*I received a complimentary copy of this book to provide this review, but no other compensation and all of the opinions here are mine!
Much to my dismay, my two oldest children are both in the teenager-zone (one is 14, the other is 12). And in spite of all of the chatter about teenagers in the media and basically everywhere, I’m finding that navigating the challenges of raising teens is wayyyyyy more complicated than I expected.
This is in fact so true that I now absolutely RELISH the relatively minor challenges that come with raising my littlest – he is in the first grade, and where years ago a chat with the teacher about how he isn’t doing so well in using his capital letters correctly would have given me heartburn, I’m now like, “I’m sure that will sort itself out. I have other much bigger problems.”
And, indeed, I do.
And this is precisely why I was so interested to read Josh Shipp’s new book, The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans: How to Decode Their Behavior, Develop Unshakable Trust, and Raise a Respectable Adult. Did you read the title? That’s basically my mission statement as a parent. Back in the early days, I devoured parenting books (and got a lot of good knowledge from them)…it was time for a teenager tuneup.
I happened to have the book on my kitchen counter (in preparation for writing this) when my teen daughter and her friend were hanging out in the kitchen with me. They asked me why I had the book (I explained) and then had a pretty good laugh (the nervous kind) about the title. Intrigued, I told them the premise of the book and then read through the table of contents with the girls. More on what happened next is below.
I’m just going to cut to it with you – this book has a LOT of good information and concrete, realistic recommendations that you (or any family) can use.
Here are the top THREE things I learned and/or enjoyed:
#1 – Teens Spell Trust T-I-M-E
My teenage daughter came home yesterday, grumbled about how our HUGE, FULL refrigerator “sucks and has no food” and then wandered upstairs and fell asleep for FOUR hours (at which point I woke her, gave her food, and sent her to volleyball practice). My daughter and I have a pretty great relationship – but her natural, teen inclination is to retreat to her room these days.
This is a truth that is not new, you say… I agree…
But Shipp’s book served as both an affirmation and a reminder that all the TIME that I dedicate to spending with her is so crucial, and worth protecting. — whether driving her in the car (when a carpool is otherwise available), taking her (+her friends) to a solo lunch or dinner, or just letting them turn on their tunes and hang out in the kitchen with me. Even the kitchen hang-out I described above was valuable – when I read subtitles like “Dangerous or Concerning Behavior: I’m Worried My Teen Is _____ (insert “Using Drugs”, “Is Sexting” or “Is Stressed Out”). The girls had impromptu, unsolicited responses (both about themselves and others) that gave me lots of information, as well as an opportunity to talk to them about that topic. So valuable.
#2 – Building Trust and Communication is Everything
Screwing up is part of being a teenager. As a parent, I’m just trying to limit the scope and scale of the screwups to things we can handle. That’s a pretty big job all by itself. But getting some concrete suggestions for how to handle actual teenager screwups was really useful. Actually, this section was good for teens, but honestly good for all of the life screwups that happen, whether in those teen years or beyond. My 2 favorites:
– When you screwup, be mature and make the first move toward making it right. When I screwup, I just want to hide and hope nobody notices. But we all know that’s not how it usually works out. Since we’re teaching teens life skills, it’s important to teach them how to make the first move to make the situation right, even when it wasn’t 100% their fault. “Even in a situation where your teen is only 5 percent wrong and the other person is 95 percent wrong, show him or her that maturity means taking 100 percent responsibility for that 5 percent.” Wow. THAT is powerful. Something I do want to teach my teens (and can probably do better at in my own life).
– When you do actually apologize, do it correctly. I can certainly recall being on the receiving end of an “apology”, only to walk away and say to myself, “That wasn’t an apology!” Shipp very clearly outlines how to craft an effective, actual apology. I once again was taking furious mental notes on this. There are actually SEVEN components to a “real” apology, but my personal favorite was this: replace “if” with “that”, as in “I am sorry THAT I hurt your feelings when I did ____”. Again, one tiny word, very powerful advice.
#3 – What to Do When Your Teen Blows Your Trust
Discipline is the hardest part of parenting for me. I love them (and, mostly, like them as humans), and it physically hurts me to have to impose consequences when they mess up. Shipp’s recommendations are really good though – here are a few:
- Diffuse your own emotions before dealing with your teen and the situation.
- When your teen expects “the hammer”, surprise him/her with vulnerability. Shipp says that if you start with vulnerability, i.e., talking about the “why” and your concerns and fears, you open the door to vulnerability and learning with your teen, and the consequences can be secondary.
- Work with your teen to learn from the experience, and then accelerate trust by over-communicating. Teens (and some adults) just don’t know how to “heal” a breach of trust.
Overall, I have to say it was so refreshing to get back into a parenting book that was pertinent to these teen years. There is tons more advice in Josh Shipp’s book, so if you’re in the teen zone like I am, I certainly recommend it. You can buy it on Amazon here (and I happened to notice today that the hardcover version is on sale!).
Good luck friends!