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The Science of Chaos


As the chaos of the school year finally comes to a close, and we are all overwhelmed with end of year parties, celebrations, plays, recitals and graduations, I have started to observe some differences in how boys and girls handle these low structure and high excitement times. I am not alone. Scientists have been studying the differences and similarities in the male and female brains for a long time. The findings are significant for both parents and teachers. Keeping this brain research in mind during these tough moments can be a helpful reminder of WHY your kids are acting the way they are. Then you can move on to finding a helpful solution.

What’s So Bad About Boys?

As a mom of boys, I hear things all the time that reference how rough and difficult they can be. “I don’t know how you deal with it?” “How can you stand all the noise and rough housing?” And the ever present question in my life, “Don’t you want to try for a girl?!” There are just 616,000 posts on Instagram that use the hashtag #momofgirls but there are 1.9 MILLION posts that use the hashtag #momofboys. What is it about boys that people find so notable?


According to brain science, it’s all about their reactions to stimuli. For example, the part of the brain called the cerebellum tends to be larger in males. This is the part of the brain that plays a big role in sensory perception, motor control and coordination. The impact of this is that messages are getting sent between the brain and the body very quickly – so what we see is that boys move quickly and have less impulse control than girls.

On the other hand, female brains have more connections and blood flow in the cerebral cortex. This shows up as the girls being able to multitask and transition more easily between activities at home and in the classroom. Which seems like a more desirable kid? One who has trouble with impulse control or one who transitions smoothly from dinner to bath and bed? #momofgirls for the win.

How Does the Science Affect Us?

As long as humans have existed, males and females have had things in common and things that make them different. And since the beginning of education, these similarities and differences have been showing up in the classroom. At schools across the country boys represent 90% of the disciplinary issues. NINETY! And that doesn’t account for the differences in race and socioeconomic background (that’s a whole other story!).

The fact remains that the majority of teachers in America, especially in elementary education, are female. What effect does this have on how our boys are learning and being disciplined in the classroom? Maybe it’s time for teachers and schools to take a deeper look at the brain science and change curriculum based on what is the best learning environment for both boys AND girls.

What Now?

Now that we have a better idea of why our kids act the way they do during these chaotic times, we can tweak our teaching and parenting to play to their strengths and bring out their best. Let’s go beyond “boys will be boys” and “sugar and spice and everything nice” to bring out the best in all of our children.

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