Dr. Gregory Jantz

Verbal Ability in Boys

November 30, 2019

There are two hemispheres in the brain—the right and the left—and female brains appear to have more cross-talk between those two sides, which may translate into females having greater verbal skills. “Researchers, using brain imaging technology that captures blood flow to ‘working’ parts of the brain, analyzed how men and women process language. All subjects listened to a novel. When males listened, only the left hemisphere of their brains was activated. The brains of female subjects, however, showed activity on both the left and right hemispheres.”[1] Studies show that at an earlier age, girls tend to be more verbal, develop complex language skills, and utilize a larger vocabulary than boys.[2]

Compared to girls, many boys might be considered slower to develop verbal skills and have a smaller and less complex vocabulary. However, if you only compare boys to boys, then their verbal skills, vocabulary acquisition, and language usage will be right on track. Taking more time to develop language skills and vocabulary does not mean that boys are any less intelligent than girls. On average, boys just develop different skills at different times than girls.

So how do you encourage boys’ verbal skills? 

Be patient to teach patient. A boy who is having difficulty articulating what he needs or thinks may exhibit irritation, frustration, or anger. He may slap his forehead, grit his teeth, or punch the air out of frustration when verbal expression does not happen as fast or easily as physical expression. In order to teach him to be patient with himself, you first should be patient with him. 

Help encourage the use of words. Children, in general, can become adept at obtaining what they want through the easiest means necessary. For boys, that may mean a physical gesture, instead of a spoken request. Help a boy use his words and develop new ones by, for example, making sure he gives an understandable verbal request.

Encourage verbal expression with physical movement. One of the best ways to encourage a boy to talk is to get him involved in a physical activity and engage him in conversation about what is happening. For example, if he is building a tower, start asking him questions about the tower: Who is in it? Why was it built? What will happen if the tower is knocked down? Help him to incorporate verbal expression along with his natural physical expression.

Provide word options if he’s having trouble expressing himself. Because his verbal skills take longer to develop, he may not have the word he needs to express what he wants or feels. Provide him with options and allow him to make his own choices.

As more and more research demonstrates the differences between males and females, boys and girls, each person has to make choices.

Do I acknowledge those differences or do I attempt to act as if they don’t really exist? If I acknowledge that male and female differences exist, what am I to do with those differences? Social structures in the past have taken those differences and created a male preference, to the detriment of females. Do I reverse the pendulum and create a female preference, to the detriment of boys?

As a Christian, I believe God created people as male and female, with differences and without preference. As neurologist Ruben Gur has said, “Most of these differences are complementary. They increase the chances of males and females joining together. It helps the whole species.”[3] God did not create different genders to create confusion, competition, and chaos, “for God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Instead, I believe, God created different and complementary genders with great similarities and also unique characteristics, behaviors, and physiology. When I see these differences, I see the complexity and diversity of creation. Vive la difference!

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] “How Male and Female Brains Differ,” WebMD, http:// www.webmd.com/balance/features/how-male-female- brains-differ. 

[2] Cook and Cook, “Similarities and Differences Between Boys and Girls.”

[3] “How Male and Female Brains Differ,” WebMD.