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Are Girls Harder to Parent Than Boys?

Posted by Patience on August 20, 2010 at 7:00 AM in Raising Girls
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hide and seek

I've gone on for a long time thinking I would never make this statement, but I think it might be finally time to admit it: In my experience, my girls have been much harder to parent than my boys. Hands down, across the board, they require more on any day of my parenting week.

Now I should also mention, the feminist in this mother has hair on the back of her neck that is now standing straight up after writing such a statement. As a preschool teacher for years, I had the chance to experience all different types of personalities and believed strongly gender was not at work in any way. After a few kids of my own, I'm not so sure.

The dynamic duo of Lucy, age 4 and Lyra, age, 1, had pulled out every toy in their room, had a glorious moment with some glitter, both changed their clothes at least five times and ran to hide when I told them it was time to get dressed for an outing, all before 9:00 AM. I snapped a picture of their cute, troublemaking little faces before the wrangling of getting them dressed.

They fight sleep like nothing I've ever seen, they play with ten toys all at the same time, they make enormous messes, they voice all their thoughts -- loudly, they demand right in the moment, they require all of you, they push hard, yet they also love wildly, care deeply and dive in with their whole hearts. All of it in a particular way I don't see in the boys, who I should also add, carry their own brand of magic.

As far as I can remember, I was not this type of child myself. I was gentle and more reserved, a strength unfolding later in life. Where did these whirlwind girls come from? I have no earthly idea. Even as tired as I am and wondering how I got the challenge on the back end after two chill older boys, I wouldn't trade any of it. I'll keep the drama, the tantrums, the big make up speeches, the running hugs, the constant fashion changes, the immense joy of girl good, even if it's harder.

Do you find one gender is harder than the other with your children? Do you think it is related to gender or just personality?


Aerin writes...

My mum had two girls, two years apart, and then, nine years later, two boys, two years apart. She'd agree with you - mostly. The girls required - no, demanded - more time, overall. She had to be more intentional in forcing - er, encouraging my brothers to talk to her, open up, etc.


She said that in regards to sex, the boys are much more difficult. Not because they're wired to be more sexual, but because they experience more pressure. Locker-room talk, and all that. She had to constantly fight to reassure them it was okay not to jump into the sack with any girl who offered; in one case, my brother actually broke up with a girl who kept trying to manipulate him into sex.

(I'm actually not sure what I just typed was kosher for a pbs blog; sorry if it's not.)

I have one boy, one girl. My son is 6 and autistic, my daughter is 4 going on 17. Even as a feminist, I sometimes lump their behaviors into gender. The most important lesson I've learned, though: two is quite enough for me, thank you very much.

Kristen writes...

Your little girls sound like my little boy, so I don't know if it's gender ... but I think like most other complicated things, it's probably some combination of both gender and personality (or temperament). A great book for parents of "whirlwinds" is Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka; give it a look if you're so inclined.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh, I love that book, must go dig it out now. Thanks for the reminder!

Johanna writes...

The two girls in this article sound like my 4-year-old boy. He's exactly the same. I think it's the personality of the child in addition to gender. If you get a wild child full of energy and crazy love, then you're a tired parent. If you get one that's more mellow, well, enjoy it. I only have the wild one myself but I wouldn't trade him for the world.

mommabear writes...

I have a girl and a boy and they are just different, I can't say who is easier but they are just different. My girl is very independent and my boy is not.My girl does really good with structured time,my son doesn't. My daughter asks,my son demands.They both are very energetic, and I just love the way they are....

Christine writes...

I am just getting started on parenting with a 16-month old girl, but she is definitely a handful. Like you said, she is very demanding, but also very giving, loving and wholeheartedly into whatever is happening in the moment. I'm not sure if it's because she is a girl though, or because she just has a spirited temperment. Her father and I tend to be "Type A" sort of folks ourselves, so it may be more about inherited personality than gender. Hard to say.

Christina writes...

As I read your article I kept thinking, "Wow, my life times two".
We have a much older son who has always been the quintessential 'Easy Child'. We used to think it was our parenting skills that were responsible for the constant wonderful behavior and outflow of compliments we received from every teacher he had ever had.
And then came our daughter. She knocked us off our feet. Just as you said, as demanding and challenging as she can be, she adds so much spirit and love to our household. Of course my son says, "What were you guys thinking, bringing that thing home?" (he is kidding, he loves her as much as we do) and our thoughts are that she will be the CEO of some massive corporation some day.
All of our lives are richer for having her in it. She brings the excitement to every day with the opening of her eyes in the morning.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

I agree, I think my girls could rule the world! ;)

Maggi writes...

Amen, sister, amen!
I only have my pair of girls, and they only have this parent, and I with my one brother was unlike them ~ But B&C and L&L are kindred sister spirits for sure!

Manic Mommy writes...

I come from a family with three girls and one boy. We never experienced the boundless energy and destruction of my two boys. Particularly my younger. My husband insists it's normal. I have my doubts.

Jeanne writes...

I raised two sons that were as different as night and day. Then I started a daycare with all boys not too bad then we started adding girls the boys went off to school so it was all girls 7 of them and the excitement never stopped now I have 3 little boys and the girls are all in school we all survived. But these 3 little boys are all I can take care of now they go from one thing to the other so fast I don't have a chance to even get prepared. But as far as hardest boys or girls I think they are equal I had some girls that could distroy just as much as these little boys can.

parenting help writes...

I don't find any difficulty with girls compared to boys, rather a small issues that I feel is ok with girls. I feel it is ok at this age but need to gain more parenting information that require to provide better parenting for today's teenagers.

kate writes...

I had 5 girls in 10 years - the oldest and the youngest ones were the most difficult ones - demanding, stubborn, selfish, fight-picking, screaming...everything - while the middle three were generally easy going most of the time, nice to each other, and so on. Of course they had their days too, but nothing like the other two. Then I had a boy who is now 15, and he is the most easy-going, sweet boy - I keep wondering when the fur is going to hit the fan and he's going to turn into some kind of a monster, but so far the worst thing he does is talk to me incessantly about music until my eyes cross with boredom. The girls are all in their 20s and 30s now, and are all good friends with each other, and they all have strong assertive personalities, something I do not have, and which I admire. So I think it's personality more than gender. Some kids are just more challenging to raise.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh, I love it when seasoned parents weigh in! Thanks Kate, the jury is still out over here. Still learning more about this parenting thing as I go along.

Jess writes...

I'm voting for personality. Mostly. My boys are much more like your girls than they are like your boys, in terms of what it has been like to raise them so far. So many times I've been amazed by your peaceful, dreamy boys!

From what I've seen, in *general*, little boys tend to be much more labor-intensive than girls when they're young and girls tend to be more intense than boys when they're in their teens. Total generalization, your mileage may vary. And who you are as a person, your own sensitivities and histories, probably has as much to do with what feels easy and hard as the kids themselves.

Jacklyn Henkar writes...

of course not, girls are wiser than boys. the book referenced by kristen is wonderful one.

Cindy writes...

My daughter was so easy until she turned 13 or 14 and then....oh my! My son was so difficult until about 10 or 11 and then what a wonderful young man. They are both in their 30's now and have reversed roles again! Can't wait to see what they are like in their 50's!!!

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