Book Bites: Surviving the Terrible Teens

Ah, the Terrible Twos, that period of a small human’s life where defiant behaviours and boundary pushing become their central focus and consume more energy and concentration to execute than ‘going potty’. Here are some of the defining characteristics of that delightful developmental phase, just in case you haven’t experienced the joy first hand yet.
  • Saying “NO” (ALOT)
  • Kicking, hitting, biting
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Screaming
  • Fighting with siblings
  • Not following/ignoring rules
  • Tuning you out
  • Throwing themselves on the ground in a total meltdown
Incredibly, my darling girl experienced none of these signs save for the odd dummy spit that we both talked our way through calmly, quickly. Similarly the Troublesome Threes and Fearsome Fours were all a bit of a doddle. We slid effortlessly into the Fun Fives once again avoiding the Snarky Sixes. And so on. Sincerely.

Our playgroup companions merely shrugged their exhausted shoulders with disbelief and congratulated us on good parenting. But it wasn’t that at all. I couldn’t see what I was doing better or worse than any other parent I knew at the time. You get what you get and work with it as best you can. We had a good kid. I enjoyed every single moment of my daughter’s days prior to her spending great chunks of them at school and I’m grateful for that privilege to this very day.

From unassumingly cute and winsome to ...

But life has a funny way of lulling you into a false sense of security and turning in a heartbeat to snap you on the butt just when you thought you could finally sink back into your life without further care about potty training, meal balancing and saving every piece of artwork ever produced by said offspring. And my butt has been firmly chomped on this year.

Fast forward a few of those heartbeats and hey presto, I’m now the mother of a teen aged girl, who exasperatingly still wants to be and act like a kid but defines herself as a young woman. It’s this very conundrum of self-realisation muddied with an intense need to ‘find out who they are’, poisoned with a whole new cocktail of hormones, souped into a slurry of social media judgement that has turned my near perfect sweet baby girl into a larger, scarier version of a … Terrible Two! Here are the symptoms, exhibited regularly, that prove it:
  • Saying “NO” (ALOT)
  • Kicking, hitting, biting (our house, herself)
  • Temper Tantrums
  • Screaming
  • Fighting with siblings (she doesn’t have any but probably would)
  • Not following/ignoring rules
  • Tuning you out
  • Throwing themselves on the ground in a total meltdown
And so as I flailed aimlessly about in this new ocean of teenage torture (Was I ever like that? Surely not), I realised if I could not find an island to take refuge on stat, I was done for and worse, I could potentially take her down with me. So I turned to the first available port of salvation (not the husband because he was / is similarly adrift), rather – books. I mean there are some awfully good training manuals on dogs out there and I’d done a super job with our pooches. It stood to reason the answer must lie somewhere in the pages of those who had already encountered similar storms at sea.

Now, after wading through a few tomes of coping with teenage angst, I can offer ONE overriding bit of advice, something I was never informed about. If I had been, things may have played out a tad smoother, hormones notwithstanding. And that is: start reading about your future teenager when they are ten years-old or younger!

Many of the books I’m about to list are brilliant. All have identified various attributes that make parenting a teen much more bearable or at least understandable. Many have offered valuable mollification that caused me to weep with relief and the realisation that we are both totally normal, this whole terrible rite of passage is totally normal and we’ll be OK if we just hang on to each other’s life rafts of reason, empathy and understanding. But they all came too late. I was already swirling about rudderless in her ocean of tormented teen.

 ... Sleeping with one eye open!

Forewarned is forearmed
. So peoples, no matter how cute that chubby faced smile is, no matter how many times your child declares they think you are better than chocolate or anything else in the planet sphere, no matter how tidy they keep their toy box now, do not be fooled! Start reading. Dredge up your teenaged memories and feelings and then set them aside; it’s a vastly different world for our teens than the one we inhabited. Be prepared for an exciting ride but ready to face it with less fear and doubt. And remember, without change there can be no butterflies. Your teen will metamorphose into a beautiful new human just as they ought to … or so they keep on telling me… And despite it all, we still got a good kid.

And so, here are but a selection of texts (some girl orientated because that’s what I have) that may offer guidance, hope and above all reassurance. The synopsises are not comprehensive but an overview of what to expect within.

Good luck.

Princess Bitchface Syndrome 2.0: Surviving Adolescent Girls

This is a revised and expanded edition of the first book by adolescent psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson and it’s brilliant. I laughed, cried (a lot) and sighed with relief. Snappily written, the paperback version is easy to consume and dip in and out of as you like. 

I found it extremely useful in understanding the pubescent, recalcitrant teen, and their point of view and welcomed the empathic strategies and suggestions that followed each ‘princess syndrome’ situation. 

