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Are You Raising Your Daughters Like You’re Raising Your Sons?

My oldest is a girl.

She is turning seventeen soon and I've begun—too late—to review how we've raised her. And I'm beginning to think that I raised her too much like I raised my boys.

I recently sent her and her brother off to Toronto to fight abortion as interns with a pro-life organization. The impetus behind this move was to get them involved with activism and fighting evil, to have them look people in the eye and see their despair, anger, loneliness, and the emptiness that is there when Christ is not. I wanted to push them both out of their comfortable Catholic bubble here at home and bring them closer to independence.

Parenting is definitely a journey. We make mistakes, of course. But it is important that we are always reflecting on how we are parenting, and to make our vocation as parents primary in our daily lives.

For my son, the internship has been fantastic. He is thriving as he learns to be independent and the desire to fight for these babies has risen in him. He is becoming passionate, articulate, and responsible—everything I wanted for him.

With my daughter, things are a bit different. On the day she left for the internship she found that we were expecting baby number nine. My wife was down with morning sickness, and with the two oldest out of the house, the rest of us were all pitching in to keep things afloat. That week we received a call from my daughter. She was not having a good time. Her heart was telling her to be at home helping her mother during this period of sickness, helping with the new baby animals, and being there for the family.

This short and simple conversation sent me into a whirlwind of thoughts, and my conclusion was that I need to be far more aware of the differences between raising boys and girls. For boys, they need to be pushed, challenged, placed out of their comfort zone, forced to be in situations where they have to be independent and take responsibility for their actions. This is important because as a potential father someday they need to be able to commit to a life of sacrifice and laying down their life for their wife and children, their Church, and maybe even their country.

For girls, things are different. Girls need the promptings of their nature as women to be given the space to grow and mature. Girls need the space and time for their deep emotions to be nurtured and all the inclinations and giftings of being a mother to blossom. Girls, I'm discovering, don't need to be pushed out of the house into independence, militant situations, challenging risk-taking adventures, as these do not develop nor perfect her womanly nature.

The following, from Dr. G.C. Dilsaver’s The Three Marks of Manhood: How to be priest, prophet and king of your family, explains this well:

Men: in order to fulfill a manly duty may have to leave emotions aside and act to conform himself to the sacrifice or duty at hand.

Women: a woman is most womanly when she acts from feelings of love.

Men: are inclined towards justice

Women: are inclined towards mercy

Men: work well in a disciplined, strong environment where duty is emphasized

Women: this type of environment impedes the development of femininity

Men: boys become men by overcoming external challenges and living up to ideals and duties

Women: girls become women when the promptings of her biology and heartfelt emotions are gently facilitated or even merely left unopposed.

For womanhood and motherhood are natural gifts that will blossom in an environment that is sweet and cloistered ... motherhood and its genius of receptivity is integral to a woman's nature as a created being ... a young girl's womanly gifts are already nestled in her heart and naturally spring forth if they are not opposed.

Where does this leave us?

My daughter will finish her internship, as it is important to finish what you commit to. She is growing, learning, and fighting the greatest battle that needs to be fought in western society. This is all good. However, this coming year, I'm going to back off. I'm going to stop placing so much pressure on my daughters to succeed, push themselves, and so forth, and rather, my approach is going to be looking for and providing opportunities for her to grow into a woman and to nurture those motherly instincts when they arise. How will I do this? Actually, I won't. Her mother will. I will step back and her mother will take the lead in this area.

Parenting is definitely a journey. We make mistakes, of course. But it is important that we are always reflecting on how we are parenting, and to make our vocation as parents primary in our daily lives.

God help us all.

Semper Fidelis,

Kenton E. Biffert


Kenton is a writer and speaker, and works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 8 children, explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal page.

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