The issue of gender is all over the news these days with everyone from politicians to Church leaders arguing or defending various points of view. I think it would be nieve to assume that this issue is going away any time soon. What once was a non-disptued issue is now one of the most polarizing and devisive topics in our culture. What I appreciate the most about this book that Mr. Stanton has written is his thorough research and the vast amount of detail included in every chapter. It's a very comprehensive look at what makes girls and boys unique and distinct, as well as what each gender needs to fulfill their God-given natures. He offers advice for parents and concludes that among a list of important things girls need is to feel that they are securely loved and cared for, while boys need to know that they have what it takes to get the job done because they posses a healthy self-confidence, instilled from Mom and Dad. His greatest point is that while it's true that parents can either help or hamper their childrens' abilities to thrive as adults, no one influences their lives more than their own view of God. He alone fills and heals our broken places and regardless of the circumstances within our own families, He can provide everything we need.
I think this is a book well worth your time. It's so full of information, it's almost too much to take in, however I think it will be a book that I pull off the shelf frequently when I encounter various issuse or concerns. It's a resource you will appreciate having. I wrote a few weeks ago about gender differences I've noticed in my kids and some thoughts regarding them. I got an anonymous question regarding it and it's taken me way too long to answer it. I wouldn't normally answer something like that in a post, but since this person is anonymous, I don't have an email address to reply to, and my answer was way too long to leave in a comment I'm posting it here. I will be the first to say that this is my OPINION only. I'm not claiming to be right or to think I even know the answer, but I'm offering some personal thoughts to throw out there for discussion. I'm no expert by any means, just a Mom, but I think the topic of gender is going to be one that only intensifies as our culture tries to constantly redefine it. So here is the question thrown my way and my thoughts that follow. Love to know what you think too...
I'm just wondering what your opinion is when a child seems to identify more with the opposite gender naturally...
It's difficult to answer this question for several reasons, one being that I am in no way qualified to speak on this topic with any kind of professional training or experience and two, without any specifics or details about the situation it's tough to offer advice. However I'm happy to offer a general opinion that I hope is helpful.
-The first thing I would say is, don't panic. I don't think there is one particular mold that all kids fit into. Most kids are not "by the book" in every area of their lives and I think the same can be said for gender preferences. If you're just talking about things they like to play with or who they gravitate towards and they are still relatively young (under 12), then I wouldn't worry too much. That sounds pretty normal to me.
-Be careful about what you say, but be quick to encourage feminine things for your daughter and masculine things for your son, WHEN you see them choose those things. Sometimes I think we can make a bigger deal out of things than necessary, so I would just praise them for those things and realize that maybe the Lord gave them interests that aren't common for their gender, but that doesn't make them wrong. If you don't see a lot of those things yet, don't point it out or make a big deal about it. Just keep your eyes open and praise them no matter what. Kids respond to praise more than criticism.
-I think it's probably helpful to not do a lot of labeling, ie- "only girls do that" or "boys can't play with that." Sometimes forced labels create results that never would have happened without them. Exploring a big world is something that kids are going to need guidance in, especially this world with all its' gender confusion. I would be careful to guide and direct and encourage, rather than criticize, condemn and correct. I think it's healthy for kids to have an supportive environment to be who they want to be with the safety of knowing that Mom and Dad won't panic if they don't follow "tradtional" roles at a young age. They are doing their best to "figure themselves out" and the world that they are growing up in. That's a big deal and not easy. If we freak out, so will they. Just let them explore. I think when kids are young, so much of their behavior is just a phase that will fade with time. Of course this is always true for every child, but I think it's a general rule to think through.
-When kids move toward their teenage years, I think the time to guide becomes more and more important. Age appropriate and same gender friendships are important. I think we need to do what we can to help them nurture and grow those relationships in healthy ways. Different gender friendships are great too, but I think it's not healthy to have only one and not the other. Don't feed thoughts or ideas that they "can't" get along with or feel comfortable with ONLY boys or ONLY girls. I think as parents, we have to be aware of what is going on and who they're friends are. We can help create fun things to do, invite friends over, host parties, etc. If we panic and withdraw because we don't know what to do, we're not helping. I think we're conveying that we think something is wrong with them and we can't handle it, which then makes them think something is wrong too. Be the rock they can go to, even when you are unsure. Go the Lord first for guidance yourself, then help them to do the same and love them through it.
-IN MY OPINION, much of gender related issues stem from an unhealthy idea of who they are and a longing to know if they are valued for who they are. Self esteem is critical and acceptance of who God created them to be, even if it's not "normal" is largely determined by our reaction. NOT ALWAYS the case though, sometimes kids with great homes and good parents can still struggle with identity. It's not a sign of failure, just a personal weakness or vulnerability that we can help build them up in. Don't we all long to know someone loves us just for us and accepts us? Especially our parents?
-My very best advice to offer is this, PRAY, PRAY and PRAY some more! Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and insight into your child. What truth do they need to hear from us or from the Lord? What will help build them up? What kinds of talents and gifts has God given them? What can we do to guide them? If we're overwhelmed and at a loss, ask God to calm your fears and help you to TRUST him with your child. Soak yourself in truth and remember that HE created them, HE loves them more than you could, HE gave them their personality, their interests and quirks, and HE thinks they are of great value. HE died for them to prove His love and to rescue them from an eternity without Him. He longs for us to lean on Him and TRUST Him with our kids and with our fears. He wants the best for them too, but we need to leave that up to Him and realize that the best for our child may not be what we would choose or even understand. I think we would do well to counsel our kids to go to Him too, if they are feeling confused or frustrated about who they are. Professional counseling or intervention can be a good thing too, I would just make sure that I choose someone who bases their counsel on God's Word first. As a professional, they should be able to shed light on things you may not see or offer neutral advice that isn't based on bias or fear.
I have no idea if that's helpful to you, I hope it is but it truly is just my opinion, and a humble one at that. If I were you, I'd seek out several trusted opinions if you are really worried. I want you to know that I prayed for you and your child today, for whatever is going on and how you feel about it. The Lord cares about you and wants to be the one you run to with every fear, no matter how great or small. Praying that you'll be able to do that if you haven't already! Hang in there, parenthood is a worthy calling and a marathon worth running! It's not easy and this is not an easy world to raise kids in, BUT He is an easy Savior to call on and He's given us everything we need in His Word to do the best job we can. Our kids are worth the investment, no matter the cost, I'm sure you'd agree.
Praying you aren't discouraged in your pursuit of widsom and in light of your question, I hope I can be one more blessing along the way...