Are Boys Naturally More Aggressive? Part Two

If you didn’t read the first in this series written a few weeks ago, please check it out….

From my work with children, I feel I can confidently say that both boys and girls up to 3.5 -4 years old, show equal amounts of energy, interest in rough-housing, pulling, grabbing, pushing, climbing, cars, balls, building, dolls, animals, cooking, painting, dress up , choices of colours to wear or like, make-up, long or short hair etc.  Of course, the extent of each child’s inclination towards each does depend on their individual temperament, how much media they’ve been exposed to so far, and the values or gender roles modeled by their families and close friends.  One might ask why we generally see more 2-3 year-old boys fascinated by trucks, diggers, trains, fire-engines – but honestly, do we as parents encourage the same curiosity in both genders?  Do we stop as  often with our girls to analyze the work at the construction sight or talk about how the plain flies?

Girls that grow up with older boys, strong physical, feminist mamas and/or dads who rough-house with them a lot, tend to be more rough-and-tumble, and less likely to want to be the princess in the story.  We have girl friends from 6-12 who climb trees and enjoy many of the same battle or adventure games  as the roughest boys, more so in the home school community though.  They are no longer called ‘Tom Boys’.  Some may even be caught climbing a tree, a ‘knife’ clenched in their teeth, wearing a tattered princess dress – the sky’s the limit.  All the boys I’ve cared for have played extensively at cooking, caring for animals, nurturing babies, baby-wearing, even breast-feeding for short periods of time.  Why?  Because they see this modeled around them.  Children with intact families, with a mum and a dad who model more traditional gender roles, are more likely to want to play mum and dad.  Children with other family models might fight over who gets to be dad, whether a boy or a girl or settle on ‘We can both be dads!’

Despite all the cross-over in so-called traditional gender play, while there are plenty of girls who enjoy wrestling or taking up a sword, there are far fewer who really love Bionicles or Bakugan – why?  They are heavily marketed to boys, the ‘cool’ boy code rules.  Girls might enjoy playing with them, but which parents would really encourage their little girls to play wit h these?  Why would we encourage our girls to mindless violence, fighting with no story in mind, no cause or career to work towards.  Yet, why would we encourage our boys to do so either?

Strange times indeed.  We know that violence in girls is going up, and there are increasingly more female role models of violence in the media.  Is this really what we want?

So, from 3-4 years old on, once children start to become more outward focused, taking cues form friends in the parks, pre-schools, taking in media, conventional, mass-market toys, gender stereotyping really starts to kick.

And, for those of us raising boys, the boy code begins in full force, whether we as mothers (or fathers) want it or not.  Boys here these messages that abound about them, and will take them on as codes of behaviour:

  • Boys are rougher
  • Boys are less verbal
  • Boys are less focused
  • Boys are more interested in rough play, wrestling, battle play
  • Boys are more dirty
  • Boys are more physical
  • Boys can’t sit still, are more fidgety.
  • Boys play with lego (most of which are based on sci-fi, adventure, war-story, police, construction themes / movies), bionicles, backugan, pokemon, transformers, cars, tools, robots, technology…
  • Boys wear blue, not pink
  • Boys don’t cry
  • Boys learn to take the hits
  • Boys don’t talk about their problems or emotions
  • Boys shouldn’t show fragility or vulnerability.

And then there are the boys who want to play war, but still burst into tears if someone kills a beetle…….this used to be my son!  Now, after a year in kindergarten, he’s already starting to think bugs are gross…..

Barry MacDonald of Boy Smarts,, describes boys as ranging from “Spiderman” (extremely sensitive) to “Rambo” (high strung and aggressive) with everything in between.  The art is to recognize and honour where our sons sit along this continuum and respond to them in ways that make sense to them.

So, what is aggression?  Is it really aggression?

So far, I think I can divide children’s aggression, especially boy’s, into three separate categories.  Tune in next time to read more!

caio for now!

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