Parenting teens is tough – but is it a time filled that should be filled with dread, animosity, and trepidation? If you read and believe what is written in “You Don’t Know Anything…! – A Manual for Parenting Your Teenagers” then parenting teenagers is going to be one of the worst times in your life. What is more – your teenagers are going to be mere shadows of kind or respectful human beings. In fact, author Nadir Baksh, Psy. D. and Laurie Murphy, Ph.D. write in their introduction:
There is no need for us to sugarcoat what you have already discovered about your teenagers; they are nothing if not selfish, self-centered, manipulative and ruthless.
I have to admit, this introduction got my attention. I was in some way drawn to this harshness, but I soon realized that I was drawn to it because I was waiting for the punch-line. I waited for the authors to say – hey, teenagers are challenging, but let’s figure out a way to parent them with integrity. Instead I found page after page of criticisms of teenagers. They are painted as entirely different species. While they sometimes do seem like they are living in a different dimension, the type of parenting advice presented in this book frightens me.
What the Book Got Right
Before I trod all over the ideas presented within these pages, there are a few points made by the authors which bear repeating.
- Science has shown that teenage brains are structurally different and therefore not capable of making the same levels of decisions as mature adults. These structures don’t change until people are in their early twenties – around age 23 years.
- Parents need to establish firm boundaries and stick to consequences that they establish for their children.
- Teenagers make mistakes.
- Behavioral charts can work when they are used well with appropriate rewards or consequences.
- Parents need to spend true, real, quality time with their teenagers.
- Parents need to put forth the extra energy to support their teens’ social development – getting them where they need and want to be even though you would really rather sit in your PJs and watch a movie.
Why the Book Scares Me
The more I read into the book, the more I felt the strange sense of pity for the authors. I honestly felt like they harbored such anger and disrespect for teenagers that they must have missed out on what can be wonderful and nurturing relationships for both parents and teenagers. I’ve got three teenagers in my home, one preparing to graduate high school this year, and while I completely agree that these years can be even more difficult for parents than the years spent diapering and toilet training, I just can’t wrap my head around the negativity these authors put on the job of parenting. We should be raising human beings, not fighting against them.
Some ideas presented in this book include:
Advising parents to give veiled threats to their teens, including encouraging them to say, “You do not want to know what will happen if you do not do as I say right now.”
Veiled threats don’t teach teens how to communicate and don’t clearly communicate the consequences that should already be established in your family. Threatening your teenagers only places them on the defensive and places you as adversaries.
Advising parents to prohibit their teenagers from experiencing the responsibility of watching younger siblings or babysitting for others. “Your teenager cannot consistently make good decisions and, moreover, rarely thinks about the consequences of any decision they have made.” The authors say that most teenage babysitters only rifle through drawers, raid refrigerators, and gab on the phone – paying little attention to their charges.
Teenagers are not perfect, but neither are adults. Yes, teens can be less attentive than adults, but teens are also full of potential and energy. I know plenty of teens who care for younger children with more enthusiasm than many adults, and who are wonderful role models for youth.
Accepting the fact that parents don’t like their teenagers. In fact, the authors write, “…here you are, staring into the face of someone who pretends to be your child, and whom you do not like. They may call you Mom and Dad convincingly, yet they cannot possibly be yours…”
What a sad experience to parent teens and not like them. My teens are some of my most favorite people in the world. They are enthusiastic, creative, energized, passionate, and engaged. Yes – some days they make me question my ability to remain sane, but they never make me regret my privilege to parent them.