I found this book on my shelf, nicely wrapped in protective plastic. It must have been given to one of my older sons as a birthday gift when they turned thirteen and I am sure none of them read it.
I was curious both as a writer and a parent. How would the authors write a non-fiction book for teens without coming across as patronizing? What ARE some the things smart teens do?
As an Asian parent reading this book written by an American couple, there were bound to be some things I do not agree with. There was a write-up on the famous Michael Faye, the US teen who was caned in Singapore for vandalism. Many Americans felt that caning is a barbaric, inhumane custom. In Asia, the cane is a must-have in most household. We were all caned growing up and the belief is, better the parent to cane the child than for the government to cane the man.
That aside, there were many valid points that highlighted to me why some adults behaves the way they do. One reason, or excuse is that they were a victim as a child. The author states, ‘But there’s a difference between acknowledging that one is a victim of something on the one hand, and taking on the victim role on the other. To acknowledge that one is the victim of something is to acknowledge a part of our own reality, and it is therefore good for our souls to do so. To take on the role of victim is another thing. To do that is to become helpless and powerless, and to blame everyone else for whatever difficulties we encounter.’
Parents who read this book are taught the difference between rebellious challenges and autonomy in a teen. The teens are shown the smart things they can do and many examples are given to illustrate how they should embark.
To summarize, the seven things are:
1. Being Competent – how competency is part and parcel of building up self-esteem.
2. Master your feeling – why, what, how teenagers feel the way they do (shame, anger, etc) and what the feelings mean. Additional to this, the advise to parents is: ‘A child who is too independent at too early of an age is headed for dependency problems in adulthood, whether it is chemical dependency, some other addiction, or exaggerated relationship dependencies. Healthy parents who understand the importance of balance will let children lean on them as much as they need to, but not necessarily as much as they want to.’
3. Break the silence – Share and communicate with someone you trust.
4. Get healthy power – use what you learn to improve your own life.
5. Face the serious stuff – To that, the advise to parents is, listen rather than lecture. To the teens, depression is discussed here, but take note that depression drugs, widely available in the US, is normalised here which Asian parents may not agree.
6. Find an identity – One starts by having a dream, or a goal, then making that happen. What I like in this discussion is the emotional competency part and ‘how many parents have gotten so over extended themselves that they have tried to transfer to teachers more and more of their parental responsibilities.’
7. Staking out the extremes – This is also a useful chapters defining what are extremes and how teenagers can learn to find the middle ground. Example of extremes : (one extreme)Never —Sometimes (middle ground)—–Always(another extreme). One useful tip for this is in the religious or spiritual training. The authors ask this, ‘How would the God that I believe in judge the following two people: a person who struggled her entire life with never being sure if there was a God or not, but who treated others with love, respect, kindness and justice, and a person who professed and actively participated in an organized religion, but treated other dishonestly, cruelly and with little compassion?’
Another extreme for teenagers is to consider: risk – taking few risk versus extreme risk.
Included in the final part is the tips on how to achieve these seven things.
I learn a few things from the books as a parent. The next thing for me to read is The Seven Worst Things Parents do.
Oh, and there is a reason why the number seven (plus or minus two).