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Bringing Up Girls

James Dobson has been an influential and powerful purveyor of the issues facing families for many years now and this book is just another example of his influence. I gladly received this book from Tyndale for review with both an excited and uneasy feeling. My reaction after reading the book was a combination of being bitterly disappointed with it while also feeling like it will be a great resource in raising my young girl. In order to comment fairly concerning the book, I will offer a brief few words the content and then add my reception of the main points of the books.

Dobson begins the first chapter by stating the great responsibility of parents to not only oversee their children but also raise them 'purposely' (2). The chapter on Girls in Peril is Dobson exerting his effort in explaining the dangerous world girls find themselves in today, with everything from binge drinking to infidelity to eating disorders (6-9). I think in some ways Dobson goes to great links to bring out the worst possible examples of pop culture's view of women to warn parents as to the corrosive effects that can stain their girls. One of the illuminating parts of this chapter was Dobson's point that "..the culture has our children in its crosshairs, and either we can go with the flow or we can fight back with all our resources. Heaven help our kids if we remain passive and disconnected" (11). Dobson is wise to point out that parents must be engaged in every facet of their children's lives or in due time children will succumb to some type of temptation, for culture is relentless in its temptations to young ones.

In the chapter on Fair Sex Dobson points out specific ways that fathers can build up their daughters self-esteem through praise, time together and affection (21). As a young father, I see the extraordinary gift of showering my daughter with encouragment and taking the time to be interested in what she is connected to. Not only does this time and effort build a strong father/daughter relationship, but it creates lasting memories for both of you. In the chapter on Teaching Girls to Be Ladies, Dobson points out that females radically pursuing guys is a turnoff and should be the guys responsibility. Although I think this is a wise word for men, I don't think Dobson give a specific basis for why this should be the norm.

Some of the later chapters deal with fathers relating to daughters and the importance of a male presence at the house, the place of bullies at school, and the role of parents in the life of girls. Lastly, I think the last few sections on eating disorders and the way Dobson addresses cutting are both timely and go a long way in helping us as parents deal with some of the root causes of these harmful actions.

The positive benefits of the book are many: one, Dobson helps us understand that cultural influences are not neutral and are aimed at our young girls, second, the way to parent girls might look different than parenting boys but includes the same loving initiative, third, parents have to be willing to let go of just being friends with their children and take responsibility in all areas of their child's life.

Part of my critique of the book is that while Dobson is quick to point out the sex saturated world we live in, he fails to provide a robust biblical and theological paradigm for understanding sexuality. At times you almost get the picture that certain activities are evil in and of themselves and have no redeeming value. In other words, there is a strong pietistic strain in the book that pushes us to remove ourselves from culture rather than seek to change culture by the power of the gospel. I believe part of his critique of culture, however, is due to his experience in seeing the destructive nature of sin in girls' lives.

Overall, I think this book will greatly help parents navigate the murky waters of parenting in a culture that often teachings things that degrade our young girls. I also think this book is up to date in its engaging issues of cutting, bullying, and eating disorders.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book to review.


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