Between Parent & Teenager (1967) , by Dr. Haim G. Ginott, was published before many of today’s parents of teenagers were born. Ginott, who has been dead for forty years, was a well-known child psychologist and parent educator. His insight was to encourage parents to use the same respectful approach when communicating with their children that counselors use with their patients. The result was this book, and two other classics: Between Parent & Child (1965) and Teacher & Child (1972).
I loved this passage from the chapter on criticism:
“A minor mishap should not be treated as a major catastrophe. A broken glass is not a broken arm. Spilling glue is not spilling blood. A lost sweater need not lead to a lost temper. A torn shirt does not call for an ugly scene.
Philip, age fourteen, accidentally spilled nails all over the floor. He sheepishly looked up at his father.
PHILIP: Gee, I’m so clumsy!
FATHER: That’s not what we say when nails spill.
PHILIP: What do you say?
FATHER: You say, the nails spilled – I’ll pick them up!
PHILIP: Just like that?
FATHER: Just like that.
PHILIP: Thanks, Dad.”
He contrasts this with typical frustrated or angry reactions: “Look at what you’re doing! Can’t you be more careful? Must you always be in such a rush? Why is it that whatever you touch ends up on the floor?”
Readng this book again after all these years reminded me of how much the world has changed. But I was amazed at how much of his advice remains vital. He coached parents to acknowledge the feelings of teenagers rather than criticizing or ignoring them. When trying to change behavior, focus on observed behavior – not personality or character traits. Address specific events; don’t generalize or speak in absolute terms. And when giving feedback, do so with love and compassion. Encourage your child to think things through and do things for himself.
Not a whole lot of advice! But few parents put this kind of wisdom into practice. I imagine that if they did, they wouldn’t need much more guidance to be an effective parent to their teenager.
By the way, I got a used copy of this wonderful book in good condition for one cent plus S/H at Amazon.com. Worth every penny.