Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting To Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens By Laura S. Kastner, Ph.D., and Jennifer Wyatt, Ph.D.

2009, 304 pages
Before I had kids, I knew I am going to be a perfect parent. My kids will behave wonderfully, they will love each other, they will be very happy, and of course, they will adore me.
Not that things were anything like perfect at any time, but there’s nothing like the teen years to show the huge gap between fantasy and reality.
This book talks about the aspects of raising teens from a scientific point of view. It quotes recent studies about the structure and development of the brain, and explains the processes that cause our teens to behave the way they do. It helps somewhat to know that it’s all in the neurological system in their brain, and not because the parents did something wrong. It helps staying calm and reasonable while dealing with very difficult situation, and by the book, staying calm, reasonable and the adult in the room, is the key to handling these situations, surviving the teen years, and helping the teens to learn and grow from these tough situations, and become adults, with the full meaning of the word.
One thing puzzled me with this explanation. Until about a century ago girls used to get married and have kids when they were teens. How could they do things so complicated and demanding like raising babies and handle a household if their brain was undergoing these massive changes and could not fully function? I wonder if maybe, if forced by circumstances, teen can function rationally and responsibly. I know of some teens who didn’t have the luxury of a “normal” house with adult loving parents they could scream at that they hate them and blame them for ruining their lives, and they had no choice but to behave responsibly. I wonder if the fact that teens behave like brain science claims they should behave, mean that they were given the luxury of supportive home and adult responsible parents, or maybe more challenging circumstances is what teens need to overcome the biological difficulties and behave responsibly. Not that anyone would want to give his teen challenging circumstances in purpose.
In addition to scientific explanations, the book talks about common issues concerning teens, with suggested techniques and method for handling them. It gives examples to both ineffective conversations and effective conversations, with what is said, and what goes on underneath during the conversation. The “bad” conversations look so convincing and familiar (did they hide a recording device at my house?) and it is very clear why they didn’t work and only worsened the situation. On the other hand, the “good” conversation don’t always look so realistic, sometimes they didn’t seem to work in the real world, and other times it seemed like the parents are expected to be inhuman, with endless patience and ability to stay calm and reasonable in very emotional and tough situations, and I wished the book had some solutions to the human parents too. But all in all, I found this book very enlightening, giving some comfort in understanding what is going on, and gives some very good techniques and advices in handling these situations. I would recommend it to every parent after his bigger child has celebrated his tenth birthday, just to be ready.

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