Editor's Note: When we asked frequent Her.meneutics blogger Caryn Rivadeneira to review Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Multnomah), we knew it would get her—and readers—on a roll. The book, from Glenn Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, covers two of the most thorny topics in evangelical circles: gender differences and parenting styles. In her blogging and book-writing, Caryn has given much thought to both, and her review received many amens from readers, mostly women, who have experienced traditional definitions of femininity to be confining and untrue. Yet we also decided to give Stanton the space to further articulate his views on the two topics. Below is his response, which we hope will move the gender-and-parenting conversation beyond well-trod lines of debate.

These days, most discussions on gender unfortunately gravitate to one of two extremes. Either we reduce gender to mere plumbing and social construction, or we have what I call the "pretty-in-pinks" and the "macho-Joes": neat and easy, black and white, a good boy is rough and tumble, real girls are gentle and sweet, and so on. In Secure Daughters Confident Sons, I want to help parents explore the vast terrain that lies between these extremes. It's where most of us live. Can we speak meaningfully and authentically about male and female while navigating the space between? It is the best place in which to do so.

My book takes Genesis 1:27—and thus what it means to be gendered persons—very seriously. In fact, Christianity takes femininity very seriously, for it "images," or reflects, God in the world like nothing else can. There is no bigger statement about how special it is to be a woman. And men do the same in their male uniqueness. To dismiss or oversimplify femaleness and maleness fails to appreciate one of God's greatest and fundamental gifts. It is the first thing God tells us about ourselves, and it is the first question we ask about every new human ("is it a boy or girl?"). Secure Daughters Confident Sons examines through the lenses of Scripture and new insights from science the place where gender demonstrates itself most vividly: parenting.

At Focus on the Family, I handle a good share of the media calls. Most reporters ask if the differences between mom and dad are really necessary for a healthy family. I ask the reporter to imagine his or her magazine or newspaper being staffed entirely by only one sex. Would such a turn have no discernible effect on the quality of the publication? "Doesn't a good publication like yours just need intelligent, insightful reporters?" This is typically answered by an unenthusiastic, "I see your point." If your newsroom, or any other human enterprise, requires male/female contributions to be its best, how much more so in parenting, which issues from this very difference?

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How do we live, work, and love as males and females in the family, in molding men out of boys and women out of girls? The first half of the book explores in fine detail what it means to be authentically male and female, and not just in particular corners of the world. If what we say about being authentically male or female doesn't apply to those working in a shop in Lincoln, Nebraska, as it does to those working rice fields in Longyan, China, then it is not genuinely masculine or feminine. Since God created all of us—in all corners of the earth, red and yellow, black and white—meaningfully as gender-distinct beings, we should then be able to speak meaningfully about a general, universal masculinity and femininity.

Over the past decade, a wonderful body of research from neuroscience to anthropology suggests there is a real, measurable maleness and femaleness that's more universal than gender-studies folk ever imagined. Secure Daughters Confident Sons provides a narrative, drawn from the male and female physicality of sexuality, helping parents grasp what a male or female essence really is and does.

The male physical orientation is outward, beyond himself. Every boy must learn to get up, prepare himself, rouse his confidence, and go to it. This is just as true of the macho Clint Eastwood types as of the cerebral Bill Gates types. As Michael Gurian, a leading gender specialist, says, "Almost every man you know is on a quest." Girls, on the other hand, are physically oriented to take in and receive, to draw others to themselves, to nurture and protect. It is why Gurian says, "A girl is born with an inherent, directly natural path to self-worth." And thus, Margaret Mead, decades ago, noted from her cross-cultural anthropological studies that "women, it is true, make human beings, but only men can make other men." Girls have a more natural path into womanhood. Boys need to be invited into manhood. This is what the Bar Mitzvah is about. It is what's behind the call for men to help boys "cut the apron strings."

Consider how the outward-inward nature of men and women shows up in some basic aspects of parenting. Consider just one example: how moms and dads hold young children. Dads will at some moment throw them into the air. Mothers seldom do. I have seen this everywhere from Manhattan to Jakarta. Mothers holding their babies communicate closeness and security, something we all need. Dads scare the wits out of us by throwing us up in the air, teaching us that the world can be a scary place. But just as soon as gravity has its effect, we sail back into Dad's strong hands. And we giggle uncontrollably and demand "again!" Mom provides comfort, and Dad provides confidence-building experiences.

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The social and child-development sciences point to hundreds of other ways that the differences between mothers and fathers provide rich and essential developmental experiences for children. Go to any playground and listen to the parents. Some will be saying, "Don't climb any higher." Others will be saying, "See if you can make it to the top." Who are the moms, and who the dads? And which message is more important? Neither is more important: our boys and girls need both.

It's important for Christians to understand what our gender differences as God-imaging humans mean theologically, humanly, and practically, day to day. Secure Daughters Confident Sons seeks to do exactly that.

Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of many books on the family.