Book Review – Bringing Up Girls

When it comes to family psychology, there is perhaps no other name more well known among conservative evangelicals than Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.  Ten years after publishing his popular book on parenting boys, Dobson has penned the companion book, Bringing Up Girls.  In it, Dobson offers advice and insight from a clearly conservative viewpoint.  Speaking mainly to fathers, Dobson addresses issues such as femininity, beauty, sex, bullying, education and purity.  Much of the book addresses the physiological and psychological make up of “the fairer sex.”

The chapters that I appreciated the most were, oddly enough, the ones in which Dobson does relatively little talking.  One such chapter is devoted to young women talking about the things they remember – whether good or bad – about the fathers.  Reading about the profound impact of even the smallest things that their fathers had done impressed on me the importance of fathers in the lives of their daughters.   It is to this point that Dobson returns continually throughout the book and with good reason.  He quotes many statistical studies that emphasis the importance of fathers.

Another such chapter that was helpful and very practical was the contribution by Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In department in which he offers advice on “protecting your daughter from invasive technology.”  He encourages parents to be involved in and aware of the media activity that their daughters are involved in (including but certainly not limited to the Internet).  He lists “Ten practical steps  every parent should take” in how to “train up your daughter to plot a safe course through today’s entertainment and technological land mines.”  These steps include “teach the WWJD [what would Jesus do?] principle,” “instill media-related biblical principles,” “model it”, “develop a written family media covenant,” and encouraging accountability with a friend.

While most of the book was somewhat informative on the psychological level, I found it to be lacking in practicality.  Additionally, Dobson’s conservatism constantly came across as overblown hype, decrying the decadent culture in which we live.  While our modern culture is most assuredly headed in the wrong direction, it seems that Dobson can’t help but highlight the most discouraging and depressing aspects of it, even while attempting to point out “the good news.”  He often seems to go overboard in denouncing things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but that he simply doesn’t like.

Lastly, it should be pointed out that while Dobson dedicates his last chapter to teaching the gospel and Scriptures, this addition seems almost like an afterthought or just an extra safeguard to help parents.  The emphasis of the power of the gospel in all our lives including parenting is missing, but I’m not sure whether I should have expected more in this area from Dobson.  This book should not be read as coming from the standpoint of Scripture, but rather from the standpoint of moral and social conservativism.

While the book has some merits to it especially for dads, I feel like there are other books that are more worthwhile to read on this subject.

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing a review copy of this book.)

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2 Responses

  1. With this book Dobson puts out another load of drivel in his drive towards man-centered theology instead of pushing for the supremacy of Christ in all areas of life. Sadly, this has come to be expected from the man who has long undermined the reality of total depravity in favor of unbiblical terms like “low self-esteem.”

  2. When people think of Dobson and Focus on the Family, they probably consider him as a Christian evangelical. While he personally may be such (and there have been many good things to come out of Focus on the Family), he has always struck me not so much as an evangelical as he does a conservative moralist, somebody wishing for the good old day of the ’50s. Again, just my impression of him.

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