Posted by: counselorcarmella | October 12, 2011

Review of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy

YES, YOUR TEEN IS CRAZY! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind

Copyright © 2002, 2003 by Michael J. Bradley. Harbor Press

 
This book is divided into three parts. The first is about today’s teens.  The second is about the parents of today’s teens, and the third is  about strategies for parents dealing with their teens. The author says that  he chose the book title because, due to brain and hormonal changes, we should consider  adolescence as a period of “temporary insanity” that they  usually  come out of as they move into young adulthood. This  “craziness” accounts for  a lot of the unpredictability,  rebellion, moodiness, and   other day-to-day changes in personality and preferences.  Dr. Bradley also says that teens can be “psychosis carriers” and that parents often wonder if they’re going crazy, too. He provides advice and case examples to help parents with this process. He even talks about his own family and  includes some of his own journal entries about his personal mistakes with his kids. 
 
Dr. Bradley does explain certain  signs and symptoms that may indicate a real problem and not just be part of this “normal” process of development.  He talks about  substance  abuse, depression and bipolar disorders, and  teen suicide.  He is very clear about his belief that there should  not be guns in the home due to the risk that  teens will  use them to commit suicide.  He  says this means is just too easy and too lethal if teens have access to such weapons. He also discusses anxiety, eating,  and conduct disorders and stresses the need for professional help with such issues.
 
Chapter Six talks about   the  grief parents experience as they lose their sweet loving child to  adolescence. I think this point is very important.  Parents can  really  be sad  and disoriented by  the realization that their child has been replaced by a stranger so hard to relate to.  The author cautions parents not to try to cling to that child, but rather to  grieve privately or with the support of spouse and other adults, and to  try and get to know who their former child is now becoming.  He also stresses that parents can’t expect their  children or adolescents to meet their emotional needs.  Its supposed to be the other way around. 
 
Bradley says parents should aim for a climate of respect. He contrasts this with trying to be a “cool parent” or  a fear-based parent.  I would say these two go along with the  more traditional descriptive words of  “permissive” vs “authoritarian.”  He  is against parents trying to  be “cool” to their kids because that’s what peers are, and parents have to set some rules and boundaries for their kids. He is also against corporal punishment and in your face yelling and intimidation, stating that these behaviors only  lead to  changes because of fear.  He provides a list of examples of things that make  kids lose, or gain, respect for their parents.  He states that respect must be freely given; it can never be demanded. He says it’s more who you are than what you say that leads to success in raising teenagers.  
 
One of the things I really liked about this book is that  Dr. Bradley  spent time focussing on the parents’ relationship with each other and the importance of having a strong bond.  He stressed working together and doing things to nurture the marriage because, if the couple isn’t solid, it will have a negative impact on the teen.  He reminds  parents that  getting through the teen years is stressful for everyone, much like things are when a couple first has a baby, and that they need to  work together to get through  this time  instead of letting the relationship  be pulled apart. He encourages couples with already strained marriages to  get counseling and  to be intentional about the relationship, to do  everything to try an make it work if they’re considering divorce.  He is very blunt about the negative impact  split families can have on teenagers.  I applaud this author for his candidness in this regard.
 
He talks about some strategies to help keep things going if divorce and single parenthood is unavoidable, as well, and  his advice here is very practical. He also discusses how  difficult it is to create a “blended family” with adolescents. He says it is much harder to do this with teens than with younger children. He stresses that new  stepparents should ease into  any kind of authority role with their stepchildren. Again, he stresses that respect must be earned and that  a lot of patience is needed in this delicate situation.  He stresses letting the stepchild set the pace for the  relationship, as far as  how  much interaction they want, etc.
 
 Chapter Nine provides Bradley’s 10 Commandments for parenting teens. He spends a lot of time discussing  listening. He says that adults should say as  little as possible so that teens will say as much as possible and  that hearing a kid out when he’s “talking crazy” means trying to help him think through what he’s saying and getting to the feelings underneath.  He stresses short sentences, not repeating yourself, and  speaking calmly. He stresses the futility of threats and ultimatums, and  encourages apologizing. He also encourages  lots of casual chatting so that kids don’t associate talking with parents as always being  a bad thing.  Hanging out  in general allows more opportunities for important topics to naturally come up in conversation.
 
Dr. Bradley  talks about the importance of letting  teens  experiment with  identities.  He advises parents not to  make a huge deal out of  choices about clothing, hair color, music, piercings,  political values, etc.  He says that, the more grown ups don’t react, the  more quickly teens will  pass through the various identities they’re “trying on.”  I know  from my own counseling experience that many parents pick these battles instead of more important ones. They just can’t get past how their child  is expressing him/herself through appearance.  He reminds parents to hang on to their own identities during all the “craziness,” as well. Don’t give up your personhood or values trying to be a parent, he says.
 
Dr. Bradley  says that negotiation should be used with setting rules and teen decision-making. This is  because the long-term goal is helping them figure out who they are and they do this with choices and through trial and error. With negotiation, each person listens with an open mind to the other person’s  thoughts and viewpoints.  They talk back and forth in what is hopefully a calm and productive dialogue. Decisions about rules means taking each child’s uniqueness into consideration. The more fredom allowed, the more responsibility expected. Its about picking battles and sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils, but  serious risks to  health and safety should  not be negotiable.
 
He says the fewer rules, the better. He says rules naturally follow respect. Having some rules allows teens to explore identity with  safety.  He explains the difference between punishment  and consequences. Consequences make kids think and help them to learn valuable life lessons. Bradley says  parents shouldn’t lay out consequences ahead of time when they  have said “No” to a certain  action.  He says that, if they do, the teen will be able to decide if breaking the rule is “worth it.”  Simply letting them know there will be consequences is enough.  Bradley also says that a trust violation is something separate from every other rule and consequence. 
 
This book included a chapter on handling adolescent rages, which I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. There are also chapters on  sex and drugs, and  a chapter that  discusses a number of less serious problems common to teenagers.
 
 
* Visit Dr. Mike Bradley on the Internet at http://www.docmikebradley.com
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