It can be mighty challenging for parents to be able to determine how their kids are feeling. Sometimes, there are very clear signs that show whether a child is unhappy, or whether they are happy and showing love to their parents. But since children aren't yet fully capable of expressing themselves in mature and evolved ways, some of these signs are pretty confusing. That's why we've scoured the internet for legitimate knowledge on some of the ways that children inform us how they're actually feeling. After all, sometimes the ways they express themselves are in complete contradiction to what's happening under the surface.
This list is split into two major categories in order to dissect how children show their love as well as express their unhappiness. These categories are how girls act versus how boys act. Now, most of these traits are completely transferable between the genders. In other words, one doesn't have to be a girl to act in a certain way. But there are both sociological and biological reasons why certain traits are more commonly found in a boy or in a girl. This is what we'll be going on as the points are based on facts and theories from psychologists, scientists, and doctors who are linked below. Without further ado, Boys Vs. Girls: 10 Ways They Show Love (And 10 Signs They're Unhappy).
How Kids Show Love
20 Girls: Tend To Be Vocal
On the whole, there seems to be less confusion about how girls show love than how boys do. This is because girls tend to be far more vocal about their feelings than boys. This is because boys are conditioned to hide how they're feeling as they don't want to be judged for it.
When a girl is showing signs of love for her parents, friends, or her crushes, people tend to take note of it. Girls are usually less inhibited than boys are and therefore have the freedom to express themselves. This means that they can show physical affection easier than boys can. This can be great for parents who desire a bit of obvious love from their kids.
19 Boys: They Make A Mess Of Themselves
Believe it or not, there's something far deeper behind the messes that some boys cause. Parents aren't usually taken back when their little boy touches, mashes or even smears their food. They usually just brush it off as the type of behavior that's common for boys. But a lot of the time, these kids are showing their parents their love. The physical connection they have with food, art supplies, or even mud is enjoyable to them. It's exploration. By making a mess, they are sharing how much they love it with their parents.
Yeah, it can be pretty inconvenient, especially since the parents are usually the ones who have to clean up the mess. But it's actually a way that boys (and some girls) show their parents that they're enjoying themselves.
18 Girls: Dawdle Out The Door
Getting toddlers and young kids out the door can be a hassle. Sometimes it feels like they just won't get out of the house. Additionally, they lack a sense of time and live in the moment. This can cause them (and you) to be late for any number of engagements or obligations such as school. But there's much more to this than meets the eye, especially when it comes to girls.
In short, these young women really want to spend time with you. Whether they truly know it or not, the things that are causing them to dawdle are keeping them with you longer. This is because they have a deep connection and love for you. Boys do this too, but they tend to be more independent, therefore getting them out the door isn't as much of a problem.
17 Boys: Want Parents To Chase Them
Dr. Laura Bennett-Murphy, a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Mother-Child Project at Westminster College, has some interesting theories on why toddlers love when their parents chase them. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that they are experiencing an early form of independence by running away from their parents. But toddlers are also aware that their parents are always around for them. So, by them encouraging their parents to chase and capture them, they are testing their independence but also letting their parents know that they still need and appreciate them. They're not quite ready for full independence yet. Though Bennett-Murphy's theories apply to both boys and girls, it applies more to boys as they are often more concerned with independence.
16 Girls: They Paint Their Parents Pictures
On the whole, girls tend to be more creative than boys. This is because true creativity takes a degree of emotional intelligence and empathy that takes longer to develop in boys. Of course, there are many exceptions to this.
Creativity is also a way for kids (especially girls) to show their love and affection for their parents. Arts and crafts time is really something that's just for them. It allows them to play around with their hands and their imaginations. But when they start drawing you things, they're showing their deep affection for you. They could be painting a picture for themselves, or for no one in particular. But when they do it for their parent, they're saying that Mom and Dad are on their mind.
15 Boys: They Share Food
Food is everything. And to a toddler, the good junk food (such as candy and ice cream) is what gets them through the day. As you may have noticed, toddlers, especially the boys, have a particularly hard time sharing this kind of food. It's like a prized possession of theirs. If you ask them for a lick of their ice cream, they recoil. But when they openly share it with you, this is an incredible sign of love and affection. They are essentially saying, "Hey Mom and Dad, I love this and I love you, so you should try it!". If they weren't really saying such a thing, they wouldn't be selflessly sacrificing such a delicious treat.
