Are Boys Wired To Be Risk-Takers?

I’ve been in discussions about this topic before but I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it here…but we may have. I know on that “other” blog, there was much to say about it. What do you think? Are boys wired to be risk takers? This was the good question the other night and it’s a subject that always interests me.

I know that in my experience of working in the schools for as long as I did, I have to agree that the majority of boys are more daring and risk taking than girls. Not all mind you. I know there are always exceptions to the rule. I know many men who have the heart, feelings and emotions as a women does but the number of them are very limited in my life. I also know women who are daring and risk taking so I’m not talking about everyone here. I know there are many exceptions to the rules.

I now know some of the things my two boys did when they were young that I would have died had I known at the time. To hear them talk now, they’re lucky to be alive. I never knew when they were 4 and 7 they slid down the stairs in my laundry basket or they rode their bikes were they were prohibited from riding. I knew they lit a “few” fires in their fort but I suspect that they lit many more that I didn’t know about and YES, I did take them to the fire department and had them get a little talk from a fireman. It didn’t do any good though. I’d have had a heart attack had I known some of the things they were doing. I know Jason used to take my car out and drive it around WAY before he got his license and that’s something I never would even have entertained in my head. It would have terrified me if I did something to my dad’s car.

I’m not daring or risk taking in the least. I’m so afraid of the “what if” that I never really dared to do too much that might hurt me but man, my boys were NOT a chip off my block.

So here’s the question: do we encourage “rough play” from boys? Do we tell them “boys don’t cry” and do they pick to play with sticks as guns or somehow are we encouraging that? They can’t ask for cars and trucks when they’re infants but most boys do have those and most girls do have dolls. Is it us that does it or do the kids actually make those choices?

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12 Responses to Are Boys Wired To Be Risk-Takers?

  1. Ellen says:

    I think it is both, the character of the boy and the influence of the environment, including the parents. My boys were not so-called cry babies, but if they cried, I did not say,boy do not cry. But both of them were plain stupid with taking the risks they have taken. And when they were little, I knew I did not know all they did, and I hated that, not being able to correct them etc. But now, I am very happy I did not know all of what they did. And you know what, I do not want to know them now either. It will make me feel, I should had paid much better attention to them. And, to be honest, they are pretty decent young men now 🙂

  2. SKL says:

    I think boys are, on average, wired to be more impulsive, whereas girls are more likely to consider and weigh the risks before acting. These are just averages, though. I did things my brothers would not dare to do. This was partly because I hung around them and they were older. I wanted to keep up with them and I didn’t have as much forethought due to my age. I also just have a courageous nature, when it comes to “doing things.” (Not when it comes to presenting myself.)

    One of my brothers hung around with some older boys and went along with their ideas, including some mild criminal stuff. I think he wanted to prove he was tough and brave (partly because he was very small for his age and nerdy-looking with his four eyes). So in that sense, it was his environment. But I don’t think he laid awake at night worrying about the consequences of his actions, either. My mom says that when he was in KG and wearing size 3, he managed to punch a rotund 6th-grader in the nose because, he said, that boy was trying to bully him. (The 6th grader cried and tattled, otherwise we wouldn’t know about that incident.) My guess is that the decision to throw that punch was the boy wiring, not somebody’s influence.

    My second brother used to be very mild and hold everything in, until he’d get really angry and do really bad stuff. My mom still doesn’t know that he was the one who slashed the tires of a couple school employees who were giving him a hard time. He also once threw a shoe to retaliate against taunting, and it went through a school window, and he got in all kinds of trouble over that. Was that boy stuff? Maybe. All I know is that I would never do something that I’d be likely to be caught for, no matter how mad I got.

    As for my youngest brother, who knows what he was up to? He would come home from school at 10pm, and in the summer, he’d run off every time he was confronted with some error or omission, and again never come home until 10pm, i.e., after the last of his friends’ parents kicked him out. He did that from age 6-10, and then suddenly became a homebody. He got in trouble a few times – again, nothing major and always with some older boy. But again, stupid stuff. Like going along when a boy entered his neighbor’s house and busted up a boombox. Why?? There wasn’t anything he saw at home that would make him think that was a good idea.

    My parents didn’t encourage any of us to be either timid or reckless. My dad, by the time he had kids, was a very mild and responsible person, so he didn’t model some kind of “macho” image to his sons. Also, my mom was the stronger and more vocal of the two parents (and more likely to fly off the handle around us kids). So I’m thinking nature is more to blame than nurture on this one.

