Thursday, January 31, 2013

Parenting: A Book You Should Read

I received a copy for How to Talk so Teens will Listen & Listen So Teens will Talk from my mother in-law for Christmas. I read about it while reading another book, not sure which book, but I new it had to go onto my Christmas list.

I started reading it during my 3-hour glucose screen a few weeks ago (screen was sign on gestational diabetes). This is one of those books that I feel like I need to read again to really grasp, but I think I will pass it along to JAG first. 

I am not prepared to give you a full report just yet, I just wanted to share a few excerpts that spoke to me or scared me half to death (which is the state I have been lately raising a pre-teen). 

The book is just as it says - its a manual to help you to get your children to open up. My highlighter was going full force with in the first ten pages. 

The author writes

But if you can create the kind of climate in your home where your kids feel free to express their feelings, there's a good chance they'll be more open to hearing your feelings. More willing to consider your adult perspective. More able to accept your restraints. More likely to be protected by your values. 

I was like "Yes please where do I sign up and pay my money for this to happen." It's all a process that the authors take you through using group sessions with parents as an example. Again, I need to re-read and highlight more and make notes and print notes and post them all over my house so I will remember. 

They hit home when they said

It's hard for us to listen to our teenagers express their confusion or resentment or disappointment or discouragement. We can't bear to see them unhappy. So it's with the best of intentions that we dismiss their feelings and impose our adult logic. We want to show the 'right' way to feel.

Can I get an I fallen into this trap so many times. I know what Shelby is going through, but instead of listening to her and her feelings I find myself telling her how to fix it because I've been down that road and if she does it my way (which is way different then I did things at her age) then she will come out unharmed. 

They go on to say

And yet, it's our listening that can give the greatest comfort. It's our acceptance of their unhappy feelings that can make it easier for our kids to cope with them. 

Hello! I would love to find a mother who hasn't had to work to train herself to do this, but that's just takes thought and training. They give you scenarios to read through and even practice...and they even have cartoon strips which I know JAG will dig. 

An area of debate across our country and sometimes in my home is "to punish or not to punish" which is an entire chapter of this book. I can't say at this point if I agree or disagree all I know is I have punished Shelby Elizabeth over and over again with no real positive results. 

The authors write

the problem with punishment is that it makes it too easy for a teenager to ignore his misdeed and focus instead on how unreasonable his parents are. Worse yet, it deprives him of the work he need to do to become more mature. More Responsible. 

It's all about talking...sitting down and talking it out with your child. A two-way conversation. 

Speaking of talking this passage hit a little hard, so of course I highlighted so JAG would it was important to me. 

If ever we find ourselves becoming annoyed or angry with anyone in the family, we need to stop, take a breath, and ask ourselves one crucial question: How can I express my honest feelings in a way that will make it possible for the other person to hear me and even consider what I have to say? 

Oh this is something I've been working on so much lately...I've even been working on this when speaking to my x-husband. 

The continue by say

It means we need to make a conscious decision not to tell anyone what's wrong with him or her, but talk only about yourself - what you feel, what you want, what you don't like, or what you would like. 

I challenge you to think about that inside your house as you discuss things with your children or your spouse. It seems simple, but when you've had a long day at work and have to come home to find out your daughter forgot her homework for the third time this week it can been hard to remember. 

Now, let me get into the last chapter which I am glad they saved until last because it made my anxiety level go crazy. The chapter is called Dealing with Sex and Drugs. I took a deep breath as I started to read because as you know from my testimony post last week my history is not great in this area and my promise to myself as a mother is that I will be very alert and open with Shelby on this topic (not my history, but about drugs and that other word I can barely say since she is just 11). 

What I thought was my blessing from my teenage years is that I tried just about everything and fooled my parents on multiple occasion - thus Shelby will not be able to get anything past me...ha! Man, it is true things are so different these days when it comes to sex and drugs. The second paragraph of this chapter had me squirming. A mother was describing a scenario her daughter had gotten herself into during a party:

"I heard that one of the girls in her class was giving oral sex to a few of the boys. Now, I'm not a prude, and I don't think I'm naive. I know all kinds of things go on with teenagers today that was unheard of when I was a kid. But twelve and thirteen years old! In our community! At a birthday party!"

Oh, man that sounds just what I say when I hear some of the stories from my good friend who teachers in a Middle School. "They did what? Where? and at what age?!?" It's shocking - it's put my baby in  bubble and protect her from the outside world shocking. 

And when you are done worrying about sex and teaching you daughter the value of abstinence you have to brace yourself for drugs and alcohol (or it could be other way around). 

Let me share a personal story with you before I share the next item I highlighted. When I was 17, during the time of my life where I dropped out of school and was running around like a crazy person, I went across the border into Mexico to illegally consume alcohol. I had been doing this with friends since I was 14 - let me tell you people don't do this...don't even do this as an adult's all kinds of dangerous over there. Anyway, unbeknownst to my parents I spent the afternoon with three friends having a how much tequila can you drink contest. I can't even begin to tell you how much I consumed...I can't begin to tell you how I made it home much less back across the border. Let me tell you though as a result I suffered from alcohol poisoning. It has to be one of the worst memories of my life (or at-least from that part or my life). I was sick for days...I couldn't eat...I couldn't drink...I could barely stay alert. I am sure my parents were scared to death since I some how wound up back at home...probably because my friends couldn't handle how sick I was. With that story in my head I gave God a big thank you for sparing me during those days as I read:

Binge drinking can kill you. Putting a large amount of alcohol into your body at any one time can lead to alcohol poisoning. And alcohol poisoning can lead to coma or death. That's a medical fact.

I was spared (I now know for a purpose) twice in those three days. I could have been hurt or worse killed drinking at my age in Mexico especially in a Mexican border town and I could have suffered much worse consequences for my night of fun with friends - life ending life altering consequences.

They did leave me with some hope and that is how I will end with you today:

you all have more power than you realize. Your kids care deeply about what you think. They may not always show it, but your values and convictions are very important to them and can be the determining factor in their decision to either use or avoid drugs and alcohol. 

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