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This is the most insighful book I've read yet on raising a teen. I found myself encouraged and underlining passages on almost every page. Most of this review is simply excerpts of what I have found the most informative. Freedom for teens is earned by demonstrating responsibility and parents need to find the right balance between being too controlling and when they are being healthy and appropriate about saying "no". When parents set limits they're helping teens learn to develop a healthy structure and gain self-control and ownership over their life. We need to be active, be loving, be present, be truthful, be consistent; in other words, be the parent. Teenagers act like they don't care what their parents think and say but in reality it matters a lot to them. It is easy to forget how difficult the teenage years can be, and parents sometimes judge teens too harshly for behaving like a teenager. Your teen needs a parent who will connect with her and show her empathy, who can identify with what she is going through and understand the struggle of adolescence. She needs to know that she is not alone in her fight. What if every time you screwed up all you heard was "what in the world were you thinking". Your teen, whose brain is less developed than yours, is even less resilient in the face of criticism. Teens don't like conflict with their parents anymore than parents do. Aim to know your teen rather than change them. Learn to listen to your teen more - draw her out, so you can see what she is thinking about and struggling with. Refrain from moralizing about every wrong thing you hear.
Ask questions that require more than a "yes" or "no". Begin with questions about facts, move to thoughts, and then to emotions. Your teen needs to know you know her on a heart level. Teens will develop self-control and responsibility to the extent parents have healthy boundaries. The more teens experience negative consequences of their poor choices, the more internal structure and self-control they will have.
Parents need to develop separateness. Parents with separateness can stand apart from their teen's anger, demands and behavior and are able to respond appropriately without getting caught up in the drama. Parents should give up the fantasy that they can make their teens happy. Being honest means directly confronting your teen when they have crossed a line. Parents should stick with rules and consequences, as long as they are reasonable, and say "no" to attempts to manipulate, wear down, or even intimidate them. God made parents to be guardrails on the twisting road of life. You need to be strong enough for kids to crash into over and over again. Guardrails get dinged up, but they work well, they preserve the young lives that run up against them.
Your teen needs you to be connected to other adults in meaningful relationships. Don't let guilt stop you from doing something right that will make your teen mad, disappointed or frustrated. You need to be free to set and keep limits so your teen can benefit from experiencing structure, clarity and consequences which will increase your teen's self-control and sense of ownership over her life. Some parents fear that if they set limits, their teens will distance themselves, detach and withdraw their love. But this would only teach teens that they get their way by cutting off their love which create difficulty in their future adult relationships. When a teen does disconnect, the parent should take the initiative to reconnect since teens don't have these skills they need their parents help. It is normal for teens to respond in anger when parents hold to limits. However if parents can love and still hold the limit the teen will learn to let go of that anger which is a major step toward maturity. When parents consistently provide their teens with warmth and structure, teens become less extreme, impulsive and moody. Not allowing your teen to fail can be one of the biggest mistakes you make.
To a teen, being understood is everything. Your teen has a lot to manage considering she is going through lots of changes all at once: neurological, hormonal, emotional, social and spiritual therefore be understanding. Your teen is disoriented inside, and with good reason. It is normal, in fact is good and necessary for your teen to go through adolescence. It enables the teen to transition from parental dependence to adult independence. She needs to be safe in your care while she tries out her identity, role, power and skills. Teens are divided people. They need parents but desire freedom from them, they struggle between being perfect and having a dark side, they can use thought and judgment then switch to feelings and impulsiveness. But your love and consistent structure help your teen integrate these conflicting parts and find healthy balance. Teens often don't know what they think or feel because they are constantly evolving into different people. Do not try to fight your teen's desire for separation, because you will surely lose, as you should. Don't put your teen in a no-win situation when she must keep herself and lose her parents or lose herself and keep her parents. Be a supporter of your kid's extra family world, as long as that world is reasonable, safe and supports your own values and beliefs. Let your teen know that it is okay to have interests outside yourself. Stay connected, even in differences. Don't let conflicts and differences alienate you.
The teen years are a valid spiritual passage that she must go through in order to own her own faith. It's a time of challenging and questioning in all areas. Your teen needs to wrestle with God. But the struggle needs to be between your teen and God, not between your teen and you. Keep your head out of the sand when it comes to knowing the cultural influences on your teen. Take wise and deliberate action to help them keep these in right perspective. When your teen talks about the culture listen without moralizing. Talk to your teen about these cultural messages. Bring up sex, drugs, violence and ethics. She may resist but remember she is trying to sort it out. Your teen needs you to be clear, explicit and direct about your views. Teens need love, self-control, values, restraint and a sense of responsibility for their lives. They don't come by these without the hard work of their parents. Teens become disconnected from their parents when they believe neither knew or cared about what they felt. Parents should learn to listen without preaching. They should provide love and support and empathize with their teen's struggle. When your teen is underachieving, being disrespectful, or acting out there is always an underlying reason. It is the parent's job to sift and dig below the surface to address the root cause. Problems caused by irresponsibility, immaturity, defiance, self-centeredness and impulsiveness can often be addressed by enforcing consequences. However the problem can be caused by emotional detachment, hurt or discouragement and no amount of bounders setting will work with someone who is down. When you set boundaries on a discouraged teen it only increases their discouragement. This type of teen needs to be lifted up and give grace. Begin with love so that the teen will see that her behavior is the problem and not an out of control angry parent. Love helps the teen point to herself as the problem. Love opens the door to change and truth provides the guidance in the form of rules, requirements and expectations.
Teens need to know what the line is so they can decide whether or not to cross it. Appropriate rules help your teen to see that structure and responsibility are normal and expected in life. Then give your teen freedom to accept or reject the rules and the reality of the consequences. They need to face consequences to experience that good behavior brings good results and bad behavior brings bad results. Accept that it is normal for your teens to resist the limits parents set. So love your teen, stay connected to her, and support that wrestling process.
Let your teen participate in the process of setting house rules. Be willing to compromise on matters of preference and style but not on matters of principle. Teens often lash out in anger when they are given boundaries. In these cases you need to contain your teen's feelings. Containing is something you do inside yourself, in "being with" your teen. It is not what you say as much as how present you are. You are allowing yourself to experience your teen's wrath, fury and disappointment with you. This is no small task. It takes work. Containing involves maintaining eye contact, being warm, and not being overwhelmed, defensive, or disrupted by your teen's emotion. It tells your teen "Your anger and frustration are real, but our relationship is larger than those feelings. They don't scare me away, and they don't need to scare you either." This helps the teen feel more stable inside and more receptive to you later.
Listen empathically is the ability to hear and understand what your teen is saying from her perspective. Empathy allows you to join in and connect and let your teen know she is understood. To do this you need to put your own experience on a backburner. Before you reach a decision about the rightness or wrongness, be understanding and compassionate. Look for feelings of sadness, hurt, rejection or frustration below the facts. The real work is to have empathy when your teen has rage toward you. Let your teen have her anger but don't personalize it. Teens need to have their own feelings and to know what acceptable anger feels like. When your teen disagrees, say, "Interesting thought. Why do you think that"? This approach disarms much of the challenge and provocation. As a parent you are your teen's primary teacher for learning how to disagree and have respect.