This is a survival guide for parents who find themselves marooned among volatile and incomprehensible aliens on Planet Teen. Area maps cover the obvious ground--there are chapters on school, sex, suicide, and so on--but it's the title of Chapter 2, "What They Do and Why," that best captures the book's spirit and technique. Anthony Wolf's modus operandi is not so much to make pronouncements about what parents should do, as to explain adolescent behavior in a way that's bound to leave parents with a changed view of the plausible options. Wolf is a clinical psychologist, and his writing is clear--even witty--and he doesn't resort to jargon. The expository text is punctuated with snatches of illustrative dialogue, which serve as concrete examples and help parents learn how to see, anticipate, and avoid "bad strategies." (One key mistake is getting dragged into no-win conflicts instead of having the wisdom to shut up at the moment when shutting up would be most effective--albeit the least satisfying--thing to do.) There are also some nicely tongue-in-cheek samples of "ideal" communication--the stuff we imagine might get said if only we were better parents. After one such rosily cooperative and considerate interchange between a father and his adolescent son, Wolf offers the following two-edged comfort: "The above conversation has never happened. Never. Not in the whole history of the world." Message: Parenting adolescents is inherently difficult. Don't judge your efforts by otherworldly standards. --Richard Farr
From Publishers Weekly
This updated edition (a chapter on gay and lesbian teenagers and the ramifications of the electronic world have been added) will be as useful to parents as the 1992 version. Wolf, a clinical psychologist who works with adolescents (Why Did You Have to Get a Divorce? And When Can I Get a Hamster?), clearly has a feel for both the angst of young people who must deal with an evermore complex world and the difficulties parents face when a cooperative loving child morphs into a teenager who lies, talks back and avoids parental company. Humorous and insightful, Wolf describes what is, rather than what mothers and fathers of rebellious and thoughtless adolescents wish would be. He is forthright in stating that "you do not win the battle for control with teenagers... usually the best you get is imperfect control." Despite the best efforts of parents, today's adolescents frequently drink, experiment with drugs and are sexually active. According to the author, however, it is still important to have rules even though a teenager may break them. If parents clearly state their expectations of behavior and restate them when a teen disobeys, their son or daughter will, to some extent, internalize the rules and abide by them sometimes. In addition to providing excellent advice on particular situations, including divorce, school problems and stepparenting, he makes the often obnoxious manner in which teens communicate with their parents understandable as a rite of passage that they will eventually outgrow.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.