Who Has It Easier Boys Or Girls Essay

People would pay attention to me if I were a boy

1st Place $50

Author’s name withheld

Illustration by Brian Lopez-Santos, 18,
Marshall HS (2009 graduate)

It’s hard being the oldest daughter at age 14 when my dad is never home. And whenever he is, all my mom does is fight with him. I try asking others for help, including my family, but it’s like my delicate appearance just won’t let anyone hear or understand me. Life would be much easier if I were a boy.

If I were a boy, I’d be able to guide my dad closer to my mother’s heart. I would tell him what mom hates the most about him, but most importantly, I’d show him how to fix his mistakes. I would explain to my dad how bad he hurts Mom, and he would listen to me, his son. My dad would probably want to spend more time with me. We would talk about guy stuff, and he would no longer ask me what I made for lunch that day.

Things would be much easier as a boy because I wouldn’t feel like I’m competing about every little thing with all the other girls. If I were a boy, maybe then my parents would come to see me in at least one of my music concerts. Maybe then, as a boy, the other guys who play guitar would teach me something new instead of saying, “You can’t play that!” Maybe my dad would want to proudly watch me perform at my concerts.

I often feel helpless at home. Maybe because there’s no way I can run away or stop the world from turning. If I were a boy, I’d be the young man of the house and be able to set up some rules, like no fighting in front of my little brother and sister. Does no one pay attention to me because they think that just because I’m a girl, all I do is complain about everything that goes wrong in my life?

Life would be easier if I were a boy. The benefits would be spending more time with my dad, and getting more respect. As for now, I shall live like a ceramic doll whose lips are glued shut, hollow inside, but so ready to burst out in screams.

As a girl I’d want respect

2nd place $30

By M.D., Juvenile Hall

To be honest I think that if I were to switch genders for a day, I would be lost. I like to play rough, get dirty and do things that women don’t typically do. I’m not saying that it would be hard, but I know it wouldn’t be easy.

I think that being a female for a day would be interesting. I mean I could cry when I want to, get my hair done, and get a pedicure without people thinking I’m gay or feminine. (Not that it matters to me what others think.) Really, it would be nice to just go somewhere and relax while talking about fashion and the latest gossip. You see, as a man I don’t do too much of that either. I’m training for football, playing basketball or working. Though there are those times when I look at my fiancée and say to myself, “Man, she’s got it easy,” I’d rather remain a man.

The thing I wouldn’t do if I were a woman for a day is date. I can’t stand the way most men treat their girlfriends. It’s just not right. A woman is supposed to be loved and cared for in a way that makes her happy. I’ve noticed that men fail to listen to their girlfriends. Men always want but never give. I’ve watched men dump their problems on their girlfriends but when she has something that she needs to talk about, her boyfriend has no time or doesn’t want to hear it. (Then they wonder why their relationships never work out.) I always listen to my fiancée when she talks to me. Even when she doesn’t want to talk about something that’s on her mind, I encourage her to. That’s how a partner is supposed to be, compassionate and understanding. Many men think it’s a feminine trait and it’s hard to find a man like that. For that reason, dating is not an option.

I think it would be much harder to be a woman than a man. I don’t think I’d like it too much. Don’t get me wrong, it has its positives, but I think I’d still prefer to stay the way I am.

Already one of the guys

3rd Place $20

By Miriha Austin, Monrovia HS (2009 graduate)

If I were a boy, I think I’d be just like my brother. He’s a lot like me and I don’t think I’d change much if I were a different gender. I grew up around a lot of boys and still get along better with them now. Sometimes I even think my life would be a lot easier if I were a boy because I’m just like one of the guys. Being the youngest and only girl in my family and growing up with three god-brothers, I was born into the world with tons of guys around. I grew up tough like one of the boys because my brothers and I would constantly fight and roughhouse. I’m not a sports fanatic like the rest of my family, which is odd, but I think that’s one of the things that lets people know I really am a girl.

I wonder if I would still have the same relationship with my oldest brother and my dad. I’m very close with my dad and older brother, but they say that girls are usually that way—daddy’s girls. But if I were a boy, would we still be so close? I think if I were a boy, I’d actually have more girl friends, and be a lot closer to my mom, like my oldest brother is. I don’t think I’d be so tough, I think I’d be more girly than I actually am as a girl. Sometimes I laugh to myself because my oldest brother is heavily into sports, but will cry like a baby if anything goes wrong. He cries over his girlfriend, his cell phone, football games, EVERYTHING. And me, on the other hand, I don’t, at least not in a room full of people like my brother. I feel that if I were a boy, I would have to prove myself to them so they wouldn’t bother me.

If I were a boy, I think that I would be less popular. I think part of the reason I have so many friends is because I’m a jokester and I can take a lot of jokes, unlike a lot of girls, who might get their feelings hurt. But being that I’m a girl, it stands out more that I can take it. If I were a boy, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Since some of my closest friends are guys, when we go out, it seems like half the time they don’t even realize that I’m a girl. They’ll talk about their girlfriends and what girls they think are cute. I fit in just like one of the boys, so it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like if I were a boy. I think I’d be more feminine, the opposite of what I am as a girl. I like being a girl, and still feeling like one of the guys, because I get the best of both worlds.

Next essay contest—What’s your biggest regret

We make decisions every day. Some of those decisions affect us more than others and many times we second-guess ourselves. Do you ever regret something you did or maybe didn’t do? What’s your biggest regret? Should you have asked her out? Do you wish you could’ve taken back what you said to your father? Do you wish you had spent more time studying or less? Describe what happened and why you regret it now. Looking back, what would you do differently? MAIL YOUR ESSAYS TO:

L.A. Youth
5967 W. 3rd St. Ste. 301
Los Angeles CA 90036



Deadline: Friday, Oct. 16, 2009

I often say that I spend more time and energy on my one boy than on my three girls. Other mothers of boys are quick to say the same. Forget that old poem about snips and snails and puppy dog tails, says Sharon O'Donnell, a mom of three boys and the author of House of Testosterone. "Somehow it's been changed to boys being made of 'fights, farts and video games,' and sometimes I'm not sure how much more I can take!"

