Monday, February 13, 2017

BookPastor >> "Dr Karyn's Guide to the Teen Years" (Karyn Gordon)

TITLE: Dr Karyns Guide To The Teen Years
AUTHOR: Karyn Gordon
PUBLISHER: Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2008, (320 pages).

This is a parenting guide for all interested in connecting with teenagers. Based on her experience with talking to over 200 thousand high school students across Canada, Dr Karyn Gordon has summarized her "inside-out" parenting approach to help us along. She lists the six keys to parenting teens as:

  1. Keeping the Big Picture in mind at all times
  2. Acknowledging and adjusting our parenting attitudes
  3. Understanding and communicating emotions
  4. Building our child's self-esteem
  5. Communicating effectively
  6. Establishing boundaries and providing structure.
First off is the big picture understanding. Key to all of these is the awareness of "inside-out" versus "outside-in" parenting. The latter basically focuses on what is developing inside the teens rather than what they teens are doing outside. This includes observing the reasons why they are doing what they are doing; the motivation; the sensitivity to their feelings; and the readiness to talk. Character development is more important than mere achievements. This means learning to identify positive traits and helping their self-esteem. Communications are important but right communications are even more important. Between authority and influence, teens respect the latter. Learn about the importance of their peers and friends. Choose to connect more than to control. Check to see which of the three kinds of learning they do best. Are they visual or are they more kinesthetic (learning by doing)? Or are they more auditory? Learn to focus more on learning styles and understanding their relationships.

The second key is to adjust our attitudes toward parenting teens. Do not simply perceive ourselves in our own ways. Learn to ask our teens what they think of us. Great inside-out parenting will focus on loving, praising, and encouraging the teens. They understand what motivates them. I really appreciate the list of 12 tips by her mother. Gordon shares also about the two types of teens that she sees. The first is the kind who know what they want, ready to pounce on any learning, and seeking wise counsel. The second are the 'experiential' who are reluctant to follow instructions and usually resist any directive instructions. Attitudes also extend to parents, and here, there are several questions to help parents search themselves. Included are focuses on privacy, independence, eating, and eating disorders.

Third, Gordon describes the unique role of emotions and the importance of understanding emotional intelligence. The latter is the ability to know, to understand, and to manage emotions, both ours and others. Beware of the "unplugged parent" who basically are unable to emotionally express themselves or articulate how they feel. The "overcircuited parent" may be hyper in their behaviour. She presents five strategies to help teens (and parents) manage their own emotions.
  1. Know the unspoken rules
  2. Know the risks of bottling up emotions
  3. Distinguish between thoughts and feelings
  4. Speak from the heart
  5. Know the difference between the head, the heart, and the hands
She also goes into various aspects of gender differences, emotional intelligence, and how to strike a balance between challenging thoughts while validating feelings. Included in the chapter is how parents can teach their teens better emotional intelligence. There is also an important chapter in handling the situation of teen suicides. An important finding is about teens who go into drugs are mostly those who want to escape their problems.

Fourth, we learn about self-esteem and respect, which is what inside-out parenting is about. When parents encourage their teens with respect and healthy self-esteem, imagine how the enlightened teens would do to their peers. Some of the tips include modeling more rather than preaching; instilling responsibility; challenging unhealthy thinking; encouraging goal-setting and dreams; and others. With statistics to back the importance of healthy self-esteem and respect, well brought up teens can be a positive force for society.

The fifth aspect is the age-old challenge of communications. From communicating at home to matters of parental separation and divorce, Gordon covers quite a lot of ground with regard to communicating with teens and listening to them. She gives six strategies: 1) Be self-aware of our own idiosyncrasies; 2) Learn to respond rather than react; 3) creating right timing; 4) Right questions; 5) Distinguish between facts and perceptions; 6) Non-Verbal communications.

One really helpful piece of advice is the "hamburger technique" when handling difficult topics, where the buns are the positive ways to deal with the problem (the meat). Other techniques include the "full parking lot" and understanding that "I don't know" is not just a factual statement but a non-verbal way of saying they are still trying to figure it out.

Finally, the book ends with boundaries and structures where teens not only need a lot of love but also a fair dosage of discipline. She covers a lot of ground: Financial; Physical; Communications; Responsibility; Social; Dating; Media; Smoking; and so on.

Jam-packed with ideas, strategies, and practical steps to connect with our teens, this book is a godsend. Even though the ideas may seem too elementary for some, it does make me think about my own parenting skills. Somehow, the older we get, the more we tend to forget about our own personal teenage journey. We all have gone through it and have largely forgotten them until we see our own children growing up before our very eyes. Whether it is a different era or a cultural difference at play, we must let love guide our way. Love is always appropriate regardless of the methods. We need to be humble to acknowledge that times have changed and our parenting skills toward teens need more correcting than ever. At the same time, we should not throw away our parenting instincts on doing the right thing according to our convictions. In such cases, it is not about jettisoning our own beliefs but to adapt them in ways that our teens can understand. It may take time. It may take effort but if it can help our teens becoming better people, it will be all worth it.

This book definitely gives the busy parent a lot of trigger points for connecting. Just like one of my professors had said, if there is one point in a book that can help us positively, it would have worth the price of the book. For me, I do not have enough fingers to number all the helpful points. Great resource!


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