When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you. ~Nora Ephron
Close family and friends will know that I say often this: My teenager has been, far away, the greatest teacher in my life. I have learned more about myself as a parent, husband, son, friend, and community member. But, admittedly, it’s been a long 18 months with our teen/greatest teacher. While he celebrated his 16th earlier this month, it feels like I’m often engaging more with a five-year old than someone learning to drive a five-speed F150 pickup. And the more that I listen, watch, share, and connect with other parents of teenage boys, one thing has become abundantly clear: We’re all in the same boat. Together. For better or for worse. (I know, that’s three things.)
As a first time parent I vividly recall devouring countless how-to parenting books literally by the shelf (we actually have a dedicated shelf in our house to these titles). In actuality, the past several years (and two more kids later) have seen a decline in my parenting know-how-genre reading. However, drastic times…
I was recently turned on to the garrulously-titled book How to Talk So Teens will Listen and How to Listen So Teens Will Listen by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Yep, it’s a how to book (I never swore of them to be sure), and it has help to re-frame my listening and more effectively chose the words when talking with our teen.
One of the goals that, communication consultants, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, share in writing this book was to offer simple, immediate, tangible, tried and tested techniques and supports for parents of teenagers. The short book is the follow up to Faber and Mazlish’s best selling first book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, How to Listen So Kids Will Talk. [NOTE: You do not need to have read this one in order to reap the immediate benefits from their teen version.]
At the moment, I’m three chapters into this very easy, bare-bones read where the authors through an interactive approach address among many issues that come with raising a teenager, including the contentious issue of punishment. I have appreciated the interesting perspective that helps parents to frame and refocus the issue of punishment. While the prevailing view of punishment is to make sure that our teenagers don’t let it happen again, the book argues that this approach gets away from the really important life skill that our teens need to possess: being able to make amends. ‘In other words’, Faber and Mazlish write, ‘for real change to take place, our teenagers need to do their emotional homework. And punishment interferes with that important process.’
Is How to Talk to Teens the long sought after magic bullet of all things teenager-raising parents need? Absolutely not.
But the read is a clean and lean tool for parents of teens and teens-to-be to glean perspectives and attitudes that often clash and result in (what seems) an unending cycle of conflict.
And everybody could use some fresh perspectives.