Your books are too explicit too soon!

We’re thankful for the praise and many positive reviews and recommendations that our books have received over the years, but want to be open to criticisms and concerns we occasionally read or hear from some Christian parents.

The most frequent concern we hear? That our books, in some parent’s opinions, are WAY too explicit and provide too much information too early for most children. We want to say a brief word in response to such concerns, especially because those who had such opinions about the previous editions (1995, 2007) will likely feel more so about the new third editions (2019). We felt compelled in the new books, given the negative changes in culture, to explain with directness and clarity even more issues to today’s children at earlier ages.

We understand this concern, and want to acknowledge that how much to tell, when to tell, in what detail, using what language, and with what illustrations, are judgement calls. As we argue in our books, this is a question of parental wisdom and not a matter of morality (i.e., it may be unwise to tell kids in certain ways, but that does not mean it is immoral to do so).

But we feel that many who voice these concerns misunderstand the approach we are recommending, often because they have not read our parent’s guide book, How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex, nor the common introduction written to parents in each of the children’s books.

This was most comically/tragically illustrated by one negative review on Amazon in which a dad said something like “These books are way too explicit! I bought them, gave them to my kids [apparently without even glancing at them himself], and then was shocked by the questions my kids were asking.” This dad completely missed that all of the books are meant in some form or another to be read by the parent to or with their child, not to be handed to the child to read alone.

But do we push too much too early? Here are some thoughts, most of which we cover in the parent’s book and the general introduction to parents in each of the children’s books:

  • We intend the age ranges we suggest for the use of each book (and hence, to the topics covered) to be subject to the judgment of the parents. We assume parents will think carefully about the maturity level of their child and the challenges that child faces in their unique environment.  When we say books are for children “5-8” or “12-16,” we’re not telling parents to start with this book on the child’s 5th or 12th birthday. We’re rather saying something like “Parents with children earlier in this age range who are maturing quickly and/or who – ready or not – are thrown into contact with things they must become ready to grapple with might consider using this book at age 5 (or 12). Parents may rightly judge that kids maturing less rapidly or facing a less challenging environment may not be ready for or need this book yet, and thus use it later in that age range. We generally believe that kids that age 8 (or 16) almost certainly should be exposed to this information.” We have good friends who home school their kids and carefully control their media use and peer interactions who use our books considerably later than most parents. On the other hand, we know equally devout and capable parents who use the books “early” because of the questions of their children and the challenges those kids are facing with peers and other circumstances.
    Bottom line: Parents must judge when a child needs what!  But…
  • We also find that many parents are in denial about what their kids are being exposed to. Such parents Later regret that they missed the chance to have the first word with their child. Remember, first messages are the most potent, and true teaching is harder to establish when you are trying to override false teaching.
    Bottom line: Given the state of culture today, your kids likely need good information much earlier than you might intuitively think.
  • Parents often have mixed motives for thinking “I should talk about ______ later.” Delaying may be the right judgement, but it may be affected by the parent’s unexplored or unrecognized shame, ignorance, or even guilt over their own past behavior.
  • The concern over “traumatizing” children with too much information too soon is overblown IF the information given is true, biblically informed, and lovingly conveyed. Given those conditions are met, children are more likely to shrug off information that is “over their heads” than to be hurt by it.
  • Finally, while the two books for younger kids are meant to be read in one sitting and as a whole, the two books for older kids can be read together with your children, which allows parents to pick and choose when to cover certain topics.

We pray you are empowered to make the best choices for your kids by God’s grace!