14 Girls: They Bring A Toy With Them Everywhere
Some toddlers have that one stuffed animal or blanket that goes wherever they go. Although both boys and girls can do this, girls are more likely to drag around that doll or plushy that their parents bought them. The most important part of that sentence is the end of it; "that their parents bought them".
When girls drag around their favorite toy, it has nothing to do with the fact that the toy is soft or cool, it has to do with the fact that it's an extension of their parents' love for them. Of course, most of the time, a youngster is completely unaware of this on a conscious level. But child psychologists truly believe that this is the reason why they have such an attachment with these kinds of objects; it's really about who gave it to them.
13 Boys: They Stick To Routines
Dr. Tovah P. Klein, a psychology professor and the Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, has some interesting theories on how kids show their love when they stick to routines. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that routines represent the parent who enforced them. When a child continues to follow routines on their own accord, they're showing their parents respect and love.
Usually, routines involve a parent (I.E. a bedtime story or a kiss on the cheek before bed). Regardless, it's integral to a child because they have an emotional connection to it. It makes them feel safe, and it allows them to reach out to their parents. Since boys have a harder time showing affection, they can often be the ones who are the most attached to routines.
12 Girls: They Cuddle
When a toddler cuddles with their parent, they're admitting that they know they're always there to provide the comfort they need. Therefore, cuddling isn't just about showing affection, it's also about showing appreciation. Of course, girls tend to be more likely to do this as they're generally more affectionate than boys are. Boys are also programmed to be less cuddly, even though there really shouldn't be anything stopping them from doing so.
Some parents can survive with minimal cuddles. This is because children often attempt to cuddle at inconvenient times, such as early in the morning or at the supermarket. But hopefully, every parent can step back and remind themselves that their kids are doing this out of love and respect.
11 Boys: They Loudly Welcome Parents Home
Some parents love to be welcomed home by a bunch of yelling kids. Others, truly loathe it because they've had a long day at work and just want some peace and quiet. But child psychologists claim that children who greet their parents loudly are ultimately expressing their love. Sometimes it may not seem like it, but this is truly one of the only ways they can tell their parents that they love them.
Of course, boys are more likely to do this as they tend to be less well-mannered and more aggressive than girls.
How Kids Show They're Unhappy
10 Girls: They're Overly Passive-Aggressive
Women, in general, tend to exhibit more indirect ways of expressing their anger and sadness. Even though they're more vocal about it, they tend to be vocal in ways that are less direct. This is because women tend to be less aggressive and confrontational than men are. This is due to years and years of sociological and behavioral evolution. This means that young women can show a large degree of passive-aggressive behavior when they're unhappy. Snippiness and sarcasm are colorful signs of passive-aggressive behavior. Ironically, they can create more conflict than they originally intended.
When parents are seeing more passive-aggressive behavior in their daughter, it could mean that there's something deeper going on within them.
9 Boys: Hide Their Feelings
It's pretty common for boys to hide their feelings. It doesn't matter if they are feeling love and appreciation for their parents, their friends, or their crushes, they tend to play things close to their chest. In terms of romance, their love tends to come out in physically playful ways. In terms of their friends, it comes out in teasing and locker-room banter. And when it comes to their parents, boys tend to show their love by remaining calm, collected, but distant. All of these are signs of hiding their true feelings. So, if your boy isn't very vocal about their affection, don't worry, it's more usual than you may think. They may just need a little time and encouragement in this department.
8 Girls: Their Self-Talk Is Overly Negative
It's important for parents to be aware of the kind of language their kids are using when talking to or about themselves. Language can be a wide window into the soul of a child. If they are speaking overly-negative about themselves, even while cracking a joke, it can mean that there's something going on inside of them. It's a sign of hurt.
This trait is pretty common in boys, who can use a more comedic and removed type of negative self-talk to cover-up their unhappiness. But girls are more prone to being utterly hard on themselves. This is because they're more connected to their emotions. So, when you hear your daughter making these kinds of comments about herself, stop and figure out what you can do to help.
