I have three boys and one girl. I can’t tell you how often I hear the phrase, “He’s all boy!” as my little ones tear around the house or the park jumping and climbing and hitting things with sticks. I find myself agreeing and laughing along and sharing little anecdotes to further define the point.
It’s so easy isn’t it? We teach these little people, love them and care for them day in and day out. A good portion of our day is spent assessing behavior, strengths and weaknesses, academic concepts, level of tiredness and/or energy, personality and abilities. It’s easier when we place them each into categories and plan our day accordingly. I find myself doing it sometimes and this fact gives me pause.
I fall into the labeling trap.
- She’s a girl, so she is more snuggly and needs lots of hugs.
- He is a boy so he’s full of energy.
- He’s the firstborn so he’ll be more cautious.
- He’s the youngest and will be coddled.
- He’s better at math.
- This one’s my sensitive one.
- She’s an extrovert.
And on and on and on.
Truth be told, I have nothing against trying to interact with each child according to her needs, learning styles, personality traits, and natural inclinations. I’m one who loves to take personality tests and figure out what makes people (including myself) tick. I think birth order is fascinating and explains a lot. The whole nature vs. nurture debate and the proven differences between boys and girls give me a lot of food for thought.
But there is a line that we must not cross.
When we, as parents and teachers, start using the patterns we notice in our children’s personalities and past behaviors as excuses to subtly convey “you can’t”, we deny them the opportunities to grow. When we let their ADHD, or introvertedness, or rough-and-tumble boy energy, or sensitivity define them rather than simply inform us we guarantee limitations on their future abilities. Just because he’s a boy doesn’t mean he can’t learn to harness his energy and pay extended attention to something. Just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean she’ll automatically be more verbal. Just because he’s an extrovert doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be taught to reap the benefits from time alone.
We can trust the promises of God’s presence, strength, and purposes for our children to guide our interactions with them. He is the One, after all, who took a stutterer like Moses and created a leader; a child like Mary, in a patriarchal society, and elevated her to the role of mother of the Christ; and an impulsive and brash fisherman like Peter and set him as the foundation for His church.
The limitations, tendencies and patterns we may see and label, God sees as opportunities.
And we walk a fine line in shaping our children, yet allowing them to break the molds of the world. Yes, sometimes boys will be boys. But let’s also allow them to live outside of the generalizations and into their purposes, whatever they may be.