Raising Boys and Girls

Friday evening’s DotMom keynote was done by David Thomas and Sissy Goff, two folks who’ve done counseling with kids and parents for years. They also wrote the book “Raising Boys and Girls” which I’ll be reviewing on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.  (I’m also hoping to wrangle a copy to give away to a reader too!)

David spoke about boys, and the unique contributions their mothers make in their lives.  As a mom of four teen-and-up boys, I was fighting back tears for most of his talk.  I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it was partly because that thought hadn’t been phrased to me in that exact way before, and it just made me conscious of just how crazy I am about my guys.  (Good thing I haven’t put on my makeup yet this morning, because here I am tearing up again!)

As mom to my boys, I’m irreplaceable.  I’m their first female relationship, and I mirror the love of God to them in a way that no one else can.  I’m unconditionally devoted to them.

David talked about the differences in the male and female brain– how a momma will sometimes give her boy a 4 or 5-part instruction and expect him to do it.  And then he’ll just kinda wander off dazed, and do maybe half of it.  Boys are not multi-taskers, and so we as moms need to realize that it may be more productive to just give them a thing or two at a time, instead of saying so many things at once.

There are several unique challenges we have as moms of boys:

~~We are called to be safe.  For years we’re the utter center of these little guys’ lives. But as they grow they’ll often also start pushing us a bit, stretching us to our limits. They know they’re safe in our love, in a way that is different than is typical with the father-son relationship.

~~Then at the right time, we are called to let them go, and to bless them in that process, even when it is hard.

David told a story that demonstrates the boy-girl difference:  A couple of parents took their son off to college, got him all settled in.  (Again this was making me cry because we just did this with our 4th child a month ago!)  When finally it was obvious that it was time to say goodbye the dad just hugged his son and cried.  All he could say was ‘I love you so much.  I love you so much.’

Then the mom turned to her son. “Now remember, that milk in your fridge will spoil if you don’t drink it in time.  Change your socks every day, and don’t forget to add money to your meal plan, because they won’t do that for you.”  She gave her son a hug and got in the car, and just as they were ready to drive away, she rolled down the window and yelled, “No matter what, don’t drink!  That’ll get you in a world of trouble!”

I could so relate to that momma, trying to prepare her kid for all the eventualities of life, and just hanging onto him with her words as long as she could.  It’s so hard to let kids grow up and go.  We just love them so much.


Sissy Goff is a partner in the counseling practice with David, and she spoke to us about mothering girls.  She began by asking if we thought boys were harder to raise or girls.  By a show of hands, girls won out by a large majority.  She explained that we tend to find mothering daughters much harder because of the relational aspect of the female brain.  She said that we as moms have four things to do for our daughters.

~Support her.  She defines herself by the way we see her.  We need to help our girls develop their voice, learn to ask good questions.  We need to listen well.

~Differentiation.  At first a girl worships her momma.  But she eventually needs to see herself as a separate person, and since we as moms often see our daughters as an extension of ourselves, this process can be painful for us mommas.  She gave us the picture of a pendulum, and said girls kind of kick off away from us for awhile, to get that distance and separation before they come back toward center as adults. 

Since we are relational beings in a way that men are not, we often blame ourselves when the relationship with our daughters is difficult. We hate it when we feel a divide growing between us and our daughters.

~Enjoyment.  Girls who are delighted in feel more delightful.  We need to find a ‘thing’ we do with our girls, something that we’re not teaching them, or correcting them about, just something we enjoy together.

~Inspiration.  We need to give our daughters an example of what it means to be a woman.  Sissy encouraged us to think of 5 traits we would like to see grow in our daughters– and then spend some time praying over that list and asking God how we can make those traits more evident in our own lives.


She ended by saying that girls tend to ask themselves two main questions, and these are questions that a good mom can help her daughter answer.

~Am I too much?

~Am I enough?

This was such a hard talk for me. I grieved missing all the tranquil little-girl time with my older girls, the time when they were crazy for their momma. We leaped into our relationship at puberty, exactly when the mother-daughter relationship is hardest, when they’re pushing away, and (in our case) when our girls were mourning the loss of their first momma. Such a challenge to grow a relationship at that point, to love in a Christ-like way even when all I as the momma feel is the pushing-away. It all gave me lots to think about, lots to work on, while also reminding me that the difficulty in the relationship is not my fault. It’s a function of where the kids are in life, and is likely to grow and get better as they gain maturity and an adult perspective on life.

I really appreciated the reminder at the end of Sissy’s talk– that God is a God who liberates us, who frees us to love each other, who restores relationships, who grows us along with our children, and who cares for our children even more than we do.


  1. what a cool talk, i sure wish i could have attended! i’ve got 2 girls, both in diapers, so i have minimal experience. but i have always been terrified of mothering a son. boys are so DIFFERENT! and in many ways, to me, so FRUSTRATING! it’s funny to me that so many attendees indicated that girls are more difficult, because i’m just so thankful to have gotten girls (so far!). i think it’s partly because i still need to do a lot of reading and praying before i have a son! 🙂

  2. What a great post! Lots to think about! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Ack! Now I’m all teary! Good post!

  4. wow, you just answered a “why” question I have been pondering. why, all of a sudden, are my sweet daughters (now 13, 11 & 9) pulling away from that sweet relationship we’ve shared all this time.

    I’m checking my library for the book!

  5. What a great talk. Sounds inspiring!

  6. Sounds like a lot of good stuff! I hope you left both inspired AND encouraged! xoxo

  7. Thanks so much for telling us this!! Is there a place that we could listen to a recording of their session/talk? Sounds like something I definitely need!! Boys and girls are sooooooo different!

  8. Vanda Davenport says:

    I enjoy my boy so much. He was a challenging child, five and six years younger than his older sisters. They are away at college now and he’s the oldest still at home, with two younger adopted siblings. He is almost fifteen and is a delight. I think it was supposed to be the other way around, this being the hard years. My husband thinks it’s because we have so much more time to devote to him now. I think God had mercy on our souls since we are “old” with little ones still. I’m just blessed and thankful, loving the glimpse of the man he’s becoming. I totally get your tears:)

  9. NinjaPrincess says:

    Love the idea of finding something to do with our girls where we just focus on being with them. For many (most??) this seems to be shopping. Any suggestions on something other than that? I’d love to find something that doesn’t reinforce the consumerist mindset our culture promotes.

  10. I need to read book.I have one of each. They are still young, but I can already see some of the points being made. I think I will keep them young forever.

  11. Mary is was a blessing to meet you at dotMOM. I love your blog! I just subscribed. Your writing is very articulate, insightful, and enjoyable to read. Great summary of the message.

  12. Felt your pain today, and my own. My oldest son is in his 2nd year of college (after 13 years of homeschooling) and we experienced all the natural pulling away and independence last year. We had a great summer this year but I have missed him so much. He adds such a spark to our lives since his oldest sister is married and gone. His younger 2 sibs are my adopted ones and I grieve because I don’t have the natural relationship with my 13 year old son. Because of se*ual abuse our relationship has always been difficult. Same with my 14 year old daughter as well. They have healed tremendously and I am so grateful but I mourn for them and us that our relationships aren’t as easy as with our bio kids. Thanks for sharing what you learned.