Affirming Your Child’s Gender

AffirmGenderThe night before the first day of school, my brother-in-law asked my 6 year old niece if she needed help selecting an outfit for said first day of school. Like only a bright-eyed, energetic little girl can do, she didn’t miss a beat as she responded “Dad! I’ve had it planned out since July!” My brother-in-law is a wise man. He smiled quietly and instead proceeded to help her put her hair in curlers in preparation of the big day on the horizon.

I share this story because it is an excellent example of a father affirming his daughter’s desire to be a girl. It’s no surprise that girls like to look nice – especially on the first day of school. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as it doesn’t go to extremes.

Contrast this example to my nine year old nephew, who didn’t so much as want a new pair of blue jeans for the start of school. He probably hasn’t given much thought to what he’ll wear in the morning, much less been planning it out for weeks. What he wanted instead was to camp overnight in the back yard with his best friends a few nights before school started. His request was granted, and my brother-in-law patiently walked the boys through how to set up the tent and “make camp”. My sister and brother-in-law found themselves getting little sleep as they quieted excited boys long into the night and helped them shuffle inside in the early morning after getting frightened.

Both are good examples of encouraging kids to be as God made them – male or female. There are a lot of messages in our culture right now trying to tell children they should be confused about their gender. That it’s right to question whether they feel like being a boy or a girl. That if you want to do “typical girl things” or “typical boy things” you are silly and predictable. Or, on the other (and far more deceitful) hand, that if you are male and don’t want to camp in the back yard, there is something wrong about you and probably means you have homosexual tendencies. So it’s best to go ahead and embrace this “fact” about yourself while you’re young. Either way, kids are being pushed to question the sex God made them to be.

Whether you have an all-girl girl or a tomboy, you can affirm your daughter’s feminine qualities. Maybe your tomboy doesn’t fret over what she’s going to wear the first day of school, but does fret over the injured bird she has found and is trying to nurse back to health. You could compliment her on her nurturing skills in this situation. (You could also mention that she looks beautiful with her hair pulled back.)

Maybe you have a boy who’s more inclined toward the arts than things like wrestling or camping. You could compliment him on his initiative to teach himself how to draw. Or on his desire to keep going with his studies even when the other kids at school tease him for not being good at football. It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd.

The point is God is all about diversity. There are many expressions of male and female-ness, just as there are many expressions of skin color. Yet we are all made in God’s image, and even in this great diversity He has shown us, there are common themes. The same rings true with sex.

I encourage you to find ways to affirm your child’s gender – especially as school starts and they are in unfamiliar situations. The affirming you do at home will carry with them through the school day.

– Megan Briggs

Megan joined the Generations of Virtue team to become the Product Manager, a position which keeps her busy researching, reading resources, managing inventory and speaking to young people.

Jenner, Gender, and What Parents Can Do

JennerBlender

Parents – there is good news! Amidst the headlines, trending articles, controversy, and hashtags you have an opportunity to equip your kids for the very real issues they may have to face in culture. We don’t have to take Bruce’s advice and “just call me Caitlyn”. Let’s go a step further.

It is evident by so many headlines in our culture today that merely looking good on the outside will not keep sin at bay. Going to church or having 19 kids will not guarantee healthy families. But before we get off-topic, let’s take a look at 3 ways you can use the Bruce Jenner situation to your advantage.

1. Define

The power of a word lies in its definition.

With all the various opinions being expressed, sometimes we are all at risk of losing sight of the original definition of male or female. Words like “gender” get thrown around so much we begin to assume you can choose it like you choose a necklace. That your “sexual orientation” is merely a matter of choice and the results of that choice are no more than a label on a bathroom door.

It says in the beginning that God created man and woman and it was good. Contrary to Facebook, there are not 58 genders to choose from. And actually – gender isn’t a matter of choice. We are created, knit together as either a male or female and God says “It is good.” Use this opportunity to explain words like gender to your young children. Address the classic questions like “Why are boys and girls different?” by giving clear definitions and age-appropriate explanations. A great resource for this is the God’s Design For Sex series which has different books to help you discuss this at various ages. (Bonus: Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book explains how gender is not just a matter of genitalia. Males and females actually have different brain functions. Check it out here.)

2. Affirm
As adults we are well aware of the crazy amount of messages just in advertising telling you “you’re not right”. It is safe to assume that anything that gets this much press and media coverage has multiple agendas backing it up. One of those agendas is to create confusion in our children’s identity. Confusion and lack of self-esteem can be a breeding ground for suicide, drugs, and other high risk behaviors.

During a recent informal survey our team conducted, we found the top lie believed by youth was either “I’m too _______” or “I’m not _______ enough”. When a wave comes through our culture offering true happiness by changing the very fabric of our created being, it is time to get back to truth.

Affirming the gender of our children is such an important part of building their self-esteem. According to Psychology Today, self-esteem will actually drop at various ages throughout our child’s life. However, there is good news:

[Self-esteem’s] existence and utility is inferred through actions and expressions considered evidence of its presence.

Which means you can practically build your child’s self-esteem! As someone who sees your child on a regular basis, use your opportunity to build self-esteem into his/her life. The value your child places in their male or femaleness is one of the contributing factors in them growing into a strong man or woman of God.

This doesn’t have to be awkward or obvious. When you see your sons doing something to be considered “manly”, affirm that. When you find your daughter doing something considered “feminine”, affirm that. These affirmations can be as simple as “You’re such a gentleman!” when you son holds the door for someone else, or “You look beautiful” to your daughter when she’s all dressed and ready for school. For more practical ideas on helping our children survive the gender blender check out Secure Daughters, Confident Sons.

3. Educate
The gender identity crisis is not going away. In fact, just last month the headlines also included this gem: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds”. As parents, your job is not just to bring up your children and protect them from dangerous lies of the enemy, but also to equip them to stand strong for the truth. This education has to go deeper than “because I said so” or “you’ll understand when you’re older”. Now is the time, whether your child is 2 or 12, to step up to the plate. Commit to learn for both of your sakes.

Here are some more excellent resources for parents:

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage
Why Boys and Girls Are Different
Who Switched Off Your Brain? Solving the Mystery of He Said/She Said

Lastly, the challenge I would leave you with is to help your kids love. People who have identified themselves as transgender (or any other alternative gender) are no less God’s children. Teach your children to be ambassadors of God’s love. Keeping in mind that loving someone does not mean blindly accepting them or having them be alone with your children. But don’t treat them as “less than” just because they are different than you. We all need grace.

-Courtney Alberson

Courtney is Generation of Virtue’s lead solutions specialist. Which is a fancy way of saying she handles the team’s many IT needs and spends a lot of time in Photoshop. When she’s not finding solutions to problems, Courtney enjoys communicating God’s truth about love and relationships to teenagers and…drinking coffee.