I have never once second-guessed my gender, my sexuality, or my femininity. But a new book has tempted me to. Even though I recently spent eight years either growing babies in my womb or feeding them from my breasts, according to Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Multnomah), I am in fact a man—and a good one at that.

Consider author Glenn Stanton's description of what "makes a good man," in the chapter "What Makes a Good Man?" These men are:

  • Explorative
  • Determined to deliver the goods
  • Needing to know what's next
  • Opportunists
  • Chance-takers
  • Initiators
  • Active and aggressive
  • Competitive and dominant

I am all of these things, in one way or another. Now consider what Stanton, the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and author of several books on marriage and parenting, says "makes a good woman," in the chapter "What Makes a Good Woman?" These women are:

  • Confidently enticing
  • Seekers of intimacy over action
  • Wisely receptive
  • Security-seekers
  • Prefers of modesty
  • Care-seekers
  • Word-users
  • Desirous of equity and submission
  • Wielders of soft power
  • All about connecting

Now I'm confused. After all, I use words. I might even be "confidently enticing," though I'll need to ask somebody. A quick tally of this list, and maybe I am a woman, though not all that great of one.

Of course, I jest, to illustrate the problems in pigeonholing men and women by lists of traits—especially when an author seeks to help parents understand the differences between their sons and daughters, and emphasizes the importance of having both male and female influences in a child's life.

This is not to say I don't believe men and women are different. Remember, I once spent eight years pregnant and/or nursing, while my husband … did not. Also, I have two boys and a girl. As I write this, my daughter is creating drama between her Rapunzel doll and some generic princess, while my boys are punching each other and fighting over the "WiiMote." I didn't teach my daughter to play like that any more than my husband taught my boys to fight over video games. Those are "gifts" of nature, not nurture.

So what makes me nervous about gender discussion is not the highlighting of differences, but rather the conclusions drawn on what we can do and be in Christ according to those differences.

In many ways, Stanton's book set me at ease on this front. The scientific evidence he offers on the differences between the male and female brain ("The increased level of serotonin [in the female brain] is what moves your daughter toward being … more measured, more reticent, more cautious, and better able to focus longer on one task … "—thus, the doll drama vs. WiiMote battle in my living room) piqued my interest. Stanton's assertion that a man's "male essence points him beyond" and serves as evidence of a man's adventurous ways cracked me up. And the loving stories he tells of his wife (even of him submitting to her wisdom) and his children charmed me. Stanton is quick to state that gender differences are never carved in stone, so perhaps I shouldn't take his lists so seriously.

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Yet for all the wisdom Stanton offers, I find some of his conclusions—namely, that we should be raising our kids to seek different life goals based on gender—troublesome. Contrary to the title, we should not be raising "confident sons" and "secure daughters." Rather, we should be raising both sons and daughters who are both secure and confident.

When it comes to what we raise our kids to do and be, certainly gender plays a role. But it isn't, as Stanton believes, "the center of the human story," at least not for Christian parents keen on raising their kids to follow Jesus.

Even as male and female reflect God, our gender doesn't matter more than our God-given gifts or the gospel itself when it comes to playing our part in the kingdom. The Holy Spirit certainly doesn't impart gifts according to gender. Many of us debate whether God outlines different gender-based roles in marriage and church life, but certain spiritual gifts do not require a certain biological makeup. And Jesus didn't offer gender-tailored rules when he told us to love our neighbors as ourselves and go and make disciples of all nations.

Throughout this book, I kept wondering if Stanton forgot this fact, especially when he makes statements like, "Men lead because the male's orientation is to shape, mold, create, and change things that are bad into something good."

While Stanton says that women can also "shape, mold, and influence" by wielding the power of "simply being good, healthy women," this isn't the same. In fact, if only men are oriented to transform this world, women are in trouble, because a woman who is being "good" and eating healthy, hoping that the world changes for the better as it twirls around her, isn't living the gospel.

As image-bearers of our Creator and Redeemer, we should all have a world-changing orientation. If we don't, we ought to pray for it. And as Christian moms and dads, we'd better be working hard to raise our boys and girls to right the wrongs of the world in Jesus' name. How we do that might look different according to our gender, gifts, or temperaments, but in Christ, in whom there is no male or female, it should become our very nature—and the center of our human story.

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I am confident that Stanton agrees. It's clear from his new book that he is smart, he loves his family, and he loves God. From the final heartbreaking story he tells about his dad—the one that left me crying, like a girl—I can tell that Stanton is a good man, list or no list.

Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer, speaker, and mother of three, and the author of Mama's Got a Fake I.D. as well as a book forthcoming from Tyndale House. She has written for Her.meneutics on boycotting Amazon, Halloween, burqas, fathers, Mother's Day, spanking, happiness, and pregnant Olympians.