Gender Differences: Boy Friendships: Girl Friendships

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How do you help children of each gender navigate friendships? Photo: Freepik.com
How do you help children of each gender navigate friendships? Photo: Freepik.com

By Katie Gamboa

In friendships, boys stand shoulder to shoulder looking at something. Whatever that “thing” is–a sport, a game, a topic–is central to the relationship, and as many boys who are obsessed by that thing are welcome to join.

Gatherings are organised around that activity, and conversation is incidental and can be optional, as anyone who’s heard a group of boys playing video games knows. Boys tend to form hierarchies and are comfortable with them, even if it means they’re on the “lower” end.

When a boy is stressed, he generally wants to be left alone and will avoid his friend group, a warning sign parents should pay attention to. And typically boys will go to great lengths to avoid showing emotions about their friendships.

“After friends leave, make yourself available: same when kids or teens come home from an event with friends.”

Girls in friendships tend to stand face to face. Talking with their friends is central to their relationship, and they tend to enjoy talking, sharing secrets, or just being together.

In the inverse of boys, girl gatherings are organised around talking, with activities being incidental and even optional! When a girl is stressed, she wants to be with her friends more, which is why girls tend to weather times of crisis better than boys.

For girls, sharing feelings is a precious gift, and hierarchies destroy friendships. Do you see what we mean when we say boys and girls are REALLY different?

Girls in friendships tend to stand face to face. Talking with their friends is central to their relationship, and they tend to enjoy talking, sharing secrets, or just being together. Photo: Freepik.com
Girls in friendships tend to stand face to face. Talking with their friends is central to their relationship, and they tend to enjoy talking, sharing secrets, or just being together. Photo: Freepik.com

How do you help children of each gender navigate friendships?  In general, when friends are around, parents should “hover”: not actually engaging in the conversation, but doing something nearby (ie: cleaning, organising) so that you’re aware of what’s going on and can easily intervene if things start to deteriorate.

It’s good to break the tension at times “by accident.” Boys in groups need more attention: they can do stupid stuff, especially if they know or think you’re not around. (Rule of thumb: leaving a group of boys alone in your house for a long length of time is a recipe for disaster!)

After friends leave, make yourself available: same when kids or teens come home from an event with friends.

“When a girl is stressed, she wants to be with her friends more, which is why girls tend to weather times of crisis better than boys.”

Ask them what happened and listen attentively, whether it’s relationship analysis or bragging. Girls may want to discuss their friend issues with you and may downplay their own prowess or achievements.

Boys will probably tell you about anything super-cool they did that they think you would admire (and cultivate an interest in their activities so they know you will do it!), but boys generally won’t want to talk about their friendship problems, and they certainly don’t want you to get involved.

With boys and girls, different areas of the brain mature at different rates, which can make some things– like learning to read (for boys) or do maths (for girls) — a challenge.

When a boy is stressed, he generally wants to be left alone and will avoid his friend group, a warning sign parents should pay attention to. Photo: Pixabay.com
When a boy is stressed, he generally wants to be left alone and will avoid his friend group, a warning sign parents should pay attention to. Photo: Pixabay.com

However, as children become teens and then adults and their brains reach full maturity, the sex-specific differences decrease.

Teens and young adults can easily be fooled by this change into thinking that those differences never actually existed (and may believe those who say they are socially constructed) but hopefully their parents remember those differences and know better!

This is one reason why the most fruitful dating and courtship happens AFTER full brain maturity has taken place, when both sexes are in a better position to understand the other and learn from each other.

“Boys in groups need more attention: they can do stupid stuff, especially if they know or think you’re not around.”

Isn’t it amazing how God designed this, so that a man and woman can marry and raise children together?

Each can draw from their own experience of having been a boy or a girl and share that with one another as they parent their own sons and daughters, deepening and enriching their understanding of the other sex. God designed it that way, and we wouldn’t change a thing!

Republished with permission from the Messy Family Project