Book Review: “Bringing Up Boys” (Jan-Feb 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by Stephen J. Walls Mathis
January – February, 2004

Bringing Up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson
Pub. Date: Oct 2001, Publisher: Tyndale House Pub ISBN: 084235266X, Dimensions (inches): 0.75×6.5×9.25

In his latest book, Bringing Up Boys, James Dobson contends that masculinity is under attack in our society, and has been for some time. He led me to rethink some of my own assumptions about the way things work and the way God designed men and women.

Dobson’s book came out at just the right time for me. My son, Bryan, just turned three. Watching him interact with the world made me ask “So what does it mean to be a man?”

Dobson’s book is a great tool for teaching responsibility, which, while it may not be popular, is an essential ingredient in a godly life. Bringing Up Boys is accessible and easy to read. Dobson’s style is clear and conversational, something like the advice a grandfather might give. He is at his best describing – and celebrating! – the differences between boys and girls. Boys tend to be loud, aggressive, competitive, and this can be a good thing, if these qualities are nurtured and connected to God’s “divine assignment” for men.

The author highlights many of the challenges boys face in today’s society. There are predators out there, both physical and psychological, who are actively targeting boys. Parents, especially fathers, have to be vigilant and involved in their children’s lives. And when fathers are absent, the Church needs to step into the gap and meet the needs of the fatherless.

A political and social activist as well as author and psychologist, Dobson spends too much time, perhaps, in blaming “postmodernism” for the trials that face today’s young men. At times he borders on glorifying an American past where fathers worked, mothers stayed home and everyone knew their place. But the strengths of this book – its clear writing, firm warnings against dangerous cultural assumptions and helpful suggestions for mothers and fathers – far outweigh any limitations.

Dobson makes it clear that it’s okay to recognize, value and nurture the differences between men and women. That’s part of God’s creation, and he thinks it’s good. At the same time, we cannot excuse obtuse behavior by saying “boys will be boys.” We were not created for crude behavior or selfish indulgence. God calls us to recognize our responsibilities and honor them, whether married or single, parent or childless, male or female.

Jesus Christ has to be our model for day to day living. That means refusing to accept our culture’s mixed messages, avoiding excess, and becoming good steward of all God has given us. Regardless of whether we are male or female, we were created in God’s image. Our lives should reflect that.

The book did inspire me to recommit—by the grace of God and the strength of his Spirit—to be responsible as a husband, as a father, as a citizen of this world and the one to come. I will strive to be faithful. I will teach my children discipline and help them make good choices. I will take responsibility for my choices and actions.

Imagine what would happen if men were to first and foremost take responsibility for their choices and actions, and raised their sons to do the same. It just might change the world.

Stephen J. Walls Mathis is from Ruckersville, VA. Contact him at mathissj@juno.com].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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