“The Talk” is a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of parents every where. Did you know that the average age of puberty has gotten two and a half years earlier from 160 years ago? This means girls currently begin puberty between 9 and 11, and boys between 10 and 13, compared to the ages of 11 – 13 (girls) and 12 – 14 (boys) from the 1850’s. I learned this reading “Growing Up God’s Way for girls” for review and as my oldest is about to turn seven, I had a moment of panic. The idea of having “the talk” with her had seemed like a far off event I could ignore without peril, but I only have a few years before things begin to get moving, hormonally speaking. I also had the startling realization that being 22 months apart, my two youngest will be embracing puberty at the same time. I had to close my eyes and pray about that.
So it turns out that Growing Up God’s Way for Girls and Growing Up God’s Way for Boys are not only helpful for pre-pubescent children. They are also helpful for parents to identify the need for such a book. I’m sure everyone has read a book like this at some point in their adolescent years. The phrase “there are changes happening in your body” has been written in as many fonts and colors and ways as there are available. So what makes these two books differ from the thousands of others in the market place?
First, these books write about puberty and adolescence as a gift from God, and a right of passage. All of the phraseology is positive. Rather than assuming that the experience of puberty will be an angst riddled puddle of pimples and tears, the authors present the view that God designed this transition stage to prepare us for adulthood, and therefore it is ultimately a good and glorifying thing. Secondly, puberty is explained as a preparation for marriage. The chapter on marriage comes long before the chapter on physical intimacy, rather than as the “but only when you’re married” addendum often tacked on to these discussions, and it forms the framework for the rest of the chapters. Puberty is not a hurdle to cross before becoming an adult, it is one of the ways God prepares us for the responsibilities of marriage and adulthood. This is a very biblical view of sexuality, and I appreciated it. Finally, the works are very complementarian in their approach to marriage. Men and Women are described as having equal, but different roles, and the For Girls title differs from the For Boys title in substantive ways beyond anatomical diagrams because the authors believe that men and women are very different in our substance and calling.
All of those things are very important to me, so I was happy to find them here; however, I do have some reservations about these books.
I am pretty far into the conservative/complementarian camp on women’s issues, but there were some heavy handed statements made, especially in the “for Girls” book, that caused me pause. Some (like the suggestion that the deeper voice of a man was a sign that men, not women, are to preach) seemed strangely unnecessary, and left me wondering how they even made it past an editor, but largely unconcerned. On page 75 in the “For Girls” book, however, I took issue with the sentence, “God’s plan for many girls will be to marry and to have a family, and formal education spends little, if any, time training you to prepare for this role.” It is not contained in the “For Boys” book, revealing a bias that surprised me considering one of the authors is a female pediatrician who has, presumably, a significant amount of formal education. Additionally, in chapter 8 of both books the authors present a flow chart from singleness to dating to engagement to marriage and then describe each step in detail, including a definition of dating as “exclusive, committed and public.”
On these two issues, I felt that the authors stepped out of their roles as advisors and into my territory as a parent. There are good and Godly people who have very different views on these subjects, and there are no “definitive” Christian positions. These subjects should be addressed in detail at the family level. By choosing to include them in the book, not only are the authors choosing to advise a specific (controversial) path authoritatively, they are not giving these subjects the level of significant study and discussion that they deserve. Both the subject of dating, and the subject of the value of formal education could be entire books unto themselves. Neither are subjects that pre-adolescent children should be expected to navigate outside of the worldview framework their parents are working to instill.
I will hold onto the review copies I have been sent, and will possibly use portions of the books with my children as we begin to navigate the uncertain waters of impending puberty; however, I will not be handing the books over for an unsupervised reading.
I received no compensation for this post. I was provided 2 paperback copies for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.