Boys like modest girls

First divorce with three - boys play with boys and girls play with girls

Innate? Educated? What do “typical” girls and boys do? A tangle of biology, psychology and environmental influences that is difficult to untie.


We both raise the same!

Girls play with dolls, boys with dinosaurs and cars. Girls are bitchy, boys hit and get along. Girls are sweet and sweet, boys are wild. Girls are humble, boys bluff. Girls are princesses, boys are heroes. Is that really true? Everyone has heard statements of this kind before, and now and then perhaps also thought and uttered them. But what is it? And if there is something about it: is it because the children were raised to do it? Or were they born that way? Is there such a thing as an innate “typical”, gender-specific experience and behavior? Scientifically proven are clear differences in relation to empathy, self-assertion, physical aggression and social smile. In contrast, researchers found only very small differences in verbal, mathematical and technical skills, leadership and sociability between girls and boys or later between women and men. Nevertheless, the proportion of women in the technical world of work and in politics has remained within narrow limits to this day. So if girls and boys are naturally different in their feelings, thoughts and actions, then there must still be a considerable influence of the environment. In addition, many parents observe that no matter how hard they try to bring up their sons and daughters equally, they still develop different interests, preferences and behaviors. It was very important to me not to raise my two daughters to be “typical” girls. Both were given dolls, cars, Legos and trains to play with, and very early on they were able to use tools. The older daughter accepted the offer; She was very fond of playing dolls, was already busy working with the screwdriver as a two-year-old and was passionate about building all kinds of vehicles out of Legos, systematically and according to plan. Today she is studying mechanical engineering. The younger daughter, on the other hand, was not very interested in dolls and the workshop; she preferred musical and sporting activities - apparatus gymnastics, music and creative design. And at the age of 14, she attaches great importance to typically female attributes.

Orientation towards one's own gender

So it cannot be due to upbringing alone. In fact, the conventional model is too narrow, according to which girls and boys adopt the different patterns of thought and behavior from their parents, educators, teachers and other adults, says Eleanor Maccoby in her book “Psychologie der Gender” (published by Klett-Cotta-Verlag). Her description of the different cultures of girls and boys makes it surprisingly clear: from the age of three, girls prefer to play with girls and boys with boys - an observation that can be checked in every daycare center.

Ms. B. comes to the kindergarten with her two and a half year old son. Tim wants to see the children, so I accompany him to the group room for the three to four year olds. Three boys are fiddling with a tool case on the play carpet, two girls are playing a board game with the teacher. Tim looks, then he goes straight to the boys, takes the drill and starts to work.

This self-chosen gender segregation can be found in highly developed industrial societies as well as among indigenous peoples. With three-year-olds, many parents are still amazed, with four- or five-year-olds, most of them consider this to be “normal” and even expect it: real girls play with girls, real boys play with boys.

The preference for one's own gender is even more pronounced in school age than in kindergarten. In the third and fourth grades, most boys and girls find each other just "stupid". Now, with the eight to eleven year olds, the separation is the strictest. Boys reject the opposite sex even more than girls. They also distinguish themselves more strongly from the adult world and are more oriented towards their peers. Perhaps it is because the vast majority of educational tasks in families, kindergartens and elementary schools are performed by women? Do mothers, educators and teachers even understand the boys in their feelings, thoughts and actions? Do they recognize their messages and needs and can they respond appropriately?

The orientation towards one's own gender is reflected in different interests and game preferences: Girls usually prefer the family game “mother and child”, princess and fairy, in role play; only a few play witch or pirate. Boys, on the other hand, usually play wild animals, knights, pirates or superman. And even at preschool age, they make it a point not to bother with “girly” toys and activities. The three-year-old Noah loves the golden ruffled skirt, the pearl necklaces and the high heels. Every morning he dresses up with it and is happy - until the other boys laugh at him and call out to him: Noah is a girl!

Once macho, always macho?

These games also clearly show the different ways in which girls and boys talk and act with one another. The most important question among boys is: “Who is the boss? Who is the stronger? ”Physical and verbal power struggles clarify the hierarchy, after which it is important to secure one's own status. The worst thing would be to be seen as a pushover by the male playmates.