Not so fast, say moms of girls, who point out that they have to contend with fussier fashion sense, more prickly social navigations and a far greater capacity to hold a grudge. And as a daughter grows, a parent's concerns range from body image to math bias.

Stereotyping, or large kernels of truth? "I think parents use 'which is harder?' as an expression of whatever our frustration is at the moment," says family therapist Michael Gurian, author of Nurture the Nature. "Boys and girls are each harder in different ways."

Every child is an individual, of course. His or her innate personality helps shape how life unfolds. Environment (including us, the nurturers) plays a role, too: "There are differences in how we handle boys and girls right from birth," says David Stein, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Virginia State University in Petersburg. "We tend to talk more softly to girls and throw boys in the air."

But it's also true that each gender's brain, and growth, unfolds at a different rate, influencing behavior. Leonard Sax, M.D., author of Boys Adrift, believes parents raise girls and boys differently because girls and boys are so different from birth—their brains aren't wired the same way.

So, can we finally answer the great parenting debate over which sex is more challenging to raise? Much depends on what you're looking at, and when:


Who's harder? Boys

Why don't boys seem to listen? Turns out their hearing is not as good as girls' right from birth, and this difference only gets greater as kids get older. Girls' hearing is more sensitive in the frequency range critical to speech discrimination, and the verbal centers in their brains develop more quickly. That means a girl is likely to respond better to discipline strategies such as praise or warnings like "Don't do that" or "Use your words." "Boys tend to be more tactile—they may need to be picked up and plunked in a time-out chair," Gurian says. They're also less verbal and more impulsive, he adds, which is especially evident in the toddler and preschool years.

These developmental differences contribute to the mislabeling of normal behavior as problematic, a growing number of observers say. Five boys for every one girl are diagnosed with a "disorder" (including conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, sensory integration disorder and oppositional defiant disorder), says Stein, also the author of Unraveling the ADD/ADHD Fiasco. Some kids—most often boys—may simply fall on the more robust end of normal. They need more opportunities to expend energy and aggression, as well as firmer limits. 

Physical safety

Who's harder? Boys

"Much after-dinner wrestling here," reports Michelle Mayr, the Davis, California, mom of four boys, ages 5 to 12. "I'm constantly fighting to keep my house a home rather than an indoor sports center. Their stuffed animals' primary function is to be added to the pile of pillows everyone is launching into from the coffee table." In general, boys are more rambunctious and aggressive, experts say. Taking risks lights up the pleasure centers of their brains. Many parents find they have to keep a closer eye on what a son is "getting into," or use more bandages.

But letting kids explore—at the cost of a few scrapes and cuts—builds character, self-confidence, resilience and self-reliance, says Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Boys, being natural risk takers, may need encouragement to slow down a little, but maybe girls need to be encouraged to take more risks. Look for opportunities for your daughter to jump off a wall, swim in the deep end, or try the bigger slide.


Who's harder? First boys, then girls

From birth, a girl baby tends to be more interested in looking at colors and textures, like those on the human face, while a boy baby is drawn more to movement, like a whirling mobile, says Dr. Sax. (These differences play out in the way kids draw: Girls tend to use a rainbow of hues to draw nouns, while boys lean toward blue, black and silver for their more verblike pictures of vehicles crashing and wars.) In a nutshell, girls are rigged to be people-oriented, boys to be action-oriented. Because girls study faces so intently, they're better at reading nonverbal signals, such as expression and tone of voice. Boys not only learn to talk later than girls and use more limited vocabularies, they also have more trouble connecting feelings with words.

"While most girls share their feelings and details of events, my three sons honestly don't see that as important. I spend my days asking, 'What happened then?' or 'What did he say after you said that?'" O'Donnell says.

Important note: Because boys hold eye contact for shorter periods than girls, parents may worry about autism, since this can be a red flag. "It's a relief for moms to know that this is normal and comes from the way the brains are set up," Gurian says.

As girls get to be 8 or so, things can get harder: The flip side of being so adept at communicating is that girls exert a lot of energy on it. There can be a great deal of drama around who's mad at whom, who said what and why, and more. Start when your daughter's a toddler to establish an open communication, so she learns she can come to you for advice.


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.


Who's harder? Mostly boys

Boys and modern education are not an idyllic match. An indoor-based day and an early emphasis on academics and visual-auditory (as opposed to hands-on) learning ask a lot of a group that arrives at school less mature. In their early years, most boys lag behind girls in developing attentiveness, self-control and language and fine motor skills.

The relatively recent acceleration of the pre-K and kindergarten curricula has occurred without awareness that the brain develops at different sequences in girls and boys, Dr. Sax says. Music, clay work, finger painting, and physical exercise—early-ed activities that once helped lively kids acclimate to school—are vanishing. Few teachers are trained in handling the problems that result.

One area where girls do less well in school concerns spatial learning, such as geometry. Girls may use different parts of their brains to process space perceptions. The key is for parents to present both boys and girls with plenty of no-pressure opportunities to try out the areas that are challenging.

The bottom line? On balance, the general consensus seems to be that boys are more of a handful early on, and girls more challenging beginning in the preteen years. Which means that, as the mom of daughters who are 12, 9, and 7, I have the next ten years cut out for me!

Paula Spencer is the coauthor, with Jill Stamm, M.D., of Bright From the Start: The Simple, Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, From Birth to Three.

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