I realize that not everyone who reads this blog has a teenager or preteen, but if you have children of any age, I have a book for you.
The Teen Whisperer, by Mike Linderman. At first blush, you probably think what many do. I don't have teenagers, this doesn't apply to me yet. Or My teenagers/preteens don't have serious problems, why do I need to "whisper" to them?. Do you have kids in the home? Do they fall in the age category of one day to eighteen? Trust me, this is a book you should be reading. As a mother of four, ages one through nearly thirteen, I can attest to the fact that in six blinks of an eye your little cherub who thinks you hung the moon will morph into a hormone-infused adolescent. It is always best to be prepared.
That said, not all teenagers are troubled. Mine aren't (knock on wood). However, there are times when I want to tear my hair out in frustration, times I feel like I just can't reach my daughter, and times when I wonder how I will survive the years until college. Communication is a vital element in any relationship, and with teens, how we communicate makes all the difference in the world. Ever looked at a teenager's behavior and wondered, "What were they thinking?" Mike has the answer: they're not. Or at least, not the way we think they are. Your sixteen year-old may look like an adult on the outside, but on the inside, they're not finished cooking yet. Believe it or not, their brain has not reached maturity. While 95% of our brains are developed by kindergarten, the most critical 5% doesn't develop fully until the twenties. Higher reasoning just isn't going on with our kids. It's our job to be the adult even when they look like one, too.
Mike, a rancher who has raised three kids of his own and counseled countless other troubled teens, has a clear approach to dealing with how and why the dynamics change between us and our adolescent as they reach maturity. Once he explains the why behind the behaviors, he has the how to back it up. His book shows parents how to:
*Create the right approach to positive change
*Use appropriate praise to establish pure intention
*Outline the right set of rules for your child
A note on what he calls "pure intention." This reached me more than any other part of the book. I grew up thinking that if a love was good, it was "unconditional love." Mike says that love does come with some conditions, one of which is respect.
If we operate from a position of pure intention, we are creating an environment in which mutual respect can thrive. To me, unconditional love can sometimes sound a little too pie in the sky: You can go ahead and do anything to me and I'll still love you, so have at it. With pure intention, we make the message plain: I will always love you, and I will always respect your needs and do what I can to help you see that they are met, but I won't always respect the actions you take or the choices you make. I also understand that you can say the same of me. But we also have to understand that underlying any of those disagreements and disappointments is a solid foundation of love and trust.
This book is one part child development, one part guide, and one part good reading. Truly, I hope that as many parents as possible have the privilege of reading this and benefiting from the lessons it imparts.
As for me, I am considering a move to a ranch in Montana. Conveniently next door to Mike and his family.