Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 01/27/2011 by John Bird.
Recommended. A common-sense parenting book reiterating the strangely-contentious position that sons are boys and daughters are girls, and should be parented accordingly.
Glenn T. Stanton unapologetically believes that males and females are different, and that the difference isn't just a result of social conditioning. Little boys are different from little girls just like their daddies are different from their mothers. Their interests are different, their needs are different, even their brains are different. Stanton's book itself is evidence. If we were to remove his name along with all of the references to his being male, there wouldn't be a doubt that a man wrote the book. What lady would write a section on the benefits of throwing and catching babies, after all?
Stanton makes it clear that "different doesn’t mean inferior":
Different means different—think unique if that helps—and many of these female and male differences show us how important, vital, and necessary both male and female are for society and the family. Each has essential qualities, strengths as well as weaknesses, that the other doesn't have.
And to back that up, he gives equal space to raising boys and raising girls; they even get their own chapters. Why wouldn't they? The goal of raising little boys is to make good men, he says, and the goal of raising little girls is to make good women. While "goodness" is the same regardless of gender, what makes a good man is quite different from what makes a good woman, and so there are aspects of their upbringing that should be different. "Raising secure daughters and confident sons is, by definition, gender distinct work."
Stanton also makes a big fuss about the difference in parenting styles between mother and dad, and he says that both are important. Kids benefit from the balance. His examples of these differences were on the mark for my family, and I was happy to show my wife that I'm not so weird after all; that's just my being male. While mother sees that children are nurtured and safe, dad makes other contributions. For instance, by throwing baby in the air, dad builds confidence and, ironically, comfort. In a bit of an understatement, Stanton says that "Moms build comfort in their children in other ways."
Sure, we read a little about discipline, but very little. And to this reader, that's refreshing. I can only read so many books with multiple chapters on multiple spankings, but Stanton doesn't mention the rod at all. Instead, we get to read about hugging our kids, working with them, listening to them, and being involved in their lives. There's even a whole chapter on "the serious business of play." But even in play, there are lessons to be learned: "Dad needs to show his son how to destroy the right things safely."
Stanton, who is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family, draws from several sources. There is a sprinkling of Scripture and, for the most part, his arguments are biblical. He also leans heavily on psychology, science, and experience. Some will find these worldly influences too heavy. When he says that men should teach their sons to stand up to bullies, to even fight them when necessary, I find myself agreeing. But then I suspect that that's the Texan, rather than the Christian, in me. Overall, Stanton finds a good balance in this well-written, well-edited, often funny and very helpful book.