Overview: Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney is a parenting book that offers advice on how to broach common topics affecting young girls and teens such as body image, music, and romance. Though this is marketed as a Christian resource, readers can still take away some very general advice even if they don’t prescribe to the Christian faith.
My Take: I suppose I should begin by explaining why I read a book like this in the first place as I (at least as of this posting) am not married and have no kids. Truthfully, I did it in hopes of gleaning some good insight should I ever have daughters of my own. Don’t get me wrong – there is good material here that, for the most part, is grounded in Biblical principles (which is important if you happen to be a Christian parent) and, as stated above, it has general advice for everyone, not just religious moms. Her stances on advising moms to not let their girls grow up too fast and keep a pure attitude regarding sex are good though they don’t seem to chart any new territory. Sadly, the majority of my positive remarks end there.
I know that’s harsh, and I’m sorry to say that regarding a Christian resource because I’m a Christian myself. But it seems to me that more and more books get slapped with the “Christian” label even though their content is either highly questionable or completely unforgivable (and sometimes both). Granted, it might spout some Bible verses but either there aren’t many connections between the writer’s views and the Bible itself or proof-texting is heartily employed. Again, I want to reiterate that not everything in this book is worthless (or, in some cases, laughable). But there are far too many issues present here to be ignored.
My biggest gripe is that this book seems to purport bizarre, illogical, and even outright ludicrous “insights.” Some of these include banning fashion magazines, not permitting your daughter to listen to hip-hop, and not allowing your daughter to wear certain kinds of underwear. When they do occur, these statements are usually blanket observations that either needed expansion with more details (especially Biblical groundings) or carry on far too long without just cause.
There tends to be a good side and a weak/bad side to each of the arguments Courtney poses. For instance, can fashion magazines contribute to a young girl’s sense of poor self-worth? Absolutely, but not every girl is affected in this way. It depends on the individual and how she is taught, meaning if a young girl is told that fashion models don’t fairly represent what real women look like, then chances are seeing zipper-thin runway models won’t too deeply impact your daughter’s self-esteem. Rather than banning certain materials outright, mothers should teach their daughters discretion, which the book seems to never fully touch on. “Discretion will protect you,” as the Proverb goes, meaning if you know what you can and can’t handle (at least anything that isn’t obviously immoral), then you’ll be spared quite a bit of grief.
The same argument holds true for music choices, which the author spends quite a bit of time discussing. But the book seems to possess a prejudice against certain musical genres rather than educate parents on how to judge a song based on its lyrics, regardless of genre. Pop, country, EDM, and rock all have songs that are sexist or promote questionable or unhealthy choices, yet the author never or only in passing mentions these as hip-hop gets the brunt of her dislike (so I’m guessing she personally doesn’t care for that genre). But, again, telling your daughter that “all [fill in the blank] are bad” circumvents critical thinking, which requires using discretion and making wise choices. Simply labeling all of a particular variety as bad without question, or even good without question, is dangerous as it downplays the need to evaluate something on its own merit alone.
By way of example, Courtney could have improved upon her discussion by encouraging moms to check out and listen to the music their daughters engage and use those as teachable moments. What do the lyrics say? Is it a positive message or a negative message? Is the song meant to be taken seriously or is it sarcastic or silly? What does the Bible say about the topic(s) the song touches on? Does the song reflect Biblical truths or even good common sense? Is the song itself musically good art? Etc., etc. As one might find, not all “secular” songs are morally questionable, and, in the same way, not all Christian songs are theologically sound. This mental process takes more time and effort as it involves deeper, more critical thinking, but ultimately it is far more productive as opposed to simply declaring something is good or bad “just because,” which is the surface-skimming methodology Courtney advocates here. Granted, it’s quicker and easier to say, “All hip-hop songs are bad” than it is to listen to the latest hip-hop hit, dissect its lyrics, have a meaningful discussion about it, and reach an ultimate conclusion about its degree of being listen-worthy or even its artistic merit.
This leads me to another prolonged argument Courtney makes, which is what I shall call the great underwear debate. (Actually, make that the great thong debate because, much like hip-hop, she seems to harbor a special distaste for thongs.) First of all, this discussion goes on far too long and could have been summed up simply by asserting that ladies should dress modestly. Regarding choices of undergarments, this is a matter that’s in the mother’s hands, in my opinion. If a mom is still buying her daughter’s clothing, then she has the right to say what her daughter can and can’t wear as it’s her money that’s paying for it. But if the young lady is buying her own clothes, then she should be taught what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate, and what may need to wait for a future time. Thus, I think the author could have easily edited these portions to discuss far more pressing matters rather than making it sound like Victoria’s Secret is a devil’s den.
Now, let me first state that her belief that being a wife and mother can be worthy goals is fine, and it’s one of the rare moments where I actually agreed with her. I fear many ladies these days are being taught that they don’t “need” a husband or romance, but if a woman wants to be a wife and mom, that’s awesome and should be celebrated as such. However, my agreement with Courtney on this point ends there.
If I could sum up the rest of her presumptions regarding this topic, it would be to make sure your daughter gets married in her 20s or else she’ll never get married, or, if she does, she’ll be infertile. This is utterly ludicrous and it was the point at which I stopped reading. The author insists that college is a great place to meet men and comes close to saying that if you don’t have that mythical “ring by spring,” you’re doomed to remain single for life. Again, this is complete balderdash and common sense exposes that much.
No offense to anyone who has met the love of their life in college or in their early twenties or so, but the majority of college-age folks are simply not as mature or ready to start a family as someone in their late-twenties, thirties, and beyond. Likewise, this author seems to tout that after 30, a woman’s chances of getting pregnant are slim. That might be true for some women but, again, not everyone. Just as your organs don’t start wearing out by age 30 (as she also purports with no credible medical or biological evidence). Not to be snarky, but by this point I began to question where the author was getting her information from (like inside a Cracker Jacks box, per chance?) as so much of the book seems based on her opinions, which is fine, but her opinions seemed to always push past what was ultimately informative or even helpful.
Overall, I took serious issue with her approach towards some of the topics here, especially Courtney’s remarks regarding marrying young. Everyone’s life and love stories are different, but this author, in my summation, doesn’t accept that. In her mind, it’s okay to desire and dream about marriage and motherhood but you better snag a husband and have kids before age 29 or you’ll be a spinster, at worst, or infertile, at best. This is an abject lie and for that alone, this book is a discouraging waste of time and money.
I really do hate to say such negative things about a book (any book, really) and there were some good points though, to be fair, they’re common sense matters you don’t need a book for. In short, I’m sure there are better titles covering the same topic that are less preachy and promote fewer generalizations about music, fashion, and ages for marriage.
In short, Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter is parenting fluff: it brings nothing new or insightful to the table, not even to new parents. Most of the good portions are just basic common sense, and the weak/poor/bad/awful portions are truly facepalm-worthy. I wouldn’t say avoid this book like the plague but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you like to read things to (a). make snarky comments about, (b). laugh at unintentionally, (c). throw at walls, or (d). burn. At the risk of sounding snarky (again), allow me to offer a sixth conversation you must have with your daughter: not every book labeled “Christian” is good or worthwhile, and this title is one of them.