The trouble with boys

Teen girls slam doors, they have screaming tantrums, weep copiously and hate their mothers. And while all this may be true, teen boys are more difficult to parent, say respondents in the Parent24 2009 survey.

When all age groups are combined, parents still tend to think that boy children are less easy to parent than girl children. Only 54% of all parents of boys say they are easy to parent compared to 69% of all parents of girls.

On the other hand, Parent24 teen expert Megan de Beyer says that her experience with parents attending workshops on coping with teens suggests that girls give their fair share of trouble.  ‘Most mothers who have sons as well come on a teen daughter course and say that they found mothering a teen boy so much easier.

‘Their sons had clear boundaries and made clear requests which resulted in the mothers having clarity. Teen girls on the other hand complained a lot but did not make clear requests which left the mothers feeling unsure of how to help. Most of the mothers on my courses complain that teenage girls criticise on a personal level, pointing out the mother’s faults or shortcomings when in conflict. Teen boys seem less likely to personalise their complaints.’

Yet, whether it’s doting dad or melting mommy, both genders agree that girls are the easier ones. Among male parents of boys, 57% think their boys are easy compared to 73% of male parents of their girl children. Half (50%) of female parents of boys think their boys are easy compared to two thirds (66%) of female parents of girl children.

When girls are more tricky

There are exceptions to this general feeling that boys are more difficult. Parents of the following age groups felt that girls held slightly more challenge:
•    3-6 years (47% says girls are not easy  vs 44% boys)
•    9-12 (57% say girls are not easy  vs 45% boys)
•    Over 18 (52% says girls are not easy vs 40% boys).

The process of letting go may influence whether parents find parenting a teen difficult, de Beyer explains: ‘The process of children demanding more freedom is difficult and that it seems easier to give a boy more freedom than a girl. This can result in the girl making more of stand against the mother.’

In your experience, are girls or boys more difficult to parent?

The Parent24 2009 survey had more than 8000 responses. The survey, weighted by gender, race and education, represents approximately 7 million metropolitan adults educated to the level of at least matric, across South Africa. For more about the methodology and for results analysis by Jean Redpath and Michael O’Donovan of Hlakanaphila Analytics, download the Parent24 2009 survey PDF. Or see full results.

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