En point and engaging, this offering is full of useful scenario based solutions that (amazingly) when gently put in practise, actually made a difference. Absolute godsend and highly recommended. Keep a copy on your bedside table for a quick go-to when things get a bit ugly.

Title: The Princess Bitchface Syndrome
Authors: Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia, $22.99
Publication Date: January 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978143784265
For: Parents of she-teen monsters
Type: Self Help Non Fiction

Buy the Book: BoomerangBooks

How To Hug A Hedgehog: 12 Keys For Connecting With Teens

As the back cover blurb suggests, this book really does help you to discover how to have meaningful relationships with teenagers, despite the prickles they continuously thrust into your face. It’s a good one to pick up before your child hits teenage-hood as the authors (both male) guide you through easy to assimilate steps that cover communication, adversity and building self-esteem. 

I especially loved the chapter about hearing them cry – understanding what is making their heart ache. This is helpful no matter what gender type your child identifies as and is especially easy to take on board because of the conversational tone these two (American) dads employ to relay their messages.

Title: How To Hug A Hedgehog: 12 Keys For Connecting With Teens
Authors: Brad Wilcox and Jerrick Robbins
Publisher: Familius, $14.95
Publication Date: October 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781939629197
Type: Non Fiction

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Familius

Being 14: Helping Fierce Teens Become Awesome Women

Penned by respected award-winning journalist and author, Madonna King, this book is great for both mums and dads although there is a version, Fathers and Daughters, dedicated to a father’s unique relationship with his developing tween daughter. 

While it is not solution heavy, it is anecdote rich with timely and contemporary references derived from real life situations. Conversations and viewpoints from dozens of teen girls, most from that telling Year 9 age group provide marvellous insight into many situations parents may not even be aware of because they are taking place behind closed doors, between screen mates or in the school yard. 

King draws on many avenues of professional opinion and recommendation much of which comes from those on the (mostly Australian) front line: teachers, principals, school counsellors and so on. Again, acquaint yourself with it before your daughter’s tween years are over.

Title: Being 14: Helping Fierce Teens Become Awesome Women
Author: Madonna King
Publisher: Hachette Australia, $32.99
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780733637094
For: Parents of Teen Girls, Mothers
Type: Non Fiction

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Hachette

Skip The Drama

As the subtitle professes, this Australian authored book provides practical, get-ahead strategies to survive your daughter’s teenage years. The key here again is to ‘get ahead’. 

Pick this one up and absorb the various chapters devoted to: diet, drama queening, social media abuse and use, mental well-being and body confidence to name but a few before the signs of these behaviours begin to show. 

Each chapter explains the causes of behavioural patterns, why, and how to best manage them, because you can’t really dam hormones or hasten brain development. It’s all about recognition, acknowledgment and then following best practice to manage your way through. 

Clinical psychologist, Dr Sarah Hughes supports her advice with real life examples that makes this slimline but word dense title easier to navigate and digest.

Title: Skip The Drama
Author: Dr Sarah Hughes
Publisher: Exisle Publishing, $34.99
Publication Date: August 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925335859
Type: Self Help Non Fiction

Buy the Book: Exisle Publishing, Boomerang Books

Mind Kind: Your Child’s Mental Health

I’ve only just begun this one but include it in this repertoire because raising a teen is not just about employing techniques for survival. It’s more of a parenting philosophy according to psychotherapist, Dr Joanna North, whose book is aimed at helping your child grow a strong and resilient mind, even when going through difficult times, like teenage-hood.

Chapters refer to behaviour management; helping children in difficult times; dealing with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression; eating disorders; family break-ups, divorce and step-parenting. 

Dr North also addresses common parental misunderstandings (and errors) and provides the tools to create an environment that promotes positive mental health. She uses her own observations to discuss positive and negative outcomes and plans to address these problem areas. 

A well-laid out, easy to read manual for cultivating positive mental wellbeing and learning the skill of being kind to your child’s (developing) mind.

Title: Mind Kind: Your Child’s Mental Health
Author: Dr Joanna North
Publisher: Exisle Publishing, $34.99
Publication Date: July 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925335941
For: Parents and Carers of Children
Type: Self Help Mental Health Non Fiction

Buy the Book: Exisle Publishing, Boomerang Books

Untangled is a bonus title to consider. I have not yet read it in its entirety but it contains one of best parenting of teens metaphors I have ever come across - The Swimming Pool metaphor. 

I literally wept swimming pools when I first heard it read aloud. Nothing could be more accurate than this analogy when it comes to simultaneously letting go and being there for your teenager. Do look it up.



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