Teens and the Alluring Chemistry of the Digital World

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Michael Simon

Michael Simon: It's very hard to “opt out” of the digital world, because the digital world is more than just our interaction with digital media and devices. Our transactions as humans in the world right now are without a doubt being shaped by the dominant technologies, platforms and applications in the digital realm, just as we are busy shaping those technologies. I recently spent 20 hours on a plane, 3 hours on a train, and hiked 3 hours into a rain forest. As I sat listening to the sound of the rain—hoping I wouldn't get washed away—I caught a faint “whooshing” sound in the distance. Turn out it was another hiker, sending a text message.

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Posted in adolescent development, adolescents, adolescents and families in America, best parenting books, books on teens, Bustle, Bustle.com, Huffington Post, teens, teens and media, teens and parents, The Approximate Parent

The Approximate Parent wins 2013 Book Award for Best Parenting/Family Title!

Posted on January 19, 2014 by Michael Simon

The Bay Are Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) selected The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager (Fine Optics Press, 2012) as a winner of a 2013 Best Nonfiction Award (in the Parenting/Family/Relationships category). 

BAIPA is a network of publishing resources, including authors, editors, designers, reviewers and many other professionals in the Bay Area independent publishing community. Each year they review and consider hundreds of titles for inclusion in their annual awards. 

The Approximate Parent has won several independent book awards and is highly regarded by parents, clinicians and educators who work with teens. More information about the book can be found online at www.theapproximateparent.com or at Amazon.com.  

Posted in adolescent development, adolescents, award-winning books, award-winning parenting books, best parenting books, parenting books, Parenting teenagers, parenting teens, stress, teens, teens and media, The Approximate Parent

Co-author of Positive Discipline series reviews 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 best parenting teens books, parenting book reviews, parenting books, Parenting teenagers, teens, teens and media, teens and parents, The Approximate Parent

Approximate Parent 2012 Literary Award Finalist

Posted on March 17, 2013 by Michael Simon

Austin, TX--Michael Simon's innovative 2012 title, The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager (Fine Optics Press, 2012, ISBN 9780985227692) was announced today as a finalist in the Austin-based Reader Views Annual Literary awards. Simon's popular parenting title was selected in the non-fiction parenting/family/relationships category. Reader Views, founded in 2005 to support independent publishers and authors, announced all the finalists on March 15 for the 2012 Annual Literary Awards. The awards were established to honor writers of self- and subsidy-published titles, along with those titles published by small press, university press, or independent book publisher geared for the North American reading audience. The Approximate Parent, reviewed by Reader Views earlier in 2013, was noted as a "5-star...must-read for all parents." There are thousands of books on parenting teens, but few aim to make the parent the expert on their own teenager. The Approximate Parent offers smart, practical ways of understanding the contexts of adolescent development in America—beyond all the “teen” stereotypes—helping parents reach wise approximations of what to do in the hard situations with their particular teenagers. The Approximate Parent’s approach is groundbreaking and commonsensical: it understands that “one size doesn’t fit all.” This respectful approach allows parents to understand both the current American culture of adolescents alongside their own particular teen's biology, temperament, and developmental challenges. This highly accessible and often witty book is informed by the latest research on adolescent brain development, effects of digital media on youth and identity formation, relationships, sexuality and trends in drug and alcohol use. The entire collection of 2012 general and specialty literary awards will be announced on March 25, 2013.

Posted in adolescents, adolescents and families in America, award-winning parenting books, literary award, Michael Y. Simon, parenting advice, parenting book reviews, parenting teens, press-release, teens, teens and parents, The Approximate Parent

New Book Review from Reader Views

Posted on January 24, 2013 by Michael Simon

The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager

Michael Y. Simon Fine Optics Press (2012) 

ISBN 9780985227692 Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (1/13) 

I must admit that I picked “The Approximate Parent” by Michael Y. Simon because although we are close, I was struggling to understand and communicate with my teen daughter, and hoped for some quick strategies. This is not what I found. Instead I found a wealth of information to enrich my knowledge on teenagers’ development process, which in turn helped me understand my daughter, and thus discover what could help us communicate. 

“The Approximate Parent” begins with biological, psychological information about teenagers’ development, and differences between puberty and adolescence. I found this part a little intimidating at the beginning but I encourage readers to press through it as I found it very useful in the understanding of not just the coming chapters of the book, but also with understanding some of my teen’s behavior. 

After this first part, the tone of the book is less technical. Simon did a wonderful job combining the factual information of his remarkable research with his own conversational voice directed to the parents, which allowed me to relate, relax and take in the information. 

Each Chapter handles a different Issue. It begins with understanding your teen, their identity and relationships, and teens and sex, which are the timeless teen issues. But it goes further as Simon continues with issues like parenting through the digital era, and teenagers’ mental health. Each Chapter ends with a “Practical Help” section that readers can refer to quickly. 

Simon took me from understanding that many of the responses from teens are not only normal, but they are to be expected, as they are part of their development. He destroyed my argument of “I was more mature at your age,” as he explained the fact that as humans we react to experiences in a very unique way because our genes and our experiences while growing up, do affect the way we develop. His chapter “Parenting in the Digital Age” is one of my favorites because as I read it I realized just how different teen’s brains work in contrast with how teens’ brains worked during the 70s, or 80s. Thanks to this Chapter, it finally clicked in my head how different my development was in comparison to my daughter’s generation. Finally, towards the end of the book in chapter 10, I got my revelation when I read “the story about a boy who did not swim from the dock to the draft as his mother tried to manipulate him to do so.” This story made me reflect about my own teen years, and compare them to my daughter’s to realize that it was the same situation, only now I was the Mom. 

“The Approximate Parent” by Michael Y. Simon is a must read for all parents. However, it isn’t a quick read. It is an insightful guide, a tool that can make a difference in your parenting style to get results. A definite 5 star read in my book. 

Posted in adolescent development, adolescents, books on teens, parenting advice, parenting books, parenting teens, teens


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