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Enjoy Parenting Teenagers :
Teach, guide and assist them to become self-disciplined adults,
by Bob Myers.
This is an updated re-issue of Bob's book, Parenting Teenagers in the 1990s, first published in 1992, now self-published in e-book by Harmony in Dispute, 2013.
I first met Bob when I joined the committee of Pace e Bene Australia (PeBA) in 2009, and from the first I was impressed by his wisdom in the field of nonviolent response to conflict. Bob has great experience in the area of managing teenagers, and reveals that in his discussions.
In this book, he discusses a wide range of relationships in a realistic way, and I enjoyed the examples he uses. Bob uses ‘he’ and ‘she’ in his illustrations at different times, and manages to avoid categorising the problems as either one gender or the other.
His first chapter describes the turmoil and challenges teenagers face, as well as the parents.
Chapter 2 looks at cause and effect, and future hope, and how children learn to control their parents. Four major parental responses (power, attention-seeking, revenge and inadequacy) to being controlled are clearly and helpfully described, as are the suggestions for coping with them.
Chapter 3 discusses what parents can and can’t change, and gives some good ideas as to what to do about them, such as being clear on whose problem is under consideration.
The fourth chapter discusses mutual respect, and the different levels of responsibilities within this mutuality. To re-define verbal criticism as feedback resulted in some useful insights.
Chapter 5 is about communication, and discusses the way words are used and so often questioned by an adolescent. He includes catchy phrases like ‘eye contact can become a contest of the steady stare’, and ‘make talking and listening a 50-50 deal’. He doesn’t shrink from direct advice, as in ‘don’t finish a comment with an insult’ (e.g., don’t you see that, stupid?), and discusses how to ask questions, and how to start and end conversations productively.
In the next chapter, Bob draws more deeply on the Parent-Child-Adult theory of Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis. The diagrams are clear, and I think would help parents unfamiliar with the theory to understand and apply it. This chapter also discusses ‘rules’, what they may be based on, and how parents can help teenagers who question those rules!
Chapter 7 applies some of the theory to making Adult decisions, and how to strengthen the teenager’s ability to make them too. He underlines the differences between children in the same family, and warns parents not to assume that success with one child will follow with another. There will always be negotiations when considering discipline, limits, and making choices.
Chapter 8 tackles what to do when the rules are broken. He distinguishes between punishment and consequences, preferring the latter as being far less aggressive, among other reasons. Mutual and separate responsibilities are well discussed, as is being accountable. On the issue of blame, Bob raises some interesting perspectives.
The final chapter talks about letting your teenager go. I thought the phrase ‘to stop rescuing’ was a creative way of describing this process. It is a principle which allows parents to apply to a situation simply and quickly, as well as a tool for parental self-review.
In his final remarks, Bob encourages parents to be persistent, which I can only echo. He sets out to be sympathetic and supportive, and I think both aims are achieved. Nothing happens overnight, and parents need time to learn too.
The book is a worthwhile contribution to the literature on the subject.
National convenor PeBA