7 Boys: They Compete Harder
Men's brains are programmed to force them to compete in order to reproduce and pass on their genes. This is the hunter-gatherer mentality. But nowadays, boys are encouraged to be more open about their feelings and address what's truly bothering them.
When it comes to competition, boys are usually only focused on academic or athletic competition. They don't yet have to deal with other forms of competition such as romantic or occupational. So, if your child is utterly focused on winning that soccer trophy, it could be a sign that they're unhappy about something unrelated.
6 Girls: They're Overly Affable
Hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution have determined much of our behaviors. Although the line between genders has been changing in recent decades, some traits still remain prevalent in specific genders. For instance, some girls tend to appear overly affable when they're feeling unhappy.
Although a good chunk of girls are more likely to express themselves than boys are, others are very concerned about their feminity. Consciously or subconsciously, they feel like revealing unhappiness will rock the boat, this has been the case for many years. To compensate for this, they appear incredibly happy and incredibly friendly. Beneath this, of course, is a hurt young woman. But by being affable, she's mitigating the turmoil of negative responses to her unhappiness.
5 Boys: They Withdraw
For girls, estrogen is one of the most impactful elements of their biology. For boys, it's testosterone. When testosterone floods the brain of a boy, it has the opposite effect as estrogen. Testosterone forces them to socially withdraw from others and creates a desire to be left alone. It also decreases their interest in talking about their problems as testosterone generally halts the desire to socialize.
Therefore, when things are going wrong, boys will shrink away from others more easily than girls. Parents need to be aware that forcing their son to talk about what's going on may even push them away further. Instead, they should attempt to make them feel comfortable and meet them where they're at.
4 Girls: They Cling To People And Groups
Between the estrogen swirling in her hormones and the evolution of the brains of women, girls chemically know that the way to safety is to stick with a group. For a toddler, "a group" is her family, which usually comes down to her mother and father. Therefore, it's likely that a girl will cling to her parents when she feels like she needs some sort of protection. She also inherently knows that she'll feel less stressed and feel more relaxed if she's in the presence of her "group".
Although this kind of clinginess can be irritating to some parents, it's ultimately a sign that something is pushing them to feel unsafe. So, when parents are attempting to push a clingy child into independence, they should stop and figure out why they're so clinging, to begin with.
3 Boys: They Pick On Others
It should be no surprise that people who pick on others are truly unhappy with themselves. Just look at the world around us. Most of the people causing trouble are those who are clearly refusing to or incapable of dealing with their own issues. And most of these people are men. Of course, boys are no different. In fact, they're even more prone to behaving poorly if they don't know how to deal with whatever they're feeling.
Since guys are more prone to aggression and anger than women are, they're likely to vent their frustrations on others. This usually isn't just irritability. It can come across as downright mean. Therefore, if your child is causing trouble for others, it could be a sign that they are unhappy.
2 Girls: High Irritability
Every child shows their unhappiness in a variety of different ways. They're individuals, after all. But there are overlapping behaviors that can give parents insight into how their kids are truly feeling. For instance, when boys are unhappy, they gravitate toward being withdrawn and utterly distant. But when girls are down, they can be exceptionally irritable.
The irritability that young women express usually has nothing to do with what they're truly upset about. But they're not yet mature enough to truly understand how they're feeling inside. It's especially uncomfortable for girls who tend to be more emotionally aware than boys. This frustration is what triggers them to be so irritable.
1 Boys: They Don't Bounce Back From Setbacks Well
Boys tend to mature slower than girls do. This makes them a bit more emotional than some may think. This also means that they tend to bounce back from set-backs a little slower than girls do. However, if they're taking even longer than usual, this could mean that there's something deeper going on.
Additionally, well-adjusted kids tend to know how to correct the mistakes they've made. Those who are a little less well-adjusted, tend to feel more anxious and sad. This means that when they are reacting to a mistake after a long period of time, they could be holding on to unhappiness. If you're unsure if your son is in the middle of trying to bounce back, or if he is dealing with something deeper, there's no harm in asking.
Sources: CanadianFamily.ca, FamilyEducation.com, You Are A Mom, Parents.com, All About Kids LC Lewis Center, PsychologyToday, PsychCentral, SmartParents, A Fine Parent, SuperSavvyMe, Parenting.com, PBS.org.