Raising children is not for the faint of heart. It entails sacrifice, time, even heartbreak — and more love and patience than can ever even be quantified.
Beyond the daily tasks of feeding, clothing, teaching, nurturing — and protecting our sons and daughters from the negative influences in much of today’s culture — parents and guardians also have the crucial task of communicating with children effectively.
This can be especially challenging for moms and dads who would like their sons to be more open, expressive, and talkative — instead of quiet, non-responsive, and reluctant to share some of the details of their lives.
“You have to tread lightly with boys — no one can shut down faster than a son who doesn’t want his mother to know which girl he likes, or what problems his close friends may be experiencing,” one Boston-area mom of three sons told LifeZette. “While my friends with daughters tell me girls feel relief about giving details and showing emotion over issues in their lives, boys keep so much inside — and to themselves.”
“From my sons, I’ll get that one-word answer, and if I’m lucky, one or two sentences of details. And then they’re done,” Eva Dwight wrote in a recent essay for USA Today titled, “Understanding My Sons: Science Explains Boys’ Brains and What Moms Can Do to Connect.”
Dwight revealed she had an “aha” moment not long ago when she discovered family counselor, author and philosopher Dr. Michael Gurian’s book, “Boys and Girls Learn Differently.” It demonstrates how the distinction in hard-wiring and socialized gender differences affects how boys and girls learn.
It turns out that science holds basic foundational clues about how to get our boys to open up more.
“I not only have verbal centers on both sides of my brain that allow me greater access to words [as a female],” noted Dwight, “I have up to 10 percent more white matter connecting those verbal centers to my feeling and memory centers.”
Conversely, “Males have verbal centers only on the left side of their brain, less connective white matter and, in general, less blood flow to all parts of the brain at once. So they tend to compartmentalize their thinking more than females do,” explained Dwight.
The science behind the reasons why boys and girls communicate differently has been met with relief by others as well.
“As a mom of three boys, and as someone who grew up in a family of all girls, I know it can be tough to communicate with my sons,” Julie Gunlock, author of the book, “From Cupcakes to Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back,” told LifeZette.
“Prying details out of them can be difficult, which is why this research is useful to parents who want to develop tools to better understand their boys’ minds,” said Gunlock, who is also director of the Independent Women’s Forum’s center for progress and innovation.
“This research also demonstrates a clear reality that mainstream feminists deny: Boys and girls are different. Their minds work differently and they communicate in unique ways. It’s important that the modern educational system recognizes these differences and work to create systems that serve both genders equally,” she said.
To break the communication stalemate between moms and sons, the first step is to accept that boys process information differently — and to not perceive them as lacking or being deficient in any way, noted Dwight in her essay.
She says that author Gurian also recommends tapping into their “visual/spatial” centers.
“Once they’re engaged in activities that involve visual stimulation or movement, they can talk more about what they’re seeing or doing,” explained Dwight.
Other strategies include physical activity, such as walking and tossing a ball together, or even playing board games.
The key is to naturally increase the blood flow to the brain, which gives boys greater access to their verbal and emotional centers.
“Understanding the science can remove some of the emotion around our perception that boys ‘won’t talk,’ and instead point us toward awareness of how to make the most of our sons’ natural gifts,” said Dwight.