Before You Read “Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality” by Jim Burns [Book Review]

I’ve recently been working to provide more resources for parents in our children’s ministry. We recently received the Parenting Your ___________ series by Kristin Ivy from Orange. One of the other available titles was Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns, PhD. I got it, reviewed it, and had some mixed feelings about it.

First, the book hasn’t been updated in a decade. The copy I received from Orange was copyrighted 2008. It shows. There are references to MySpace, MTV as a music video hub, and some others that painfully date this work. Also, recent events and shifts in culture are not addressed either, which can be jarring.

Second, the book has a nasty habit of saying “studies show” or “research tells us” and then not footnoting the study in question. I find myself incredibly suspicious when authors do this, because it can indicate a lack of faith in the study by the author himself. If an author is going to quote a study, we, as readers, have a right to know which one, so that we can go and look it up ourselves to interpret the data.

Third, the book takes some problematic turns when it comes to girls. As much as it is trying to change the dynamic of blaming women for every sexual problem and temptation, it falls into some traditional ways of thinking that still feel very negative toward women. For example, the author, in one anecdote, takes it upon himself to have a discussion with a group of young ladies on a youth trip about how men think and view them to help them reevaluate their attire choices. In fairness, he does so in the presence of his wife, and the situation did merit a discussion… but why not let the adult woman in the room tackle the issue?

All that said, there is some good material to help you think through conversations concerning sexuality. Dr. Burns pulls few punches and will cause you to really consider how you speak to your children about sex. There are helpful outlines about age-appropriate conversations and the time windows in which to have them. He even challenges parents to evaluate their own lives in light of being pure. I do appreciate his definition of purity, which goes much deeper than “don’t have sex or you’ll be dirty.” His definition includes honoring God, honoring family, honoring self, and respecting the opposite sex. It’s a more holistic approach that I appreciate.

Depending on how you lean, this book could be exactly what you want, or could be a use what you can situation. Either way, I think it is ultimately worth a read, but, as always, take what you read with a grain of salt and filter it through whats best for your family.

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