In most instances, bringing up daughters also includes bringing up sons at more or less the same time, and this means that someone has to manage the interaction. Boys and girls discover their differences early on, and in many cases, they discover that they don’t like those differences all that much. And they say so.
Parents have to provide translation services, as well as mediation services, and many forms of preventative maintenance go into this process as well.
While boys have to be taught to be protective of their sisters, girls have to be taught to expect that protection. This has to be done in a way that does not inculcate a pampered “entitlement” mindset, but more like a grounding in the way the permanent things are. The differences between the sexes are just there, like gravity.
Boys should be taught that they are to protect their sisters “from the dragon,” and the very first thing this means is that they must refrain from turning into the dragon themselves. When the protector turns into the very thing that protection is needed from, the result for the girl involved is nightmarish. The things you assumed as fixed and given turn on you; one thing morphs into another. When a brother is being annoying (say, for a wild hypothetical), his sister is dealing with two things, not one. The first thing is the annoyance itself — what she would be dealing with if her sister or a friend at school were being annoying.
But when her brother does it, a second thing comes into the picture, and that is the sense of a double-cross, or a betrayal. He ought be standing between the threat and his sister, but instead he has abandoned his post. It is this that feeds the temptation to resentment — first of her brother, then her father (who does not intervene), and then of men generally.
There are many marriage problems that began as untended squabbles between siblings.
Boys should be taught that roughhousing with their father is perfectly fine, as it is with their brothers. But to treat your sisters “the same” is to despise and overlook something about them that should have been obvious to the boys. Roughhousing with a brother is honoring something about him.
For the girls, this means that they should be taught not to get into it with their brothers — even when they could take them. The courtesies that exist between the sexes have a statistical grounding in physical limitations, but at the same time there are plenty of girls who can throw straighter, jump higher, run faster, and so on, than their brothers can. This is particularly the case when the sisters are older, and their highly-provoking brother is a little rooster, full of testosterone and high opinions of himself. There may be times when such a one should be taken down a few notches, but the main effort in every family should be to get the boys to achieve more, not less, and to achieve more on behalf of others, sacrificing themselves for others.
If the basic attitudes are being kept straight, and if bitterness and resentment have not been allowed to grow, sisters generally want to think the world of their brothers. They want to look up to them. Brothers should be taught to stand up straight, and to be worthy of it. The carnal way boys try to garner this is by bragging, and of course parents should be discouraging that in their boys, and encouraging respectful praise from the sisters.
Boys want to be respected, and this is a God-given desire. There is nothing whatever that is wrong with it. It can go wrong, which is what it has done when a boy takes to bragging. But if a boy is famished and as a result grabs for the food greedily, the proper response is to teach him not to grab, and to provide the food in such a way that selfishness is not necessary. Feed a boy with respect (from parents and sisters) and you will find that this makes him less boastful, not more. And the more he is respected for standing straight, the straighter he will stand.
But sin can get in, even here. He will stand straight . . . or pretend to be standing straight. In any culture where honor is given for certain characteristics, and pretending to have those characteristics is way easier than actually having them, the result is hypocrisy. This is the cheap way of maintaining the natural respect that sisters can offer.
But how many young men have been given the respect of their sisters, and have received it while maintaining some kind of disreputable life on the side? In a household that is being governed by biblically-minded parents, hidden sin will almost always come out. Say a brother is caught cheating at school, or using porn, or some other similar kind of thing. The disappointment his sisters feel is genuine, and ought not to be played down. It is part of his growing up. The worst thing (for real men) about being unmanly is the damage that is done to the women as a result. This is the hardest thing for him to learn, and it is essential for him to learn it. If you crater, if you give way to temptation, then other people will suffer. The sooner boys learn that most victimless crimes leave wreckage for other people in their wake, the better it is for everyone.
But if this kind of thing happens, a sister’s respect need not be lost forever. If he is being taught by wise parents (and if she is), then she will be able to respect him in his repentance. If he refuses to go the route of making lame excuses, he can repent like David did. If he repents like David did, then he has something to offer others, just as David did (Ps. 51:13).
Girls with a dad and brothers have a prime opportunity to learn how men tick. They should know how men thrive, and how they recover their footing when they have stumbled. This provides two things — the gift of security in her household, her people. This security is part of her character. The second thing it supplies is the wisdom to know how it applies to other males that God brings into her life — her husband, and any boys she might have.