If there is one book on parenting teenagers that parents should read, I believe this is the book.
Having read The 5 Love Languages (for marriages), I had expected nothing new from this book but I was wrong. True, the first few chapters introduce the readers to the 5 love languages – namely Words of affirmation, Physical Touch, quality Time, Acts of Service and Gifts. What is handled differently is how we parents go about dishing these languages of love to a moody, sensitive young person who would rather spend time with peers than parents.
The love language that used to work with the child may no longer work with the teenager. For example, the love language of touch. A child may have craved for hugs but as a teen, this is no longer feasible. Chapman wisely advise parents on how to go about these changes.
Chapman stresses that with teenagers, all 5 languages are important to fill teenagers’ emotional tank, but we must also learn to speak the love dialects to them.
What I found really useful is the chapters on Love and Anger. Teenagers often feel misunderstood and this may lead to anger between the teen and the parent. On page 147, Parents are told that we must be the one to change first and curb our own anger. To break the destructive patterns, he advises parents to
1) Admit the Truth
2) Develop a Strategy (for breaking this destructive pattern)
3) Analyse your anger and look at your option
4) Engage the teen
To curb with their own anger, teenagers can either explode and implode. We are shown the ways to deal with both and the consequence of ignoring these.
Chapter 10 is an insightful read for parents to learn how to forge constructive paths with their teenager. I know it’s what I should do but to change may be the hard part.
The teenager’s love and desire for independence is thoroughly examined – music, fashion, privacy, even morals and religion etc. Parents are taught the importance of setting boundaries and responsibility for the teenagers.
My favourite chapter and an eye-opener is Chapter 13 on how to continue loving your teen when he/she fails to meet your expectation. Are we parents putting unnecessary pressure on the teens to meet our own expectation? Asian parents have exceedingly high expectation on academic results and I was humbly put right by Chapman. What about moral failings like pregnancy, drugs etc? (We all hope we won’t experience that!)
I do have one issue with this book. Most of the examples he gives on teaching about responsibility to teens involve car ownership and driving, something that is too far-fetched in Asia society where owning a car is beyond most parents, much less a teenager.
After reading this book, I am glad to know I have done a few things right.
Having a family forum is important and although my family do not have it regularly, we try to meet once a year to thrash things out. Instead of car, I had rules and consequences for the use of PC, something more relevant in our society. The rules and consequences were spelt out clearly on PC usage and the responsiblity of being in cyber space. Using the PC in our family was a privilege to be earned, and not a right. At least that was the case when my two eldest sons were younger. Now they have the freedom of their own laptop. Unfortunately for Aaron, my 13-year-old, he is still governed by this rule.
I strongly recommend this book to parents of all teenagers.