciously reinforce your daughter’s femininity. Fathers often involve boys in “rough-and-tumble” games, whereas they’ll be more gentle with girls. Expose your daughter to all kinds of activities and let her choose – rather than limiting her to traditionally feminine pastimes like ballet and drama, introduce other activities like baseball, too. Don’t fall into the trap of believing some behavior is acceptable in boys and not in girls – you diminish your daughter if you do this. Try to be aware that your daughter is very likely to feel devalued if she sees you devaluing her mother.

Influencing your son

Research shows that boys learn how to behave from their fathers. You can encourage your son to develop the more attractive male qualities (such as gentleness and a sense of responsibility) rather than the less desirable ones (such as being aggressive, dominant, and confrontational) simply by the way in which you behave. Your son will watch your actions and will imitate you in every respect. ?The quality of fathering that he receives from you is the most critical factor in how he views himself as a male.

Girls Gender differences up to age six

Natural ability:

Girls are better at language skills like talking, reading, and writing, and they tend to keep this ability.

Social skills:

Girls are more sociable than boys – they’re more interested in people and feelings and display this regard for others even in the first 12 months.

Behavior and personality:

Girls cope better with stress and are more conciliatory. They tend to have fewer behavioural problems than boys.

Physical growth:

Girls walk earlier than boys. They grow faster and more steadily; they don’t tend to have growth spurts. They gain bladder and bowel control earlier.

This is an excerpt from “First-time Parents: What every new parent needs to know”, by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, DK Publishing.





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