As a mother with a young son, there are so many things about boys that I don’t get but try to understand. I am an observer of boy behavior because I at once want my son to fit in with other boys and to be safe. But I’ll give you an example of the types of behavior differences I’ve noticed.
I picked my son up from school and had a bit of a lag time between the end of the school day and an appointment, so I thought I’d just let my son have a snack and play on the school playground until it was time to go. While I was there, a line of older children came down the sidewalk towards us. One of the boys put out his hand and tapped the shrubs that lined one side of the walkway. This is heavy pollen season, and the pollen had settled into the shrubs. The boy’s disturbance of the shrubs sent up a plume of yellow and green pollen. It really was quite an impressive thing to see.
Immediately, a girl behind him told him to stop it. He heard her but decided to ignore her. Then other boys started to join him. Giant cloud after giant cloud of pollen filled the air in their wake, and yet another girl behind them in a more insistent tone told them to cut it out. “People have allergies you know!”
One of the boys in his own defense called back to her, “He started it.” But then resumed. Now that they had been alerted the consequences of their actions – in case it hadn’t occurred to them – they still kept it up until the line of shrubs ended. The girls shook their heads and the boys grinned gleefully.
What I observed out of this was that boys don’t really care about consequences. Boys, in fact, don’t even put consequences into the calculation for their actions. Their calculations include what’s cool or interesting or potentially destructive. And a girl’s calculation includes what’s going to happen as a result – to her or other people. It’s the courteous factor.
This is not an isolated example of this, just one example. I have been frustrated time and again to have to point out to boys what could happen as a result of the activity they were up to. I watch their faces as they measure this chances of this consequence to THEM against how much they want to do what they were doing. Rarely will they stop if the consequence is felt by someone else (with the possible exception of a parent because and angry parent equals an unhappy child). If I prompt them to see if they can think of any consequences, they usually shrug. Girls, on the other hand, can give you a list without hesitation.
This has taught me where the real gender gap may be. This may be why boys are more inclined to take risks, even doing things they see their friends getting injured doing. I think boys take more risks because they don’t calculate consequences as easily as girls do.
But, I am a girl, so that’s my perspective. Here’s a person writing a thesis about how boys and risk-taking can be applied to the classroom and it links to an interesting study about how boys understand risk.
Have you noticed the same thing?