Parents may say they read books on the subject to find solutions to specific problems, direction in a blighted landscape or knowledgeable advice. What they most often mean is that they read what they read so they don’t have to feel so alone. Parenting teens knocks the stuffing out of the most self-assured parent. I am still waiting for the world’s religious to acknowledge this sacrificial path as the ultimate way to the hallowed state of profound humility. Any parent of a teen that is basking in a state of glory has not opened their eyes to properly survey the damage.
Teens are beautiful in the same way that thunderstorms are. You never know whether to step outside and revel in the display or run for cover. So parents of teens read books on the subject instead of stepping off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. They do it to save themselves, and yes, to save that challenging slice of delight that is their dear, sweet child all dressed up in wolf’s clothing.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Parenting Teens With Love & Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood by Foster W. Cline
In an easy conversational style, Foster Cline recounts the turning point in a scenario involving parents and their errant teen. Their 18-year-old son is arrested for drinking and driving and the police station calls to let them know. The Dad in a fit of wisdom borne of desperation decides not to bail him out. This is Cline’s point. If we let our children face the natural consequences of their actions we wont have to spend precious time ranting and raving at them. When the child is released from jail the parents do not follow their typical behavior of punishment. Life has done this already. Cline’s approach is refreshingly logical and practical but it is a tough one. Many parents would not have been capable of leaving their child in jail over night. We want to protect our teens from the effects of their actions. This is our mistake, claims Cline. This is where we go wrong.
Protecting teens from the natural consequences of their actions turns them into uncontrollable monsters. Many parents have suffered the ingratitude that springs from misguided efforts to soften the blow for kids.
Parents, Teens and Boundaries: How to Draw the Line by Jane Bluestein
“Testing their limits is how teenagers grow and learn, yet most parents don’t know how to draw the line.” This is how Jane Bluestein introduces her smart, practical little book on boundaries. Bluestein, who is an entertaining speaker as well as author, has taken the big subject of where to draw the line and condensed it into 20 simple techniques. We parents get better with practice and her style is entertaining and easy to follow.
Peppered with anecdotal stories of parent-teen relationships she makes it seem obvious where we are going wrong. Parents will have the unsettled experience of recognizing themselves in obviously dysfunctional scenarios.Bluestein divides her book into two parts: a diagnosis of the problems with the present situation followed by the 20 techniques that form the solution.
Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager by Anthony E. Wolf
This provides a nice balance for all the how-to manuals out there on the market. Instead of annexing the wild, unruly territory of the teenager, Wolf attempts to give us some insight into why they are what they are. Wolf is a therapist and it shows. He is not providing a formula for success but rather a road map of sorts so that we may even have the pleasure of recognizing some of the road signs. This is the kind of book you read when you want to understand your teen. Wolf has a pragmatic and somewhat irreverent approach that he claims comes from facing reality with both eyes open. Even though he believes in setting boundaries he also believes that teens will be teens and that the ride, for even the most evolved parent, will be a bumpy one. He manages to couch his approach in terms that help us feel like we are not alone. His light tone makes us laugh and reminds us that it is a phase and that this too shall pass.
When Teens Stray: Parenting for the Long Haul by Scott Larson
Scott Larson has worked with troubled teens for several years. He understands what parents go through. This particular book offers ways to cope, based on traditional and biblical values. Though the writer writes from a Christian perspective he does it in a subtle and unobtrusive way so that the book can be useful to both Christian and non-Christian readers. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher This tremendously popular and informative book is a compassionate look at the challenges facing teenage girls in this media driven world. It helps parents to understand the powerful pressures that these lovely young girls must face in order to become women in a society obsessed with surfaces.
Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson
This is an important look at the particular challenges of parenting boys. Though it covers all age groups the insights are so profound that it is a must read for the parents of boys of all ages, including and especially, teenage boys. The book takes an enlightened look at the emotional life of boys, a subject that has been ignored for too long. The authors help us understand that, though boys do not traditionally throw themselves down on their beds in tears, they do have a very active and significant emotional life. How you parent your teenage boy requires that you understand how he thinks and feels.