Who's Easier: Boys or Girls?

Raising Sons

Of course, raising boys comes with a set of challenges as well. Here are some of the common themes that came up numerous times among mothers:

Boys are aggressive and physical.

Boys go in for rough-and-tumble play, most moms say, and it's not easy on them or the furniture. "We babyproofed our house when our daughter started to crawl," says Denver mother of two, Camilla Hayes, "but we didn't know the meaning of the term until our son came along three years ago. He climbs on every piece of furniture and treats every surface -- including the door of the open dishwasher -- as a trampoline. I'm constantly worried that he's either going to kill himself or trash the house."

In fact, science confirms that testosterone makes the average male brain more prone toward roughhousing than the average female brain. Baron-Cohen believes that here, too, males' relative lack of empathy may play a role, since they're less likely to grasp the harm that may come to the person on the receiving end of their high jinks.

Communication can be challenging with a boy.

While some boys talk a blue streak from early on (one of my sons never stops), studies show that in addition to developing verbal skills later than girls, boys generally have a more declarative conversational style, with less give-and-take, than girls. For example, your female-brain child might be more inclined to discuss which Saturday morning cartoon to watch, while your male-brain child may simply state that Pokemon is the better choice. Baron-Cohen also found that vocabulary development among 18- to 24-month-olds was slower for those with a higher level of prenatal testosterone.

Boys turn any activity into a competition. "Everything is a contest with my boys," says Barbara Fleming of Atlanta, who has two children, "whether it's who can take a flight of stairs more quickly or who can slurp a drink more loudly. And they don't just compete with each other. They're constantly challenging me to arm-wrestling matches or similar games of one-upmanship. Sometimes I try to turn their obsession with winning to my advantage -- 'hey, guys, which one of you can get his pajamas on first?' -- but most of the time I'm just exhausted by it."

Testosterone figures into this equation as well. According to Baron-Cohen, boys' disinclination toward empathy means that they have a burning desire to beat the other guy.

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