“Mommy and Tiana are…” I used to say this when Tiana started talking and she would finish off the statement with the word, “girls!” And eventually I also taught her that her dad and brothers were “boys.” I don’t know if it meant much to her, but I wanted her to understand that physically, she and I are different from the men in our home. I used to do a simple thing with my sons, too. Whenever we would enter a mall and there was a line for the men and a line for the women, I would tell them, “Boys, you are on that side.” Furthermore, Edric has “Boy’s Time” with our sons so they identify with one another and with Edric.
Some time ago, my oldest son, Elijah, asked me this question, “Mom, how come that boy behaves like a girl?” It was the first time I was confronted with the reality that our children will observe gender distortions and will need explanations from us. In response to his question, I said something like this, “When God made people, he made man and woman, but people who do not understand or follow God’s design want to be something different. So some boys try to be like girls and some girls try to be like boys. But that is not God’s design and it is wrong.” I also explained to him that we are not to look down on or reject people who are like this because Jesus loves them, but we must hate what is sinful.
After reading the article, 21 Reasons Why Gender Matters, I was even more convinced that the most natural way for children to learn how to be men or women is in the home, in the context of family, with a mom and dad who follow God’s principles for marriage and parenting.
What are some practical ways we can celebrate and encourage what it means to be a man or woman in our children?
1. Identify differences and complement masculine or feminine behavior. For example, when my sons open the door for me or help me carry things, I tell them, “Wow, you are such gentlemen! I really like it when you take care of me.” When Tiana wears a dress, it is my sons who instinctively say, “You look so pretty!” (They never seem to do this when she is wearing shorts. But they totally notice billowy dresses or ribbons in the hair!)
2. Remind our children that God created both man and woman to be equally important. He died for all sinners — men and women — and loves us all. At the same time, emphasize that roles were created for harmony and collaboration to accomplish God’s purpose and will. During seminars that Edric and I give to engaged or newly married couples, we often say, “You can’t have a point guard playing post or a post playing point guard. Each player was designed to compliment the other and to work as a team. And the team works best when players are fulfilling the role they were designed to.”
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; (Ephesians 5:22-28 NASB)
3. Kids need to know that their parents have a healthy, loving relationship and enjoy being with one another. Our kids may still feel sad when we go on date nights without them, but they know that this is our special time as husband and wife.Very recently, Elijah said to me, “Mom, I know that Dad loves you very much.” I smiled and asked, “Really? How do you know that?” His answer was, “He takes care of you, he tells you he loves you, he hugs and kisses you, you go out on date nights.” If children see their parents loving one another, doesn’t it seem logical to assume that they would desire the same kind of relationship in the future?
4. Protect children from the wrong kinds of media influences. We are very careful about the shows and movies we watch with the kids. If there are portrayals of homosexuality, emasculated males, or women who “wear the pants” in a marriage, we avoid watching these things or we have discussions with our children about what they saw (especially if it was accidental). Edric and I used to like the Glee series because of the musicality. But after the first season, we discerned that it is not a good show. It blatantly promotes homosexuality and all sorts of immorality under the pretense that “this is the real world.” I used to enjoy watching America’s Next Top Model, but I stopped after my sons started watching with me.
5. There has to be purposeful mentoring for boys, affirmation of their masculinity, and support for them as they transition to manhood. Similarly, there needs to be purposeful mentoring for girls, affirmation of their femininity, and support for them as they transition to womanhood. I am grateful to my mom who taught me to cook, bake, sew, do the laundry, clean, take care of a home, do the groceries, plan menus, manage househelp, deal with my menstrual cycle, relate to boys, and stay physically fit. She prepared me for womanhood and helped me to mature as a woman. More importantly, both my parents taught me what it means to be secure in the Lord, to anchor my identity in Christ.
6. Stay close. I mean this physically and relationally. When children feel unconditionally loved and have their emotional needs met by their parents, they are less dependent on others to affirm who they are as a man or woman. And they don’t need to go around trying to be something they are not to get the attention they lack at home. And when you are physically close (meaning, you are with them often), you can detect behaviors or perspectives that need to be corrected. For example, one of our boys started dancing one time and it looked like he was gyrating his hips. Edric took him aside and talked to him about this. He asked him where he learned how to dance like that and he showed him how boys should move instead. Our son corrected his “dance moves.”
7. Use the home as a training ground for male and female roles. We ask our sons to take care of their sister and watch out for her. This feeds on their naturally protective instincts. We also give them opportunities to lead, to be accountable, and demonstrate problem-solving skills to help family members. This affirms their masculinity. When the younger boys have a problem with the computer or need assistance when putting together a toy or learning how a toy works, I ask Elijah to help them. I tell him, “Hon, you are good at that kind of thing, can you help them?” And he willingly does it. He feels a sense of gratification when he can come to the aid of others.
8. Teach children to be aware of strangers or people who can abuse or hurt them. We tell our kids, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. If they do, tell mommy and daddy. If they scare you and tell you that they will hurt you if you tell us, you should still tell mommy and daddy. Mommy and daddy will protect you.” We also tell them not to play with their privates. (It’s a little more challenging with little boys because they tend to do this without malice when they stop wearing diapers.) But eventually, they get that it is not appropriate to hold their crotch in public or to play with their penis. We don’t ever embarrass our boys, we just explain to them (the older ones) that the feelings they have when they do touch themselves are reserved for marriage. (Edric will soon have a more serious talk with our older son.)
9. Be the first resource for sex. Sex is beautiful when it is understood and experienced in the context of a relationship between husband and wife. The amount of immorality and sensuality that our children will be exposed to is going to get worse. They need to understand that there is nothing wrong with sex, but the context is wrong if it is outside of marriage. They are not to awaken passions or appetites before they are ready for marriage.
Generations of Virtue says that we are “not to awaken romance” in our children until they are ready for marriage (especially for girls). When it comes to boys, we need to protect them from pornography and visually stimulating images that can incite sexual arousal. Edric and I know men who encountered pornography as little children (below the age of 8). Some years ago, I explained to my older sons that if they ever see nudity on the computer or on TV, they should run away from it. They have to guard their eyes because they aren’t supposed to see pictures of naked people. We are very careful about the internet and too much TV or media in our home because of the amount of sensuality and romance that they may be exposed to (besides violence and other undesirable things).
A distortion of God’s design for sex leads to perversion. Sadly, I found out that many youth experiment with same sex relationships because they are bored or because it is the “in thing.” One young lady that my mom was counseling said this, “In our school, it is more special when a girl is attracted to you.”
(So there’s another good reason to homeschool! Children are protected from crazy ideas like that! :))
10.Most of all, teach them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them. There are certain unchangeables in our lives and gender is one of them. If you are a boy, then the most fulfilling life for you is to become the man that God wants you to be. If you are a girl, then the most fulfilling life for you is to become the woman that God wants you to be. God is not a cruel person who will ask you to be something he did not design or create you to be. What is cruel is people mutating themselves to change their gender!
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Let us cultivate healthy, God-centered families and homes where husbands and wives fulfill their God-given roles; where we exemplify and celebrate what is masculine and feminine; and where we protect our children from wordly views and influences that distort God’s design and purpose for them.