Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning to Shut Up

I'll admit it.  I'm not very good at shutting up.  I enjoy having the last word in an argument.  I'm also not very good at letting things go.  I totally have a Type A personality and like everything to be 'just so.'  (In other words, I like things my way or the highway.)

I'm also raising two children who are very much like me.

In a lot of ways, I'm glad that they're strong-willed and have specific ways that they like things and that they don't take crap from anyone.  On the other hand, it's going to be a complete PITA to parent them when they are teens.  M1 is already taking those first baby steps toward a full-on teenage brattitude, and I know darn good and well that if I don't start preparing NOW, the next, oh, 10 years of my life could be sheer hell.

So when, a couple weekends ago, Oz suggested dropping me off at the bookstore while he took the kids for breakfast, I agreed.  Mostly because M1 was displaying behavior that would have caused an apostle to lose his temper (especially John, but I'm getting off track here), but also because it had occurred to me that there might just be a book out there that could help me get through these teen years without completely losing it.

And I found this:

I'll say right now that if you can't handle reading, imagining, or dealing with profanity, this is not the book for you.  If you want a book that provides a Christian perspective on parenting a teen, this is not the book for you.  But if you're in the mood for a sarcastic, witty, and perhaps a tad overdramatic book about how to react to teens, this is a decent guide.

Things I like:
1.  I like the way the author imagines actual conversations and inserts a teen's 'thoughts' into the work.  It reads smoothly, and I've laughed out loud several times.  While there may be some overdramatization (unless you have a really dramatic teen), the points are well-made and effective.
2.  The tools that he demonstrates are simple and hopefully effective.  He opens the book by stating the obvious:  We're not allowed to beat our kids like parents in generations past did, yet we're expected to turn out the same quality of child.  How does one do this?  And he goes on to suggest ways to do so.  Realistically.
3.  He admits that nobody is perfect.  He allows for those days when you really can't handle one. more. sassy. comment.  He admits that there are times when parents are going to change their minds in the middle of an argument just to shut the kid up.  It's mightily refreshing to get an author who understands that nobody's perfect.  Including himself.  Like I said, he's realistic.
4.  He attempts to imagine many different scenarios.  Boys, girls, at home, in public, in the car, at school... he covers his bases.  There are entire chapters dedicated to school, sex, electronics, etc.

Things I don't care for quite as much:
1.  The overly dramatic tone.  I have never met a teen who would repeatedly tell their parent to eff off.  I'm sure they're out there, but for heaven's sake.  And I absolutely dare my child to ever call me a bitch to my face.  I understand why he ramped up the drama - so that parents of children who fit that description won't feel like theirs are over the top - but sometimes I just want to roll my eyes.
2.  The 'wait until later' approach.  In other words, pick one small battle at a time - such as saying 'no' to a request or giving the child a chore to do - and deal with anything else, like disrespect, name-calling, etc., later.  While I like the idea, I'm not entirely sure of its practicality.  With a child who will snipe at everything and who has very limited windows of calmness, it seems like a good recipe to pick fights 'later.'  I'm not sure what an alternative answer would be, though, because he also makes a good point that dealing with these things 'now' will also escalate matters.  So this could just be something I don't like simply because it's a tough pill to swallow.  See Paragraph #1 in this blog post.
3.  The perspective on sex, drugs, and drinking.  Again, I know why the author did this.  He did this for the same reason that he uses profanity - to help parents who are dealing with it feel like they aren't alone.  But the author assumes throughout most of the book (except in the chapters about these specific topics) that teens are drinking, having sex, and probably smoking pot.  I find it a little unrealistic.  But again, I get it.

So overall, I'm happy with the book.  The things I don't like are pretty minor when compared to the things I do.  I know it isn't a guide for all parents and all situations and all things, because each family is different, but it's a good starting point.  And for now, that's what I need.

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