My sons couldn’t walk. They ran everywhere. To the toilet, the car, to breakfast, to clean their teeth. I see it all the time at the school I work in. Boys running to deliver the lunch orders, boys running to their desks, boys running down the corridor when they know they shouldn’t. They find it near impossible not to. Like frisky young colts chomping at the bit they adapt their gait looking like one of those weird long distance walkers. Is it gender based? Is it social conditioning? Am I generalising? To a small degree I’m sure, I am. There are girls who can’t walk too.
Though we try to be gender neutral in responding to children the reality is quite different. Research shows that the way we react to children from birth based on gender is significantly different. The differences included tone of voice, physicality, choice of toys, style of play and expectations. Are these reactions conscious, unconscious or based on our own social conditioning? The nature versus nurture argument is interesting to consider given what we know about how we respond based on gender. How these responses affect brain development in the early years is an even more significant question.
Chatting to a Mum of four recently, an experienced health professional of more than 40 years experience, she shared a story with me. She had three daughters, then a son. She was concerned about his inability to concentrate, being easily distracted and unable to sit still. After a couple of consults she ended up with a Pediatrician who wrote a note and handed it to her. It said, “he’s a boy”. His prescription – “take him to the park each night”. She reports that his condition improved.
Boys are like puppies – my advice – just throw a ball. Take them to the park and throw a ball, repeatedly! They’ll fetch it and come back time and time again and they will sleep like babies at night.
Girl Toys vs Toy Toys: The Experiment – BBC Stories (7 Aug, 2017)
Dolls for Girls, Trucks for Boys www.sbs.com.au 3 Dec, 2018).