I always knew that there was, in theory, a difference between “hearing” and “listening” but it was only after I started living with boys that I understood that difference. To be precise, it was after I took my eldest son, who was three at the time, to the otolaryngologist worried about his lack of response to my requests, that the doctor assured me that he could hear just fine, maybe he just wasn’t listening. The doctor, a boy himself, had a big grin on his face.
And in that moment my thoughts spiralled back ten years to when my husband used me as a human alarm clock, which he would snooze every five minutes until the day he snoozed me once too often and I had to leave and he had to be late for work. (From that day on he moved to a much more compliant electrical alarm clock that wasn’t as nasty as his wife was.)
The thing is, I never really understood. I knew that he could hear me, so why wasn’t he acting upon it? Fast-forward sixteen years and my boys have the same affliction. I, on the other hand, am expected to have eight ears and four brains to process what they are saying to me, all at the same time.
But the epitomising, ah-ha moment, had to be when, getting very cross with my son (the same one with the non-non-hearing problem) that he wasn’t going to the shower, I was interrupted with “Okay okay! Why are you shouting? You only told me three times!”
So I decided to do some research.
“Do boys hear less than girls?” I asked Dr.Google and I stumbled upon this brilliant study by William McBride, Ph.D. about brain-based gender differences. If you cannot be bothered to read the study, which you can link to here, I will summarise a few points for you.
It turns out that in girls
“Stronger neural connectors create better listening skills, more detailed memory storage, and better discrimination among the tones of voice.”
It also turn out that
“The more words a teacher uses, the greater chance a boy will quit listening.”
Personally I don’t agree with that one, I think he wasn’t planning on listening in the first place.
“For many tasks, brain imaging studies show that women use the most advanced areas of the brain…whereas men doing the same task use the more primitive areas.”
Advanced, primitive, his words, not mine.
“Boys have less blood flow to the brain.”
You only need a rudimentary knowledge of science to understand the implications of that one.
“The male brain is designed to go into rest states in which it renews, recharges, and reorients itself. Girls do this without going to sleep.”
And for enhancing teaching and parenting for boys, Dr. McBride recommends:
“Keep verbal instructions short. Don’t layer instructions. Write layered instructions as numbered steps on the board or worksheet.”
In other words, keep it simple and speak very slowly.
“Surround boys with reading material they will enjoy, such as real life nonfiction, adventure, sports, or how-to books.”
“Boys in groups do stupid things. Begin any new physical activity with lessons from a trained teacher.”