Sex Education: Teaching your Son about Puberty and The Birds and the Bees

Dec 17, 2006 (Updated Dec 18, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Friendly, reassuring, nonjudgmental style. A quick read.

Cons:None, but remember that this book provides only a basic introduction to the topic.

The Bottom Line: This small book, for boys 10-14 years, is a perfect introduction to the topics of puberty and sexual education. It should be followed up with a more advanced book later.

Do you remember how you first learned about the so called “birds and the bees”? Did your parents sit you down for The Big Talk? Did you learn about sex in school, or from your friends or older siblings? How would you want your own children to learn this information? In my own case, my mother tried to have The Talk with me, and I remember being incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know if I really heard anything my mother told me; I just wanted to escape from the room! I learned more in school. They had a few sessions where they separated the girls and boys into different classrooms for separate talks. Then I learned a bit more from friends. Was my education complete? Hardly! Let’s just say that some of what I thought I knew was highly inaccurate, and, looking back, there were some giant gaps in my knowledge base. Anyway, that was back in the 1970s, and things are so much better today, right?

Fast forward to the year 2002. Our older son was about to enter Middle School and I broached my husband about the topic. I had always had this idea that when my children got to be that age, my husband and I would sit them down for a warm chitchat, and that my own children would feel perfectly comfortable talking with us, and asking us questions. Well, all I can say is: WRONG! Our older son is an unusually reserved and serious boy. He is a boy of very few words. He gets good grades at school but every teacher says, “He is bright, but should participate in class more”. By the way, his mother (that’s me!) always got those same exact comments too! Anyway, it was pretty obvious that our older son would be mortified at the concept of hearing The Talk from his parents. Beyond that, it was clear from my husband’s words and body language that he wanted no part of this conversation either! Yet we did not want our son to have to learn solely from his teacher and his peers. What were we to do?

In the end, we decided to purchase some books on the topic and simply ask our son to read them. I spent an afternoon in the bookstore and purchased two books, one that was more basic, and one that was more advanced. From Boys to Men: All About Adolescence and You, by Michael Gurian was the more basic book.

What is this book like?
This is a small, 86 page softcover book, with a fairly large font perfect for a quick read by a middle school boy. It is recommended for ages 10-14, and that seems right to me. I suspect that most middle school children could polish off this book in an hour or so. It is composed primarily of text, with numerous small lighthearted cartoons sprinkled throughout, to add some levity. Subject titles are written in a large font and boldface, making it fairly easy to find a particular topic. There is no index, but this small book does not really need one.

The chapters:

Let’s take a peek at the four chapters:
1. What’s Happening to Your Body?
Here we read about Testosterone, Body Hair, Voice Changes, Sexual Organs, Acne, Perspiration, Nutrition, Cigarettes, Drugs and Alcohol. Finally, there is a section called “When you need help with puberty”, that is a pitch for talking to one’s father, or other trusted male adult, when one has concerns or questions.

2. What’s Happening to Your Mind?
Learn about changes in the brain during puberty, and dealing with moodiness and anger. There is a good discussion of fantasy, and the difference between fantasy and action.

3. Let’s Talk About Sex and Love:
Some of the covered topics include: Wet dreams, How Sex Works, Homosexuality, Masturbation, Safe Sex, Peer Pressure to Have Sex, Feeling Afraid of Girls, and Falling In and Out of Love.

4. What’s Happening with Your Relationships:
Read about increasing desire to be with peers, separation from parents, idolizing celebrities and musicians, breaking rules, learning to make your own decisions, finding your own identity, competition, cliques, and self-consciousness.

Sample of the text:

I will provide a text sample. This may help parents decide if this book is right for their child or not.

From page 20, in a discussion about acne:

“Acne can be a terrible problem for some boys. I had acne all the way into my twenties and then it stopped. I found out from my father that in our family, acne is pretty normal, just like getting gray hair in your twenties is normal on my mother’s side. Acne, like body odor and genital size, is something to try to stay calm about. You can get dermatological aids to help with acne. Talk to your doctor or even your friends about what works and doesn’t work. Also, you can joke about your acne and find ways just to take it in stride. There’s no feeling worse than feeling ugly, so talk to your parents, friends, and other trusted adults. Don’t bottle these feelings up.”

Tone of the book:

As you can see from the above example, the author provides a reassuring tone throughout this book, emphasizing that the crazy, confusing period of puberty is something that everyone finds to be crazy and confusing. So many physical and emotional changes all happening so quickly! He also frequently talks about his own experiences negotiating the obstacle course of puberty. The tone is friendly and it is written well for boys ages 10-14, the target age group.

The book is fairly factual and nonjudgmental, for the most part. We are informed that some boys do such-and-such, others do not, and some will when they are older, when it comes to certain behaviors. However, he makes it very clear, "You are way too young to be having sex". The author makes this point repetitively and clearly.


Ideally, sex education should be individualized for each child and each family. In our case, providing books for our quiet and self-conscious son was clearly the correct approach. A couple months after I gave him this book, I asked him if he had read it, and indeed he had. I then told him he could ask us questions anytime, although I knew full well he would never feel comfortable asking. I liked the fact that he could read this book in the privacy of his bedroom and have his embarrassing questions answered with accurate information.

This book is a quick read that introduces many of the important things adolescents need to know about their changing minds and changing bodies. I believe it is a fine introductory book, for the young adolescent, ages 10-14. It will need to be supplemented with a more advanced book, with lots more details and nitty-gritty, when the child is a bit older. I will be reviewing THAT book soon, as well.

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