Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons

I was excited to receive a copy of Secure Daughters, Confident Sons by Glenn T. Stanton, and have spent the last month enjoying it thoroughly. The subtitle of the book is: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity. This apt subtitle gives you a clear picture of what the book is about: raising boys who are boys  and girls who are girls.

If you are a parent who has ever had concerns that today's society is headed for androgyny, then this book is definitely for you. If you have ever wondered how to temper the desire to teach compassion to your boys and to comfort them when they are hurt, without going too far and over-feminizing them, then this book is for you. If you have tried to figure out how to encourage your girls to be confident achievers who believe in themselves, while maintaining their femininity, then this book is for you. If you have thought that something in our world needs to change to get things back into God's order, yet you don't want your girls to be trampled on or your boys to become brash, chauvinistic bullies, then this book is for you.

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons is divided into three main parts. Part One is A Clear Vision for Authentic Manhood and Womanhood--And How to Help Your Kids Get There and covers which traits are common in many diverse cultures for both men and women, and why each of these traits is important to the gender development of your child. This includes discussions on differences in brain make-up, what are gender-appropriate behavios at various ages, and what boys and girls need most to get to where they (as individuals) need to be. Part Two is called Why Boys and Girls Need Mothers and Fathers and explains the importance of the husband and wife working together as a complementary team to influence and protect their children as they grow. Discussions in this section include Balancing Grace and Discipline, Preparation vs. Protection (Why Both Dad and Mom are Right), and The Importance of Play. The final section is the Appendix which is a discussion on studies made by the scientific community which relate to gender definitions and successful psychological development. It also includes notes which give details about the many studies that are referred to throughout each chapter of the book.

If you look at the offerings by certain Christian vendors you will find more books on femininity and the masculinity than ever before (or at least more than have been produced over the last fifty years). There is obviously a sense of the need for a return to God's original plan in regards to gender roles, at least within the Christian community. However, the books you often find may be of the ultra-conservative sort of teaching that might be too overbearing for someone who is just coming around to the idea that God's plans are always the best ones.

In the past, I have had a tough time knowing what books to suggest to ladies who ask me for recommendations about this topic who are not firmly on the conservative side of "men are the head of their household, and women are help meets, stay home with the kids, and should always wear skirts" debate. I have read many of those books myself, and while I am not a 100% skirt wearer (nor do I think you need to be to be feminine and modest), my husband is the head of our household and find I do have more in common with those conservative folks than I do with the suit-wearing women who run Fortune 500 companies and bring in six-digit salaries, or the scantily clothed, free-flying actresses that you too frequently hear about as models for tomorrow's women. I personally have no problem reading the more conservative books and gleaning from them what I feel God is leading me to, and letting the rest lie where it is, perhaps for another day in another season of our lives, but I hate to make a book recommendation that might potentially "scare" someone away from a topic as important as this one.

You do know what I mean, don't you? Sometimes there are parents who want information on how to raise manly men and feminine girls without being absolutely preached at about why someone thinks a woman having a desire for a career or to wear slacks is unfeminine. Many parents want to read about how they can follow God's plan for their sons' and daughters' individual personalities, strengths, and callings without compromising their distinct and needed gender differences, but don't want to be told the specific path they must follow, as if one author can possibly determine what is best for everyone (other than God, of course!).

I personally think every decision about your children needs to be God-led, and made by the individual and the individual family depending on the time and situation they are currently in, not by some author whose family is different than yours. Obviously, there are some truths that apply across the board, such as the "men should be the head of the household" truth. But that does not have to be done by a man being bossy, overbearing, or without considering the needs of the rest of his family. Men can demonstrate and live out being the head of the household in a variety of ways, though each of these ways will have common traits and reasonings behind them.

I am glad to say that in a sea where previously I had seen choices at one end of the spectrum (ultra-conservative) or the other (liberal, secular), Secure Daughters, Confident Sons is now available for you to recommend to  parents or grandparents who want to hear general and solid reasoning and defenses for re-establishing firm gender differences, but don't want to be told someone else's idea of how to get there. Glenn Stanton gives you much good advice and many real-life scenarios about leading and assisting your children along appropriate gender paths, but he refrains from limiting your child to a certain ideal (ie. the boy who loves weapons and battles, and dreams of conquering the universe). While there are qualities that are defined as decidedly masculine, such as liking exploration, wanting to compete, and needing respect, this book supports the idea that this picture of masculinity has many ways it can manifest itself in different people.

This book is not wishy-washy or sitting on the fence theologically. It is Biblically-based, and uses scripture throughout to support its statements. It also has plenty of science to prove the scriptural truths for those who doubt. In fact, the balance of stories, mixed with science, and solid Bible truths, is just about perfect for sharing with friends who might not necessarily be Christian. It might just be the tool that will help them see how God had a perfect plan, and by going back towards it, we can improve our future and the future of our children.

I really appreciated how this book manages to clearly explain why we need boys to grow up into men who confidently fill the traditional roles of men in positions of headship, and why we need girls to have the freedom and security to develop their femininity and nurturing qualities. Because it does this without telling you exactly what your individual child's end product needs to look like, it applies to a larger audience of readers, and I appreciate that, especially from a counseling/consulting perspective.

Other than the wide range of appeal of this book, my favorite quality of it was the fact that Glenn Stanton helps you to have a general understanding of what the final goal is for both boys and girls (ie. what qualities do well-adjusted men and women need to succeed) before determining the specific path each of your different children needs to take to get there. He offers useful lists of the traits we parents would love to see in our well-adjusted and happy sons and daughters, and offers a multitude of ideas on how to head in the right direction. He encourages conversations and interactions you can have with your children, and he also answers targeted questions at the end of each chapter that lead you into deeper consideration of each issue. I will definitely be passing this book on to my husband to read next so we can discuss it in depth, then I will likely lend it to my brother and sister-in-law as they have an interest in this topic, too (they have two adorable little boys!)

I highly recommend this book. Not only will the incredible volume of research easily folded into the conversational tone of this book arm you when it is time to defend your choices for your children against the next well-meaning, but misguided relative or acquaintance who questions you, but the heartfelt and Bible-based advice will make you feel as if you have a plain-speaking, intelligent, and understanding friend alongside supporting you and your spouse on the incredible journey we call parenthood.



Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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