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Who I Am and What This Books Is About
An incident on a school playground changed my career and how I understood my job as a mother. Someone else was teaching my seven-year-old about sex, and I wanted it to be me.
As a clinical psychologist for more than ten years I had specialized in and loved working with adolescents and families, but my first job and great passion was mothering. Doing my part in raising the next generation of human beings, providing them with an environment that nurtured whatever unique contribution they would make to the world, defined and continues to define my life. Perhaps it's because I waited so long to have children, or because it almost didn't happen. For whatever reason, like so many parents before me, life acquired meaning and purpose beyond anything I had ever known when I became a mom.
Most of us who take on the job of parenting have a moment in time when we realize that despite our most diligent efforts, our children will be profoundly influenced by factors outside of our control. It might be the first time we put them on the school bus, listen to their sadness and confusion at being rejected by another child, or are taken aback by something they say that we know they didn't learn at home. There is a moment of shock as we realize that our children's understanding of the world and of themselves will be fashioned by experiences outside of our control, that our influence is limited and will continue to diminish with every passing year. Logically we understand that this is as it should be, yet we can't help but question whether we have sufficiently prepared them for the world they will encounter.
That moment with my son made it clear to me. When it came to issues of sexuality, not only had I not prepared my son and daughter for a world that was constantly selling sex in a manner that was far from inspiring, but I had not really thought through where I stood with regard to sexuality or how I would want them to understand this important part of their development.
In my private practice I see the impact of the media on teens' sexual attitudes, as well as how unaware most parents are when it comes to understanding how kids are thinking about sex. If I were going to adequately prepare my own children for adolescence I needed to figure out where I stood with regard to sexuality and develop a language to begin that conversation now. My daughter was nine, my son seven.
Already a lecturer on issues of parenting, I began to develop parent workshops on healthy ways of discussing sex with kids. These talks developed into a series of articles for a parenting magazine that led to a national Parenting Publications of America award. The curriculum director for a public school system asked me to develop a sex education curriculum for fifth graders. What a gift that was! I was able to really look at how schools talk to our kids about sex and I found a great deal missing.
Helping kids see how the media influences their understanding of sexuality was missing, a critical oversight in a day and age where most kids learn about how to act sexually from the media. No one was talking to kids about the value of self-discipline: developing the internal muscle to say no to something that feels good is an essential tool in becoming a responsible sexual person. Most importantly, the parents were missing. While schools give information, parents set ethical guidelines for behavior. When it comes to sex, both are needed.
My passion turned to developing a curriculum that gave kids information about sex and included issues like media manipulation of sexual desire and the importance of developing the muscle of self-discipline. Most important, it included parents by showing them how to think through their values with regard to sexuality so that they could continue the conversation at home. Working directly with kids in the classroom as well as with parents and health teachers has been invaluable in continually making this work relevant to the day-to-day realities of families.
As this curriculum became recognized I got calls from religious institutions. Rabbis, priests, and ministers from both conservative and liberal denominations were interested in using my approach to sexuality to address parents and teens in their communities. Each opportunity I've had to work with a religious leader has profoundly enriched my understanding of sexuality. Our discussions have enhanced my ability to talk about sex in a way that inspired interest in understanding the responsibility we have to use our sexuality in an ethical way.
As I spoke with more and more parents, it became clear that technology and the clash of cultural and family values presented unique challenges for moms and dads of children of all ages. Parents of younger children are looking for ways to set reasonable guidelines for all forms of media; parents of older children are concerned with how the Internet impacts their kids' sexual development; mothers want workshops that address issues specific to empowering girls as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
Each of these interest has turned into workshops, articles, and, ultimately, the chapters of this book.
I have a great suspicion of parenting books. Too often I see parents give up their common sense attempting to try something some "expert" says is the right thing to do. Don't use this book that way! Each of you knows more about sex than I could ever tell you. You have that amazing love for your child that will guide you to say the right thing, at the right time. Let the ideas in this book stir up your thinking about sex, about our culture, and about what you want for your child. Talk to your partner or friends. Form a parenting group at your child's school, church, or synagogue. I would love to hear from you and know what works and what doesn't.
It is a great gift to be able to turn one's passion into one's work. My passion comes from wanting to be the best mother I can be. I am incredibly grateful to be able to use my education and professional experience to turn that passion into an offering for families.
Sharon Maxwell, Ph.D
Introduction: Who I Am and What This Book Is About xiii
It's Personal and the Stakes Are High 1
Healthy Sexual Attitudes Start with Respect 21
Wanting to Be Sexy Before Their Time 33
Starting the Conversation About Desire and the Power of Sexy 41
Self-Discipline: Developing the Muscle to Say No to Something That Feels Good 67
When It Comes to Sex and Teens, Talking Isn't Enough 79
Preparing Kids for the Vulnerabilities of Adolescence 107
Sexual Ethics and Religion: Finding Common Ground 133
Developing Guidelines for Sexual Behavior That Reflect Your Values 147
Forming One's Sexual Identity Online: Parenting Just Got a Lot Harder 159
Where Are We Going? Musings on the Twisted Road to "Sexual Liberation" 181
Contract for Safety 199
Sample Guidelines for Responsible Online Behavior 201
Taking Control of Our Time 203
Eleven Principles for Sexual Behavior 205
Posted May 9, 2008
I just finished THE TALK and I absolutely recommend it to parents, teachers, youth workers, clergy and anyone who cares about teens. Our youth have unprecedented challenges and distractions. They need their parents more than ever to help them navigate to adulthood. THE TALK is brilliantly basic. Dr. Maxwell points parents back to the foundations. Despite what they say, teens need and want stability, integrity, honesty, clarity and boundaries. Don't throw in the towel on responsible parenting. Let Dr. Maxwell equip and encourage you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 19, 2008
I just finished reading a pre-release copy I came across. It was a mixture of reality tv, The Joy of Sex and religious sermons as might be written by Mark Twain. It showed me a whole new way to think about sex and how I might share that with my kids. Dr. Maxwell challenged me to examine my own life experiences to understand my own personal values and beliefs about sex and the world we live in. She also provides a methodology for understanding and coping with the unrelenting stream of overt as well as subtle messages about values we receive from mass media. Then she provides a detailed map for sharing what I had discovered in age appropriate ways throughout my children's lives. It is as entertaining as it is inspirational.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 31, 2010
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Posted February 12, 2011
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Posted November 7, 2008
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