By Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT

“I’m so glad I don’t have girls.  Boys are so much easier.”
“Boys settle things physically, and get over it much more quickly.  Girl issues drag out.  Boys don’t get stuck in the drama.”
“Girls and boys fight differently.  Girls use emotional bullying and guys use physical bullying.”
“Guys solve their differences in a much more rational manner.  There’s none of this bickering and pettiness as with girls.”

These are declarations I hear often.  And I get a visceral reaction whenever I hear them.  Threaded through the tapestry of generalizations are elements of truth, blended among the fabric of misconceptions.  I’d like to spit in this soup of misapprehension so as to make it a little less tasty.

“I’m so glad I don’t have girls.  Boys are so much easier.”

As you can figure, people who say this clearly don’t have girls.  But the assumption is transparent: girls are ever so much harder to raise than boys.  Let’s extrapolate this out a little further.  Females are difficult.  The message is evident in the media, especially in comedies.  Men are portrayed as ignorant and women as difficult.  Please, please don’t support these generalizations.  Each child – regardless of gender – is an individual.  There will be difficulties and joys in raising children, girls and boys.

“Girls and boys fight differently.  Girls use emotional bullying and guys use physical bullying”

It’s true boys and girls are different physically, hormonally, and in the way their brains are wired. Physical aggression is the most visible male solution to relational aggression, and emotional aggression is the most visible female response to emotional bullying.  Note the word “visible.” Girls tend to fight fire with fire, and boys fight fire with a bomb.  Boys as bullies are considered physical bullies.  But let’s examine what I refer to as the One-Two Punch.  First there is emotional bullying directed toward a boy through taunting, teasing, exclusion, rumors, etc.  Then his visible response eventually becomes one of physicality.  There is relational aggression among males and it’s One out of the One-Two Punch.  It’s the vicious emotional element preceding the physical response.  Girls also use the One-Two Punch, though emotional bullying is their predominant mode of response.

“Boys settle things physically and get over it much more quickly.  Girl issues drag out.  Boys don’t get stuck in the drama.”

Boys do seem to get over slights, negative incidents, and bullying more quickly than girls.  Girls brains are wired to remember emotionally charged events, readily pick up the cues of facial expressions, and quickly interpret tonal inflections in conversations.  Male brains are not wired this way.  Females, therefore, tend to hold onto escalated emotions or are quick to remember them for a longer time.  And there are times when boys don’t get stuck in the drama.  Let’s examine this a little more closely, though.  Around second grade, boys are quite talented at spreading rumors, but that fades quickly.  Then around middle school or junior high, boys pick up the pace again.  Rumors and gossip about their sexual prowess with females are started in male circles, picked up by females, and then re-circulated.  Males equally engage in the drama of lies, rumors, intimidation, and manipulation.  And that, folks, is relational aggression.  We just don’t usually think of it that way.

“Guys solve their differences in a much more rational manner.  There’s none of this bickering and pettiness as with girls.”

Let’s check it out, because that’s a broad generalization.  There is a great deal of pettiness and bickering in female relational aggression.  But it’s true for boys, too.
They tell on each other in elementary school, lie about games or change rules in the middle, and argue over choosing teams at recess.  Some exclude others for not wearing the right clothes, not having the right “techno toys,” or not having the right degree of masculinity.  They start rumors in junior high and high school.  They insult by calling someone gay.  On the football team or the debate team, they sabotage each other jockeying for position.  As men, they haze each other and manipulate and backstab in business.  And just think about what goes on in the political scene.  Whether male or female, neither sex has a stronghold on bickering or pettiness.

So What Now?

Emotional bullying or relational aggression is serious business.  It causes more long-term suffering and damage than physical bullying.  So let’s start thinking about what boys go through.  They need our help as much as our girls.

Jane Balvanz is the proud mother of two sons and a daughter and has seen all three find their way through relational aggression.

 

 

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

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