Questioning our assumptions
We always need to remember that we live what we think.
Cultural assumption 1: Our children belong to us
- Our sinful human tendency is to live as if life is about us. But it’s not. It’s God’s story: Of creation, redemption, and the promised return of Jesus to establish God’s eternal Kingdom on the earth (see Revelation 5:9 and following).
- So, our own story, and that of our children, are ultimately not about us, but about God.
- Children are a gift given to us, to be treasured by and cared for by us…not the state or anyone else. But remember that first and foremost, our kids belong to God who brought their lives into being, not us. But like us, they are created for HIS glory.
- And also like us, their greatest joy and satisfaction will can only come from belonging to him, in Christ, as HIS children (Malachi 2:15)
Cultural assumption 2: Women and men are superficially different, but fundamentally the same (Social Construction theory)
- The second wave of feminism that swept western culture in the 1950s and 60s has shaped the way our culture thinks, and we cannot help but be influenced by that.
- The result is that we tend to think of ourselves in genderless terms. We don’t think of ourselves primarily in the terms of man and woman any longer. We think of ourselves as “persons”; “individuals”; “human beings” instead of men and women (see How Should Christians Respond to Identity Confusion).
The implications of seeing “male” and “female” as mere social constructions is that it reduces all arguments for male and female distinctions to social power moves.
Men and women share the same nature (essence), as separate and distinct gendered beings (existence). This means that there is nothing that we ever do as mere “human beings”. Rather, everything we do we do AS men or women.
What has this got to do with mothers raising their kids?
Everything! Because you cannot be successful in raising your children if you do not know what the goal is.
- Being a mom is not about you establishing your own sense of identity through the exercise of your choices. It’s about accepting your privilege as God’s servant to fulfill his creation purpose. (Filling the earth with his image.)
- Being a mom is not about raising kids to be humans. It’s about raising boys to be God honouring men and girls to be God honouring women.
What role do mothers play in developing a healthy sense of identity for their kids?
Mothers play a vital role in helping children establish a clear sense of who and what they are at the most basic level of their being: their being created as either male or female.
“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
- History is full of extreme distortions when it comes to human nature being divided into male and female. These are virtually all based on models of conflict (for example, distortions about male or female superiority).
- The Biblical portrait of creation reveals that gender distinctions are not something to be overcome because they work together equally to glorify God. Humanity was made male and female in order to bear God’s image.
How the male/female distinction itself reflects God’s image
Creation was made to reflect the most essential quality of God’s nature: his holiness (distinction). What makes God holy is that he is “set apart” or distinct from everything else.
- The very way this holy (i.e. set apart / distinct) God creates is by setting things apart/making distinctions. (for example, Day 1 – Light from darkness).
- Finally, in his crowning achievement, he creates man to bear his image (his intended purpose: “Let us make man in our image…”). He created two distinct yet complimenting forms: Male and female.
- Ignoring or denying our basic nature as male or female is to ignore or deny one of the most essential ways in which humanity was created to bear the image of God.
At the most basic level, therefore, mothers (like fathers) are essential to helping children establish their own sense of place and distinction as God’s image bearer.
Boys and girls respectively bear God’s image in distinctively male or female ways. And both are to be nurtured and celebrated because of what they contribute to God being glorified in us.
How do mothers practically help their children to establish their identity as gendered image bearers?
It’s hard to get “practical” without quickly stepping into the errors of gender stereotyping, so forgive me if I don’t give you a list of “motherly” activities that moms should do.
One of the most practically important things that Christian moms can and should do is to safeguard their children from the gender difference denying message of culture. To recognize and celebrate that the growing up goals for their sons and daughters are different from each other.
There are some very practical outcomes in recognizing that raising boys and girls have different goals. Boys are being raised to become men. Girls are being raised to become women.
The most practical implication for moms then is at the very level of their relationship to their children as women. As women, moms have a specific role in teaching their sons how to relate with women and teaching their daughters how to relate as women.
For married moms
This will look like working together with your husband to model a healthy and God honouring marriage.
For single moms
- This can be more difficult, especially for sons if there is no positive father figure present. This is where extended family, or extended church family can help.
- But it’s also where you as a mom can help your son see what a God honouring man looks like through your eyes.
Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity, by Glenn T. Stanton.
Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, by Gordon Neufeld
Who Am I?: Identity in Christ, by Jerry Bridges (Read for parents, or give to older kids – teens/college)
Originally published May 12, 2020, updated May 3, 2022.