Valentine’s Day can put a big, heart-shaped spotlight on the differences between boys and girls. Over the years, we’ve invited girls and boys to tell us about their crushes and to talk about mushy romantic stuff. Can you guess who we heard from? Girls – thousands upon thousands of girls. Boys chimed in here and there, but 9 out of 10 kids we heard from were girls.
Girls Have a LOT More to Say
And when boys did make a comment, they sometimes wanted to let us know that they didn’t like anyone at all. Girls have a LOT more to say on the subject of love and Valentine’s Day. Mostly, they like to talk about a certain guy – maybe you know him? He's just, um, sooooooo cute and nice. He’s smart and funny and plays sports and is kind to animals and likes ketchup more than mustard and on and on and on.
For centuries, people have been wondering why men and women see this subject so differently. No one has figured it all out yet, but child psychologist D'Arcy Lyness offered her help. She knows a lot about kids and their feelings.
Girls are often more interested in being social and developing relationships, Dr. Lyness said. This means girls like talking and expressing their feelings. For many girls, this is easier than it is for boys, she said.
"Girls might send more Valentines, for instance, and find it more fun to make them. Boys might think it's too mushy. They might feel embarrassed or even overwhelmed by a girl's big display of liking them," Dr. Lyness said.
“Get Away From Me!”
Feeling overwhelmed means a person just doesn't know what to do. No one likes to feel overwhelmed. Here's an example: Sally gets up in front of the class and says: "I absolutely love Harry and want to marry him!"
Now, even if Harry likes Sally, he might feel really awkward, upset, or angry. Harry might say something mean to Sally, like, "Get away from me!" Uh, oh. Now Sally's feelings are hurt and she feels overwhelmed.
Boys can overwhelm girls, too. Maybe a boy really likes a girl, but she only likes him as a friend. That can be a confusing situation, too.
It's not that boys never have the same mushy feelings that girls do, Dr. Lyness said. Some boys might not feel this way until they're a little older.
"This can be frustrating to girls — especially if the boy she likes doesn't seem to be ga-ga over her," Dr. Lyness says.
Other boys have feelings for girls, but are more interested in other things. Boys also may feel shy or scared about showing this kind of emotion. Then, there are boys who have these feelings and don't mind showing them — which is OK, too.
Why Are We Different?
We’re different, but why? Some people say girls and boys are just born that way. What they mean is that girls, naturally, may be more driven to want to take care of people, settle down, and have a family.
But maybe it has something to do with the way boys and girls are raised, Dr. Lyness says. Boys are often taught to be "tough" and get trucks and action toys to play with. While girls, on the other hand, often get dolls and kitchen sets. No one knows for sure. It gets complicated because there are plenty of exceptions — girls who have no interest in dolls (or mushy stuff) and boys who like expressing their feelings.
What You Can Do?
So what's a boy or girl to do? Just understanding these differences is a good first step. A boy doesn't have to return a girl's strong feelings, but he can try not to hurt her feelings. Likewise, girls can respect that boys may be less interested — or more private — when it comes to mushy stuff. That might mean not calling a boy you like every night, especially if he doesn't seem to like it.
But girls don't need to feel strange just because they have a lot of emotion to express. It can help to talk to friends who understand what you're going through. You also might write down your feelings in a journal. It can feel really good to write it all down.
Who knows? Someday, that boy might come around and call you. Or that girl who embarrassed you with a Valentine might start seeming pretty cute. But it's also OK if that never happens. The two of you might decide just to be friends. These friendships are really special and can help you understand what it's like to be a girl or boy.
Thinking about boys or girls is all part of growing up. You're starting to imagine what it might be like to have a boyfriend or girlfriend — or even a husband or wife! For now, enjoy Valentine's Day. And since we're talking about people we like, it seems like a good time to tell you: We really like you and love hearing what you have to say!
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2009
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