  3. shanef says:

    It’s funny that this is one here. I just got back from the hospital, I was doing something pretty stupid but I didn’t think it was stupid at the time or until it was too late.
    I was trying to rip the plastic wrap off of one of are coils at work instead of cutting it off. My arm slipped and slammed into the edge of the coil.
    I ended up with 2 lacerations on my left forearm. First time I’ve needed stiches in about 26 yrs.
    From now on I’ll be a little bit smarter about how I do things at work. I don’t plan on spending 2 hrs. in the hospital getting stitched up again.

    As far as my answer to the subject, I beleive boys are a lot more risky than girls.

  4. mssc54 says:

    I grew up with four sisters and only got my brother when I was thirteen. I left home when I joined the US Navy four short years later.

    We have four daughters (30, 26, 21 & 8) and a 6 year old son. We also have 5 & 3 year old grandsons as well as a 6 month old granddaughter.

    I am continually amazed at how differently the boys minds work. Although I will say that Lindsay (our 8 year old daughter) was much braver two weeks on our vacation when we climbed up Stone Mountain and when she and Porter climbed the rock wall.

  5. starlaschat says:

    I was more cautious then by brother growing up. I think maybe the boys are hard wired a little differently but also training and expectations from parents and society could play in to the mix. We gave a friends daughter a small green match box car. She loved that little car and years later still was playing with it. I do think it’s easy to see boys as boys and girls as girls and act accordingly. Good food for thought. I will ponder this more I am sure.

  6. Just a Mom says:

    I think it’s a combination of being pre-wired like that and what choices the parents make. My brother would play with my dolls but he would make them slide down a rope from a tree instead of trying to take care of them.
    As far as boys being more daring than girls I think that is just a person by person deal! I am probably more daring than my friends and oddly the older I get the more daring chances I take.

  7. Joy Rehnee says:

    Hello Joy,
    I absolutely think that boys are wired differently than girls. I was a ‘tom-boy’, and therefore a bit more impulsive and constantly being injured. Still, nothing compared to my own sons. I caught them scaling the house when they were 5 and 7, preparing to jump onto the trampoline from the roof, “so they could jump high enough to touch the sun!” I told them they would have made it all the way to heaven! Soon after we had a devastating house fire which destroyed everything, including the trampoline next to the house. It was the only loss that didn’t cause any pain… When they were 9 and 11 they took my car out for a ‘joy-ride’ one New Years Eve at midnight, and ran it into a ditch. I was already asleep in bed, and thought they were as well. A very upset police office tried to blame me, but I hadn’t even touched any alcohol because I worked the next day! The worst thing was that they used to sneak out and swim across the river behind our old house during the night, ‘just because’. There are too many stories like this for me to even count. I was quite strict and overprotective according to them, but it didn’t stop them from being ornery. There were times when I didn’t think I would live through their shenanigans. But I did. Still, I used to get really jealous when my friends with daughters would share how calm and good their girls were, while their faces showed shock and horror in response to the latest stories about my boys!

    I raised them by myself and tried to shake up the gender roles. I gave them dolls to play with and introduced them to the arts and so forth. They didn’t like it much and even complained about the laundry detergent making them smell like girls! I’m just happy they became fine young men who can cook and clean, are kind and even cry when their hearts are broken, like over a lost love and the recent deaths of some best friends. I must have done something right…Still, I’m hoping for a sweet little granddaughter one day 🙂


  8. Laura says:

    oh HECK yes. But I also think that personality is a big deal. I’ve known some little girls that will go screaming into any situation, and boys who hang back and observe. So I don’t think the stereotype holds for each and every kid.

    But, in general, I think that boys are more rambunctious, more prone to the “violent” play, and girls are more inclined toward more “domestic” play. It only makes sense… the male of the species is made to protect and defend it, and female is made to nurture the following generations.

  9. lucy says:

    The good old “nature” vs “nurture” argument 🙂 I think its both… I do think that our culture is EXTREMELY gendered and children are socialized accordingly! As young as 2 & 3 they categorize themselves by their gender and people treat them accordingly. I think this has a huge effect on their behaviors and expression of emotion. On the other hand, I do believe that boys are hormonally driven to be more rambunctious. So I believe these two interact with each other and the personality of the child.

  10. SKL says:

    While I believe nature beats nurture on this one, I will agree that people view little boys and girls very differently – and are even influenced by the way they are dressed. Everyone will smile at a little girl dressed in a feminine, old-fashioned dress, even though she may be a little vixen. Needless to say, I dress my girls in their sweetest dresses when I will be taking them someplace and sense that a higher-than-average level of forgiveness/tolerance will be needed . . . .

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