Girls romp and fight much less and show less direct verbal and physical aggression. Their games require more cooperation instead of rivalry; they want to make decisions together more often and form a team. A “determiner” is rarely found in groups of girls; often children are even excluded if they behave like this. Aggression and quarrels tend to be carried out indirectly, through social exclusion: “I am no longer your friend.” Children whose behavior deviates from the “norm”, but not only from their playmates, encounter resistance; They are also a headache for many parents.

Ms. E. repeatedly complains to her daughter's teacher because Sandra likes to romp around with the boys and occasionally comes home with bruises. Sandra is supposed to play with girls in kindergarten and, like other girls, paint “beautiful” pictures; Ms. E. expects the educator to enforce these ideas.

No place for decision makers

After all, girls (and women) still enjoy a certain leeway; The clothing alone makes this clear. While many adults still manage to accept a boyish girl, girlish boys are confronted with more rigid expectations.

At the children's church service on Easter Sunday, children should present the Gospel in a scenic manner. Felix (9) agrees to play one of the three women who go to the grave on Easter morning. His mother (herself a teacher), who leads the service, is horrified and asks her son three times if he really wants to play a woman. In an earlier church service, the same teacher had no problem with girls playing the disciples of Jesus, i.e. taking on a male role.

"Men are always the boss"

At least as strongly as these (the parents themselves often hardly aware of) ideas of the “right” girls and boys, their personal role models influence the behavior of children. At the age of two or three, the little ones recognize their own gender and adopt the corresponding social norms: girls want to be like girls and women, boys like boys and men.

As early as kindergarten age they can assign toys, clothes, cosmetics or activities to women or men. Your own parents are the main benchmark. And in many families, a very clear gender segregation still dominates to this day. The man is employed, the woman is responsible for the household and children and may earn “something extra” on the side. This distribution of roles works as a model and is often adopted by the children - despite all efforts to break with traditional gender roles. Because it is of little use if parents proclaim “the same upbringing” for their daughters and sons, but at the same time exemplify a traditional division of roles themselves; The developmental psychologist Hans Trautner was able to prove this in studies.

And the consequences?

• First of all, let's not expect too much from our educational influence. There are limits to this - through the individual disposition and temperament of the children, through their friends, the social environment and the media.

• Then: let's trust our children. They have a good sense of what is good for them and which friends are right for them. We can give them orientation, but not our thoughts and feelings.

• Let us be aware of our own expectations: What do I want for my daughter / son? Does that match your own talents? What am I afraid of? What is “typical girl / woman” and “typical boy / man” for me? What parts of it do I discover in myself? What do I want or can I allow my children to do?

• Be careful of what standards we suggest to our children. What role model do we set ourselves? What “toys” do our children get? Are Barbie and Lillifee, the wild guys, and Bionicle characters realistic models?

• We should be careful not to excuse inappropriate behavior as “typical girls” or “this is how boys are!”. Regardless of gender, children must learn to find their way around a community and to cope with conflicts appropriately. To do this, they need our support. They need clear rules for dealing with one another and must learn from the consequences of their own actions.

• So why do parents give boys more freedom and indulgence when they break rules more often and more obviously than girls? Sometimes I suspect that four-year-old sons are taking the lead ...

However, teachers often find it very difficult to deal with the typical behavior of boys. For example, they keep trying to convince the boys that they don't need a boss when they play, but that they can take care of everything together - without success. How about if we instead made use of the boys' need for clear structures? Boys clearly tell us what they need: strong parents and teachers who they can recognize as “bosses” - that is, authority in a positive sense.
Conversely, I would like us to educate girls to be more self-confident, that they learn to express their own opinion and not be afraid to take on the role of decision maker.

• And last but not least: Let us not forget that children are only just beginning to develop, that they will necessarily have to try out some things and may still turn 180 degrees. Trautner's long-term studies have also proven this: Many children, who initially divided their world into male / female particularly rigidly, later handle gender roles no less openly than others. Obviously, the supposed machos have adequately assured themselves of their masculinity in kindergarten - and therefore do not have to keep returning them.

Maybe then we can smile at such episodes instead of tearing our hair:
Max (17), tall and strong, is doing an internship in kindergarten. After just a few days, the group leader heard a few children talking: "Max said ... Max is the boss in the kindergarten ..." She hooks up: "How do you know that Max is the boss here?" Thereupon the children unanimously: “Max is a man. And men are always the boss. "Since that day, children have come to me again and again and make sure:" Georgine, are you the boss of the kindergarten? "


Georgine Dimmler