Co-author of Positive Discipline Series looks at The Approximate Parent

Posted on April 25, 2013 by Michael Simon

by Lynn Lott, co-author of Positive Discipline for Teenagers

The Approximate Parent must have been a real labor of love for the author to write. It’s clear he has a desire to share with parents his vast knowledge about adolescents.  Michael’s depth of knowledge and experience comes through on every page.

But this book is not an easy read and is not without its flaws. Parents are busy and want information without having to work hard at the end of long day to get that information. The Approximate Parent isn’t going to help them in that regard. It’s a long and often challenging work that is better off taken chapter by chapter, as parents need specific information. I would recommend that parents reading this book read the “Practical Help Tips” first and then go back into each chapter if they are wanting a deeper understanding of any of the tips.  However, serious students of teens will come away with a thorough understanding of adolescent behavior and the challenges that adults have relating to them and helping them grow.

I love Michael’s chatty and authentic voice throughout the book.  While I found it encouraging to the reader that we stop arguing about whether parents matter in the lives of their teens or whether parents are the reason those teens get so messed up, I took issue with the notion that who we are is a matter of nature and nurture.  We could be using different language to explain the same thing, but in my experience and studies, I would say that though nature and nurture are important, who we are is more about the interpretations and decisions we made about what was happening to us or what we brought into the world.  Those beliefs became our very own self-created operating system – more complex than anything Microsoft could ever come up with.  And it runs us.

The Approximate Parent makes points that I’ll share with parents in my practice that I think will be very encouraging and helpful to them as they wend their way through their child’s adolescence.  I would also share them with the teens I work with. Here are some of the book’s key points:

  1. Your teen won’t get it right the first time.
  2. Your teen will mess up and do less than you want in the beginning of learning anything new. 
  3. Whatever emotional state you’re in while you’re parenting conveys more to your child than the content of what you’re doing with them.
  4. Helping your teen understand, articulate, and regulate his or her emotions are arguably the most important tasks during middle and high school. 
  5. I really appreciate the Practical Help Tips for parents to consider before intervening found on page 110.  They are so helpful.
  6. Identity development involves two of the biggest motivators for teen behavior:  having fun and avoiding embarrassment.  (Adlerians would say the motivators are belonging and significance and excitement seeking, and figuring out identity separate from the family.)
  7. One of the most important things you can do with your teenagers is to help them feel there is more than one way to be successful at…anything.
  8. Harm reduction says Just Say Know (know what and how much you are using).  (As a chemical dependency educator, I love the simplicity and wisdom of this.)
  9. I loved the questions recommended to ask teens – what are your values, what do you care about, and how can you make this situation not about the adults, but about listening to your own, quiet voice inside that tells you the right thing to do.
  10. Know and practice in your daily life the idea that school is only one place for learning.
  11. Teens and adults think and feel in different ways, from a neurobiological point of view.  It does mean that applying to your teen your standards or methods for thinking, feeling and figuring out what to do is not really fair or accurate.
  12. When you’re really getting irritated and frustrated with your teen, look at the book’s long list of what teens have to face every day.

Lynn Lott is the co-author of the best-selling and highly regarded Positive Discipline series of books with Jane Nelsen. 

Posted in Michael Y. Simon, parenting book reviews, Parenting books, Parenting teenagers, parenting teens, parents and teens, teens, The Approximate Parent

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