by Linda Goldman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010
Review by Christian Perring on Mar 8th 2011
This little book has ten chapters addressing children's questions about where babies come from, how women get pregnant, male and female bodies, sex, puberty, love, gender, homosexuality and different kinds of families. Linda Goldman's basic recommendation is that children should be told the truth at the level they are capable of understanding. She argues that it is always a mistake to give children false information, but also points out that they may not want to have much detail when they are young. The underlying approach of the book is liberal; she thinks that information is useful and that children benefit from exploring on their own in appropriate ways. All the way through the book, she gives examples of children's questions and sample answers.
Some parents may find the book more liberal for them: Goldman says that it is fine for children to "play doctor," although she seems also to recommend suggesting other activities that don't involve nudity. She emphasizes that children should be able to say no if they don't want another child touching their bodies, but she does not say much about what they should do if they are curious about it. She is very clear that adults should not be touching children's private parts. In another section of the book, she gives an example of 11-year-old Tess asking "Some of my older friends have sex. They say it is safe sex. What is safe sex?" Many parents would freak out if their pre-teen daughter asked them this, but Goldman's recommendation is just to answer the question and explain what safe sex is. Naturally, when in later chapters she addresses homosexuality, she is against discrimination and explains that there is nothing wrong with being gay. She also does think it is good to enforce strongly gender-identified behavior, so if girls are tomboys or boys like things that are thought of as for girls, she recommends letting them do that. She does not address the thorny question of what to do if a boy wants to wear a dress, but presumably she would not want to make a big deal out of it, and would recommend letting the boy do what he wants.
Given that the whole issue of what counts as good sex education is highly contentious and people disagree strongly about ideals of gender and sexuality, it's not very clear how much scientific evidence there is backing up Goldman's approach. She is a professional counselor who has specialized in early childhood education and even if her recommendations may not always have well-supported scientific backing, it does make sense to approach sexuality with honest and open-mindedness.
© 2011 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York