By Michael Riera Perseus Publishing, 2003 Review by Patricia Ferguson, Psy.D. on Mar 25th 2004
Even though I work with
teenagers alone and with families, I never assume I can be objective when it
comes to my own family. Therefore, my husband and I have taken parenting
classes, taken our children to psychologists when necessary and both gone to
therapy alone. Right now we are raising our second of two children, a teenager
in the throes of high school drama. Since the first child was a girl, and had
completely different personality issues as well, I asked to review this book so
that I could remind myself of some of the problems and the normal aspects of
raising a teenager.
Sometimes it seems as if
teenagers are a species unto themselves. Riera, the author of this book, does
an excellent job of reminding the reader that for the most part, whatever is
happening in your home with your teenager is "normal," and he gives
us tools for handling whatever comes up.
First, he talks about the
different sleep-wake cycle of teenagers and how we can use this information to
engage with our teens when they are most able to have a meaningful conversation.
I am amazed that my son stays up so late and yet makes it to school by 7:30
every day. But as Riera points out, by the end of the week, a typical teenager
has "accrued a sleep debt of thirteen and one-half hours." He points
out that teachers should really have tests on Mondays rather than Fridays to
catch them at their best time sleep-wise. But as Riera says, and my experience
shows, teachers typically do what is convenient for them, which is to give the
test on Friday so they can have the weekend to grade the tests. Also, since
late night is when teens are most awake, a wise parent will find times to
connect with their teen when the occasion presents itself.
Riera goes on to talk about the
inherent narcissism in a teenager, as they grow away from their parents and
toward their peers. They are the center of their universe. Some people never
leave this stage, but it is important to know that it is normal for a teenager
to think of himself in the world this way.
Next, lectures and advice fall
on deaf ears. There are many parenting books that deal with this issue
throughout a child's life but if a parent hasn't nipped it by now, it is really
time to find other ways to communicate. Some of those include, according to
Riera, the family car--an opportunity to address other concerns when working on
"car deals" as well as time to talk while in the car.
Riera reminds us that the
developmental stage of the teenager is mastery over compliance. They want to
have mastery in and over their lives, and would prefer to handle this
themselves without the help of their parents. However, they are not really
ready to live on their own, and their only real job is to go to school and so
whatever chores their parents ask of them. Much of this discussion is about the
role of the teacher and the parent in the life of the teen. Riera points out
that while we may feel that the teenager doesn't want our presence, if we
really think about the little things, like when they are just about to kick the
soccer ball on the field and they catch our eye, we will remember that they
really do want us to help them, but they can't be open about it.
Riera then goes on to talk
about gender differences, and this is the part that at this time in my life I
most notice. I often turn to our older daughter for help in understanding, and
she is always there for me, reminding me of how she was when she was only
fifteen. But there were significant differences, and these are the differences
addressed by Riera.
The next section--self-esteem
through integrity, is one that I really can relate to. Especially with our son
this is evident. It is an issue we work our way around all the time, and one
that I feel is closest to what he is dealing with. So reading Riera's words
here were very reassuring. Indirect communication is the next topic, similar to
some of what I have already mentioned, and from there he goes into the notion
of it takes a village to raise a child. Just this weekend I spoke to two
parents about our children and about how we would or would not communicate
about their choices. I really do believe it takes a village, and especially
with divorced or overworking parents I notice a huge gap in how much the parent
knows about their own child.
My husband and I refer to this
book often and whenever we are stressing out about things, we send each other
back to the book. Nothing is as simple as a book, but it is a starting point
from which parents and the parents of other teenagers' parents can communicate.
We both find this book to really helpful at times when we feel somewhat at a
Ferguson is a freelance writer/editor/publisher, as well as a licensed clinical
psychologist. She is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Apolloslyre, an online
magazine for and about writers of all genres. She is an editorial reviewer for
The Writer's Room, and a book reviewer for several venues, including, among
others, Absolute Write and Metapsychology Online. Her most recent publication
was in Girl Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying by Cheryl Dellasega,
PhD and Charisse Nixon, PhD. She and her husband and son live in northern