2010/08/31

CIV: BR: "Bringing Up Girls" by Dr. James Dobson

The challenge of raising children is as old as humanity, and this challenge is acutely felt as we begin the twenty-first century. While there are many challenges and issues with raising children of both genders, boys and girls remain very different creatures with different biology, strengths, and weaknesses.


Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame has, after three years of work, completed Bringing Up Girls: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Women. As the subtitle suggests, the book is designed to provide information and advice for handling all kinds of issues relating to the raising of young girls.

Dobson begins with birth and proceeds through various issues all the way through the teenage years. At times he delves into the science of girls and maturity-- the physiological, hormonal, psychological, and physical matters behind femininity and how girls mature. At other times he provides transcripts of interviews he held with various people both about raising girls and with the girls themselves about their experiences as children. Other chapters represent questions and answers about miscellaneous subjects relating to raising girls.

Dobson's primary focuses are the challenges of raising girls in a feminist and sex-saturated society and the role of fathers in the healthy development of girls. Many chapters are devoted to both of these focuses. Relationships with mothers are pretty much accepted as a given; Dobson also discusses matters of being ladylike, childcare, handling puberty and the desire for relationships, the challenges of bullying and matters of self-esteem, and the plagues of young women-- self-image difficulties, sexual conduct, drug use, cutting, and the like.

There is very little that is earth-shattering in the book but most of the advice has merit. Most of Dobson's warnings are worth heeding-- it is important that girls are raised to have proper respect for themselves, properly handling intimacy, and equipped to handle the challenges and temptations of modern life. The scientific background is very illuminating, especially for the men who generally have very little understanding of the hormones working underneath the surface of the women in their lives. Fathers especially should well consider what is written about the importance of his role in the empowerment of his daughter(s). Both parents should consider the role of peer and societal influence in their daughter(s), and the impact that childcare and the modern rat race has on children in general.

While I can understand Dobson's emphases on the depravity of culture, he often becomes too sensationalistic and proves willing to stretch the truth at times in order to achieve maximum effect. Yes, the influence of the 1960s and the 1970s have led to many societal challenges, especially as they relate to the roles of the two genders and sexual conduct. But, as Ecclesiastes 7:10 indicates, it is not as if the former days were really better. They were different. I noticed with interest how Dobson lamented how fewer than half of Americans believed premarital sex was sinful, but passed over the fact that three-quarters believed racism was. While it is no doubt true that more people in the 1950s would agree that premarital sex was sinful than do now, would three-quarters have admitted that racism was sinful then? Other "conclusions" of Dobson will not square with the experiences of many, especially in his connections regarding sexual misconduct and other consequences. I would hate to see people write Dobson off for the times when he stretches the truth and thus discredit many of the valuable warnings he does provide. He also provides enthusiastic support for the "purity ball" concept, which I personally find rather off-putting. We cannot condemn dancing as lascivious and be known in society as condemning dancing as lascivious and then promote a dance between fathers and daughters without wondering why people find it creepy. One can achieve the merits of the "purity ball" without the dancing and the facade.

On the whole, however, parents of girls, especially fathers, will benefit greatly from considering Dobson's advice. The book is worth having and reading!

ELDV

*received as part of an early reviewer program.

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