|The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens
by John Duffy
Published by Viva Editions
Teenagers are left feeling unheard and misunderstood, and parents are left feeling bewildered by the changes in their child at adolescence and their sudden lack of effectiveness as parents. The parent has become unavailable, the teen responds in kind, and a negative, often destructive cycle of communication begins. Well, the truth of the matter is, you can physically be right next to someone and still not really be available to them. If you need them to be something they’re not, if you are harsh, criticizing and judging, if your anxiety is center stage, then you are not truly available.
The available parent of a teenager is open to discussion, offering advice and problem-solving, but not insisting on it. He allows his child to make some mistakes, setting limits, primarily where health and safety are concerned. He never lectures — he is available but not controlling. The available parent is self-aware, and keeps his own emotions in check when dealing with his teen. He is unconditionally loving and accepting, and open to new and different ways of thinking. As such, he is neither cruel nor dismissive, ever. The available parent is fun and funny, and can bring levity to the most stressful situation. All of that is to say, there are no conditions to his availability — it is absolute. The available parent fosters an extraordinary teenager.
We have a tendency today to over-parent, micro-manage, and under-appreciate our adolescents. Imagine for a moment shifting the dynamic in your relationship. If you can get there as a parent, you can begin to enjoy a healthy, satisfying, exciting new kind of relationship with your teenager, a relationship with a foundation not of fear, but of radical optimism. Dr. John Duffy’s The Available Parent is a revolutionary approach to taking care of teens and tweens.
And we can all breathe easier as a thirteenth birthday approaches.
pub date: 2011-05-11 | Paperback | 9781573446570
From the Inside Flap
From the foreward:
Suddenly, it seems, you are the parent of a teenager. It’s a role you
have looked forward to for several years with a good deal of concern
and apprehension. And sure enough, now that the job is upon you, you
realize it is a different world! Your formerly friendly son now seems
more sullen, moody and distant. Over the last few months your daughter
has apparently come to believe that her parents are out of touch with
reality. Where are these kids coming from?
As one mother put it, “My daughter went to high school her
first day as a freshman and never returned. I lost my baby!” Through
things like Facebook and texting, teens nowadays seem to spend their
entire days “wired” to each other. When they’re not connecting with
peers, they are surfing the Internet, playing video games or watching
TV. It’s as if there is no more room in their lives for parents.
Attempts to communicate at the dinner table, such as the notorious “How
was your day?” are met with curt responses like “Fine.” End of
conversation. Another attempt at pulling teeth has failed.
You feel hurt, rejected, angry and scared. What if my son
starts using drugs? What if my daughter starts having sex? What in
God’s name am I supposed to be doing with This Kid!?
In The Available Parent, Dr. John Duffy sticks his neck out
and offers a clear answer: As the parent of a teenager your top
priority—before anything else—is to stay in touch with your rapidly
changing youngster. Staying in touch is the essence of what Dr. Duffy
means by availability. Availability is the ability to understand your
child’s need to pull away. It’s the ability to remember your own
teenage years and—even though you may feel rejected at times—to treat
your retreating child with respect. Availability is the ability to
leave your fears and your ego behind and to really listen to what your
adolescent has to say, even if it makes you cringe.
Not an easy task by any means, but The Available Parent
gives a clear roadmap for carrying the mission out. Dr. Duffy first
takes you inside the mind of a teenager, so you can understand where
this kid is coming from. He then explains why some parents’ natural
inclinations, such as snooping, micromanaging, blinders and bribery,
never work. Next Dr. Duffy describes the notion of parental
availability, and he offers specific methods for recreating the
connection with your adolescent offspring. For those who are fearful
that availability means laissez faire parenting, there is a chapter on
discipline and behavioral contracts.
The goal of Dr. Duffy’s book is to help parents of teens
understand and define their job. For moms and dads that means, among
other things, accepting the fact that their children are supposed to
eventually break away, leave home and become attached to new people.
But the goal of The Available Parent is also that teens and parents
enjoy one another’s company as much as possible now while they’re still
living in the same house.
What in God’s name am I supposed to be doing with This Kid?
The Available Parent gives you the answer.
About John Duffy:
John Duffy is a clinical psychologist and certified life coach with a thriving private practice in the Chicago area. Dr. Duffy works with both teens and adults and specializes in helping parents maximize satisfaction and minimize conflict in their relationships with their teenagers. In addition to clinical work, Duffy also consults with individuals, groups and corporations in a number of areas, including Emotional Intelligence, stress management, balancing work and family, conflict resolution, goal-setting and the power of thoughts in bringing about change. Dr. Duffy’s highly satisfied clients include Sears, Allstate, General Electric, Household Financial, Exxon Mobil, Accenture, Bank of America and Hewitt Associates. The Duffy family lives in Chicago, Illinois.
For more information, view John Duffy’s Web site.
The words, above in blue, basically explains this “how to” manual. Given that my daughter just turned 13, I most definitely need help on how to communicate with her, and how to understand her in the first place! I recall being raised the “good ‘ol fashion” way, coming from a European background, as a teenager I became angry not understanding why my friends all could and I could not!
Duffy clearly demonstrates that the parent role has to be redefined. Duffy challenges his readers with exercises to try … we can then see if any change comes about. It’s also helpful to really try to understand the teen’s perspective; how they see it vs. how the parent sees it. I agree with Duffy; discussions, advice, and problem-solving will most likely help the situation rather than to FORCE the teen to comply. The Available Parent shows the parent how to love and accept your teenager unconditionally. This is how to build a wonderful foundation to a healthy, long-lasting parent-teen relationship.
I love the categories Duffy has put forth; I find them very helpful:
- Your Teenager’s Wild World
- What Never Works
- What Always Works
Developing self-esteem, and self-worth are what I will be focussing on with my daughter. I also plan on implementing the “Behaviour Contract” between my daughter and me … hopefully avoiding any future struggles! Instead, I’d like to bring my daughter closer and include her in the decision process.
As a parent, I realize the tendency to micro-manage and to over-parent. I truly love my daughter, and have to accept that she is growing up. I appreciate the daughter I have; however, I need her to know it and to believe it if we’re going to survive these TEEN YEARS together! I plan on altering my parenting approach so that it is more effective, and more forgiving. Parents need to learn not to lecture, and not to be so judgemental. Again, being of European background, I need to keep my emotions under control to better deal with my teen.
The Available Parent might just be the book you need. I know that I will be applying many of Duffy’s suggestions, exercises, and examples … I’ll save myself a lot of headaches and a lot of grief! Would I recommend this book? YES!