BOOK REVIEW: Dr James Dobson, Bringing up Boys, Tyndale Publishers / Christian Art Publishers, 2002.
Dobson says at the end of the book,
I hope something I have written on these pages has been helpful to you and yours
I wanted to say to him, “Yes, yes, every page, you should see all my underlinings and notes.” Reading Dobson is like listening to a wise, beloved, godly grandfather just talking away and sharing those things that he feels are most important. Come to think of it, it’s exactly like listening to Dobson’s radio broadcasts on Focus on the Family, which is not surprising really.
If you’re looking for ‘practical advice’ on parenting then you will find some but the book is really much more than that. It is a blistering cultural critique addressing feminism, post-modernism, the media industry, materialism and careerism. Dobson isn’t worried about being politically correct as he exposes the dangers, inconsistencies and plain ridiculousness of the forces that war against the biblical model of the family. Occasionally it can verge on a rant but he is almost always spot on, saying things that are very rarely said, exposing things that are almost unbelievable, so we can forgive him a bit of repetition.
This book is a must read for all parents – of boys or girls. And in fact it’s got a lot for non-parents. In terms of examples and target it is very much focussed on North America but there is loads that is hugely relevant to our East African context with rapid secularisation, media/technology explosion and a huge issue of absentee parenting.
Dr Dobson’s prescription: parental presence, careful guidance of children, rich relationships, and a return to traditional / common-sense / biblical patterns of family and gender.
A few crits:
- There can be a tendency to romanticise a past where culture norms were almost identical with biblical values. Perhaps that was the case in certain parts of the US at certain times in the last couple of hundred years but I would have appreciated an acknowledgement that such a situation is atypical in relation to most of the world through most of history. The norm is that the world will be at war with the church and biblical values will be opposed by society.
- You could get the impression at points that children are purely the sum of the influences upon them. Dobson makes a very important, shocking and fair case for the damage that godless, violent and explicit TV and games does to children and society. That needs to be heard. But you need to hold this together with the truth that the real enemy is within, that it is what comes out of a man that defiles him and that children are quite capable of evil without any external influence. As parents it is possible (and common) to swing between the extremes of a complete unconcern or naivety about the influences of media on our children to the other extreme of believing that media is the only thing that counts in the growth of our children (“if only we can shield them from Ben 10 then they’ll be fine”). A greater emphasis on the inherent waywardness and evil of children would have been useful at points.
- Linked to this, there could have been a stronger gospel framework and gospel-drivenness to the argument. The book is completely, unashamedly from a Christian perspective, asserting Christian principles and especially in the last chapter emphasising prayer and the ‘ultimate priority’ of leading children to Christ but generally it is teaching ‘common sense’, ‘traditional’ family values rather than arguing from Scripture and gospel logic. If you want something more thoroughly Christ-centred on how to raise and disciple children in a gospel-shaped way then some of the resources referenced in this post might be helpful.
But still, I would whole-heartedly recommend this book as a hugely important wake up call to parents everywhere.