I’m reading the Little House on the Prairie books to my five year old right now, books we’re enjoying greatly (bears! panthers! floodwaters! wolves! Indians!) and that put him to sleep easily if I read with a boring voice, which I sometimes do when I start to go hoarse. I can’t help but notice some of the rigorous expectations placed on women, and emotional expectations put on men. After noticing that little boys shouldn’t cry, that girls shouldn’t hoot and holler, that Pa smokes his pipe and plays his fiddle after dinner while Ma cleans, washes, dries, and puts everything away, I started thinking about the behavioral expectations that we place on children, “we” either being personally as parents (with our own hang-ups regarding roles) or “we” as in our culture at large, as well as on the men and women with whom we come into contact on a daily basis.

When teaching our children how to behave, does the Bible mandate particulars? Outside of “loving your neighbor as yourself,” what other expectations does the Bible place on men and women, boys and girls?

Is it okay for boys to cry? To play with dolls? To learn to cook and bake?

Is it okay for girls to learn to fence, to climb trees, to engage in wild play?

Do these expectations change when a child reaches a certain age?

Is our activity determined by what we’ve decided is clothing for boys and for girls (if girls are wearing floor length dresses all day, every day, is tree-climbing out simply for safety and modesty issues?)?

At what age are boys, or girls for that matter, made to feel that crying is shameful?

What is the father’s role in the household when it comes to housework? Are sons and fathers to sit and relax after dinner while daughters and mothers do the chores? Does our culture determine what “man’s work” and “women’s work” in the home is to be (boys take out trash and mow the grass, girls do laundry and dishes, etc.)?

Does the Bible mandate specific male and female behaviors that we are to teach our children? If so, what are those behaviors? If not, why does history show men doing as they please and women doing as they’re told and/or expected, generation after generation?