A very interesting piece on the foully named Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 today about male and female teachers and how adults in general impact on the development of boys and girls. As teachers, apparently women overly verbalise whereas men use silence and non-verbal direction. Boys react better to fewer words said in lower voices. Now, is this about a gendered neurological difference (eg to sound and incoming communication)? Or something about effective and ineffective teaching?

The expert, Celia Lashlie, author of He’ll Be OK, says the boys performed brilliantly when left with a silence to fill. But the girls want it filled and do fill it. Men do the non-verbal, women almost nothing but. Lashlie says that boys often report just feeling ‘wrong’ in primary school, because of the lack of male role models in the school (and later down the line, a lack of “good men” role models in wider public life has other negative impacts). A line in her book from a boy goes like this: “If you tell your mum something voluntarily, she’ll just ask a whole lot of questions. It’s rude to say “Enough”, so it’s best just not to talk at all.”

Recognition all round…? So what’s it all about? The other programme guest was Prof. Carrie Paechter, author of a book called Being Boys; Being Girls. She talked about a study where parents underestimated 10 month-old girls’ ability to climb/crawl up a slope and over-estimate boys’ abilities. How terrifying to think that subconsciously, (some) parents think their girls can do less than they would if their child was a boy (or in cases like this, involving the physical, do so to be more protective, perhaps).

But if it’s down to mums and dads, we all know you can take two girls brought up in the same family and one will be a tom boy and the other a baby-doll-loving pink-fetishist; as many a shrink will say, eg Oliver James in They F*** You Up, even identical twins are brought up very differently – each upbringing is on a case by case basis and each parent reacts differently to each child.

Is it fair to say that some of it’s nature, some nurture? I’d say so. But the important thing is not the “how we got here” perhaps, but the fact that there is difference that needs to be recognised if adults are to do the best by each child, helping it reach its best (for which I mean happiest) potential.