Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Are there differences in raising boys and girls?

By Josh Levs, CNN
September 22, 2013 -- Updated 1751 GMT (0151 HKT)
Jacob has been the top name for boys for 14 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Many credit the "Twilight" series with maintaining its popularity. Actor Taylor Lautner played Jacob Black, a werewolf, in the series' films. Jacob has been the top name for boys for 14 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Many credit the "Twilight" series with maintaining its popularity. Actor Taylor Lautner played Jacob Black, a werewolf, in the series' films.
HIDE CAPTION
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
Top baby names of 2012
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Do you have advice for a dad about to have a daughter?
  • Fathers can subconsciously play more tenderly with girls
  • Do fathers spoil daughters and mothers spoil sons?

Editor's note: CNN's Josh Levs covers a wide range of topics and offers his personal take on fatherhood. He describes parenthood as part of the ultimate dream in his TEDx talk, "Breaking the System to Achieve the Impossible." Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

(CNN) -- What should a dad of two boys know before the birth of his first daughter?

Depending on your perspective, you might find the answers simple, complicated, obvious, nonexistent or dangerously "gender normative": suggesting that all boys share certain traits, and all girls do as well. So allow me to state right away: There's no answer that applies to all.

Josh Levs
Josh Levs

But my wife and I are counting down the clock to our daughter's arrival. This is the first time we learned the gender of one of our children in advance. Last time, I didn't even look at first when the baby was born into my arms in an emergency.

So my CNN Parents editor and I got to wondering: What practical advice would parents like to share that pertains specifically to girls? What are your top words of wisdom?

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

There are all sorts of theories about differences between boys and girls and just as many conflicting studies, like one from Boston University professor Caryl Rivers slamming the suggestion that boys and girls generally learn differently.

I'm not looking for a broad analysis of girls and boys, just bits of advice from CNN readers that might be helpful.

Just to emphasize my level of cluelessness: I still don't know what an American Girl is. A family friend said her daughter likes to wear flouncy skirts; I have no idea what that means. When we visit our friends' homes and see their little girls' bedrooms, I don't recognize half the characters on their walls and book covers. And while, just like everyone else, I've sat in the makeup chair at work for years before going on air, I don't even know the name of that stuff that gets dabbed onto my face.

At a party, I asked my friend Paul, dad of two girls, what I should know. He went straight to how to make a ponytail, a lesson now immortalized in this YouTube video.

Yes, there are things to learn of a more sensitive nature as well, for example involving diaper changing. I've been warned. No need to dig into that. I've had enough discussions of genital biology in recent days.

But some behavioral differences, I'm told, are statistically likely to show up early on.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, famous pediatrician who was coincidentally my doctor when I was a baby, said in his 1989 book "Toddlers and Parents: A Declaration of Independence" that infant girls are more likely to be sensitive to their surroundings and "quieter about their motor achievements" -- for example, perhaps, less likely to celebrate, cheer loudly and show off when they first learn to walk.

But, he wrote, those differences are minor, and parents single them out "and enlarge upon them."

Why teens should spend time with dads

Fathers can subconsciously play more tenderly with girls, developing a different relationship, he says.

Will I? Probably. Anything wrong with that? I doubt it, as long as I don't limit her and make sure to include her in the activities with the boys, and vice versa.

In a CNN.com story from parenting.com, one mom breaks down parenting into categories, declaring boys harder to raise when it comes to discipline and physical safety, and girls harder with self-esteem. Have you had similar experiences?

On parents.com, a mother of three says girls are often more emotionally high maintenance, talk back more and often suffer "emotionally harsher" bullying. That speaks to something my wife, female friends and female colleagues have told me: "Girls get mean," and the bullying starts at a young age.

I wanted a daughter and am thrilled we're having one. Just about everyone tells me I'll be "wrapped around her little finger."

I'm sure they're right. But then: What do I need to watch out for? Will I act unfairly?

A woman I once interviewed told me the adage was true in her family: "Dads raise their boys and spoil their daughters; moms raise their girls and spoil their sons."

Is that true for you?

Sure, just like with raising boys, I'll figure out a lot of it as time goes on. My daughter could turn out to be anything, including transgender. I believe that for any parent, as long as you prioritize parenthood, are truly loving and try to help your child flourish as who he or she is, you're on the right track.

And as I reported previously, time with dad can be especially important for building kids' self-esteem, all the way through teenage years, for boys and girls.

With all that in mind, tweet me, join the discussion on Facebook or post in the comments below. We'll pull together some of your thoughts for a follow-up piece.

If all goes well, I'll eventually have a chance to tell you how it all plays out for me.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Not again.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
I happen to agree with Renee Zellweger that all the chatter about her face is "silly." But I, and many other women I talked with via email Wednesday, would add some other choice words to the mix to describe the non-stop attention about her appearance: nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2206 GMT (0606 HKT)
I have long thought millennials, who expect flexibility in the workplace, would be the group that would bring an end to the stigma that is too often associated with flex time -- the belief that wanting a flexible work arrangement means you aren't willing to work as hard. But now I'm thinking it's going to be men who will get us there.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
Say it with us: Kids today have it sooooo easy.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1829 GMT (0229 HKT)
An Atlanta judge reportedly reprimanded an immigration attorney for bringing her 4-week-old to court for a hearing -- a hearing she asked the judge to reschedule because she was on her six-week maternity leave.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2018 GMT (0418 HKT)
Monica Lewinsky tweeted for the first time. She called herself "patient zero" of cyber-bullying.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
Meet Shyanne Roberts, a 10-year-old competitive shooter with something to prove: "Kids and guns don't always mean bad things happen."
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
"Breaking Bad's" Walter White may have cleverly dodged authorities during his career as a drug kingpin, but his action figure hasn't dodged the wrath of a Florida mother.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
strawberry ghosts
We love Halloween season. Sweets. Sweaters. Sipping hot cider (maybe spiked). Halloween can certainly get you in the spirit, and nothing warms our hearts like these healthy Halloween treats that help you stay energized instead of stuck in a sugar coma.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
Does your baby cry during long flights, causing you to want to disappear from the glares of fellow passengers?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0252 GMT (1052 HKT)
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1946 GMT (0346 HKT)
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT