How boys and girls learn
The Brain is the Thing
The major difference between the behavior and actions of boys and girls lies in the brain. The brain is the center of activity for the growth, development, and information processing of the human body. What makes the brains of boys and girls so much different? Let's take a look inside.
As I lead conferences about this subject, I think I have an advantage when I talk about issues related to boys since I am one. It's always a lot of fun when there are other men in the room. For instance, one of my favorite facts about development is that when an egg is first fertilized all embryos begin as female. Not until the introduction of massive quantities of the hormone testosterone does a fertilized embryo begin to develop as a male. Without this rush of testosterone, the embryo will develop as a female. Most women are not surprised by this fact. The men in the group, however, are typically struck without words.
The hormones that influence the development of the embryo also guide the growth and development of the brain. There are three major hormones that affect the development and processing ability of the brain. They are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Each chemical has its own special effect on the brain.
Why All These Chemicals?
Scripture tells us in Psalm 139:13, "For it was You who created my inward parts, You knit me together in my mother's womb." From the beginning of time, God has been creating life through the same process. Chemicals are a necessary part of the growth going on inside a mother's womb. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for mood, stability, thought processes, perception, memory, personal motivation, intimacy, appetite, and the handling of stress. Although testosterone is present at some level in both boys and girls, it is the dominant chemical responsible for the development of the male brain. The presence of large amounts of this chemical is responsible for the aggressive nature inherent in many boys.
Another fact I take great pride in sharing is that the male brain is, on average, 10 percent larger than the female brain. That statement shared with pride is quickly followed by the acknowledgement that, even though the brain is larger, chemical influences cause the boy's brain to be a far less efficient processor than that of a girl at the same age. Once testosterone takes over the development process of a boy growing inside his mother's womb, it makes significant changes in the function and growth of the brain.
While the male brain is 10 percent larger, it has a smaller corpus callosum. This connective tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain allows for cross talk between the two brain halves. By being smaller in boys, this puts boys at a disadvantage when it comes to things like verbalizing emotions and receiving and processing sensory information. Since the corpus callosum is larger in girls, they have better language skills and use a larger vocabulary than boys. Girls also have a better-developed sense of smell, hearing, sight, taste, and touch. Please do not misunderstand me to say that boys are inferior, because that is certainly not the case. This means only that boys have to process this information through a different and sometimes more lengthy process. Understanding these differences should affect the way you teach.
The question becomes for us as we teach and raise our children, "So what?" As church leaders and parents, what does this difference mean as you teach and help these children grow? Even though boys and girls learn a little differently, they still have the same needs. What do needs have to do with anything? Needs have alot to do with it. When we as leaders think about specific needs of boys and girls, our approaches to teaching can actually change.