How Should A Sister Treat Her Brother?
Does our culture really understand boys?
Generally speaking, the mindset is all about teaching boys how to treat girls. A mother writes,
“Two of my children are attending an essay class. Last week they were told to write an essay entitled, ‘How Should a Gentleman Treat a Lady?’ or ‘How Should a Lady Treat a Gentleman?’ Everyone chose the first option. My daughter, without being prompted, offered an explanation, ‘There is more material available to answer the first question!’”
Because girls exercise greater sensitivity and empathy, the thinking is to stay on boys to teach them to be sensitive and empathetic.
However, here’s what we do not observe: Women and girls react with great disrespect when feeling unloved. When females feel a brother is not sensitive and empathetic, they can verbally lash out in ways that causes the hair on the back of a cat to stand up. Though a girl feels vulnerable, the female tongue does not sound vulnerable to a boy. Her tongue can be venomous.
What is our response to the girls?
Do we coach them on “How Should A Lady Treat a Gentleman?” No. We tend to give a pass to girls other than saying, “You shouldn’t say those things.” There is no serious consequence. Because we know girls speak out of hurt and will soon enough apologize, we let them remain in that pattern for years.
Added to this problem, the boys do not cry but steel themselves against their tongues. The boys appear arrogant, angry or indifferent. We deduce the boys need even more rebuking. We hand them the essay assignment, “How Should a Gentleman Treat a Lady?”
The boys can be dying inside, but who cares?
As a culture we gravitate toward how to treat a lady but not a man, thinking if we can exhort men all will be well. But as I say, “The key to motivating a person is to meet that person’s deepest need.”
If we do not teach girls about the power of their disrespect and how that shuts down the heart of a boy because it undermines his need as a human being, we will not motivate the boy to hear us when we coach him on how to conduct himself toward women.
When he feels dishonored and unjustly treated, he will pull away. When he feels we respect his heart, he turns teachable.
Aggressive girls need coaching toward their younger brothers. A mother informed me,
“I have even been teaching my older daughter to respect her brothers. I just told her today that it is detrimental for her to hit, hold or push a boy. I watch my boys rear up in anger within seconds when restricted or pushed in frustration. My husband and I do not allow this behavior, but it does happen enough.”
One mother made the adjustment saying,
“So many times, when my daughter shares frustrations with the males in her life, whether it is her twin brother, her dad, or boys at school, I am able to say, ‘Hey let me help you try to see the issue the way they see it,’ or ‘here is why they may come across like that.’ She is always interested to hear about the differences in men and women.”
What happens when a sister makes a respectful gesture? A mother writes,
“Thank you soooooo much for speaking to ‘the children’ about how love and respect apply to them. At one point in the conference, Katie (the dominant choleric), leaned over to Daniel (the younger, quiet phlegmatic) and just hugged him and apologized for being harsh and not respecting him as a man and brother. I know I saw his shoulders puff out. Priceless.Quiet Daniel was most talkative and loved the lists Sarah (Eggerichs) covered. They were practical and application-oriented, and they resonated with his spirit.”
Because of their sensitivity and empathy, girls get this when they are coached. A mom tells me,
“The other affect your book has had on our family is that, because I have 2 girls and a boy, I have been able to explain to THEM the differences and teach them how to treat men, and how to treat woman. One of my daughters was really treating my son badly – bossing him and speaking to him like she speaks to our dog – and she has had a total turnaround which I am so thankful for, as it wasn’t helping her at all.”
Girls can understand CHAIRS. I love what this mom said to her 11-year-old daughter. Having attended the Love and Respect conference the mother said,
“I began explaining the simple things we had learned. As I told her some of the different ways boys react than girls, she squealed, ‘Mom, you would not believe it. In Social Studies, you should see the boys act out some of the things we talk about in class. They pretend to blow each other up, they are SO weird!’ I replied, ‘Not weird, just different!’ A light went on in her precious head. We are changing the thinking of the next generation! How exciting to be able to pass these truths down to our two daughters and two sons!”
A mother wrote me of her concern saying,
“We need to change the message we send to daughters. My parents certainly taught me independence and competition, even with boys. We were built on the mantra, ‘anything boys can do girls can do better.’ Beating a boy was a victory and a celebration. These lessons make sense as a means to protect our daughters from hurt, but perhaps a better lesson and model is the idea of love and respect. A young woman who grows up ready to compete for power with a man will struggle to submit to the man of her heart.“
She highlights an important truth about respect. But is teaching respect comparable to teaching a girl to submit? No.
Both Paul and Peter begin their sections to the married with wives submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1), but defined that to mean meeting a husband’s need for respect (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:2).
It dawned on me one day that a wife submits to her husband’s need for respect just as a husband submits (Ephesians 5:21) to his wife’s need for love.
Mutual submission is possible when understood to be the meeting of the others’ deepest need. For this reason, mothers need to frame respect as something other than being a doormat. This is not about the girl being less than the boy and being waked on. That’s never the way of Christ and is a perversion of the Biblical meaning.
This is about meeting a boy’s need. This concept on submission–meaning first and foremost that a woman appear respectful even when upset and confrontative–has revolutionized the thinking of many women. It is positive and proactive.
Helping a sister understand how to deliver her message to her brother in ways that sounds respectful to him will soften his heart and motivate him to hear her heart. It's a win-win.