Parenting teenagers can be tricky at the best of times. But when the tough issues arise " behavioural problems, unacceptable risk-taking, bullying, alcohol abuse " things can get extremely difficult and parents can struggle with what to do.
Drawing on psychologist Michael Hawton's 30 years of experience, Engaging Adolescents is a practical guide to help you steer your teenager through the challenging times with confidence.
Hawton says the rushed 'drive-by" conversations stressed parents have with their teens can be counter-productive. People dealing with adolescents need tools to defuse their own reactive responses, learn how to slow down and come to important conversations with their kids better prepared.
Young adults, whose identities are emerging, need to be given the opportunity to learn to control impulses and self-regulate behaviour, to problem solve and negotiate. To facilitate this the adults in their lives need to commit to having those important conversations, without being in the vice grip of emotions that can derail the communication.
Just like paramedics, who train so they are prepared to deal with crisis situations, Hawton says parents can learn to ditch reactive responses and focus on solutions by being well prepared when they engage with kids on important issues.
Using case studies and based on universally-accepted mediation techniques, Engaging Adolescents covers the following areas:
teenagers and what helps them develop personal control
how to sort out behaviour so you don't over react
proven, practical methods for managing tempestuous teenagers.
This is a highly practical, skills-based book that gives you the tools to resolve conflict and build better family relationships.
Michael Hawton is a registered psychologist with over 30 years of experience. He is a listed clinical expert with the NSW Children's Court and an expert witness in the Family Court of Australia. A former teacher, Michael has spent much of his career working with parents and their children, and has been teaching family services workers and educational leaders in the area of behaviour management for over a decade.. A father of two, Michael brings a clear and unambiguous method-based approach to help parents experiencing difficulties with their teenagers' behavior.
Author: Michael Hawton
Interview with Michael Hawton
Question: Who did you write Engaging Adolescents, for?
Michael Hawton: Parents of teenagers are facing unprecedented challenges compared to a generation ago. There has been a surge in complications of raising teenagers. There are a quite a few indicators that teenagers are displaying less respect to their parents, teachers and their peers, at school with recent OECD survey showing that in some schools 50% of students say they that their learning is being disrupted by their peers. School suspensions are up by over 35% over the past five years in NSW and anxiety is rising in teenagers. One UK study is showing results that indicate that anxiety levels in teenagers have risen by 70% over the past 25 years. Over 70% of teenagers are not getting the right amount of sleep. So, as you can see, the landscape for parents is becoming patterned and complex.
Clearly something is very wrong when it comes to the state of teenagers. The good news is that parents are in a box seat in being able to positively influence all of these problems - and this is why a book like Engaging Adolescents can help. Parent s can learn strategies to not only manage teenage behaviour but also to improve their teenagers' well-being!
Question: How has the way to manage teens changed, over the past 30 years?
Michael Hawton: The traditional way of change behaviour in teenagers is to use a series of positive (reward-based) and negative (punishment-based) strategies to improve behaviour.
These -outside-in' characterised strategies work reasonably well for children but not so effective for shaping teenage behaviour.
As a result of developments in our understanding of the mind we know that certain parenting practices can improve teenagers' abilities to -self' regulate.
There is some evidence to support the view that the more teenagers practise their ability to wrestle with frustration, the better they will be at behaving better.
Parent can support these improvements and they can help teenagers develop -restraint' skills.
Question: What types of adolescent issues are parents currently facing?
Michael Hawton: The two biggest issues facing parents is knowing when to intervene and then what process they'll use to solve a problem they're wanting to tackle.
Too many problems don't get dealt with and the don't get put-off; when this happens, problems tend to get worse.
I think parents also need to be clear about what their job is in parenting teenagers.
In the parenting courses I teach I tell parents I suggest to parents that that they have three jobs:
The first job is to help their teenagers to handle life's frustrations and to get life's disappointments in proportion. Not everything is worth getting upset or stressed about or needs a giant reaction to it.
The second job is to protect teenagers' well-being so sometimes you will have to make a hard decision to say no to that pertyt of to withhold the phone overnight if you think it's affecting their sleep.
The third job is to teach them the difference between what's -appropriate' and -inappropriate in behaviour - like it's not appropriate for you to bring your phone to the dinner table while we are eating.
Question: What advice do you have for parents who need to get their kids, back on track?
Michael Hawton: The best advice is to instill in your children and teenagers what values your family holds to.
By filtering these values to them in one way or another over months and years, you're providing them with a reference point for what your family standards are.
If they're doing something that's unacceptable and you believe they need to stop or modify their behaviour, it's important to follow a process which will keep -you' anchored but which also help you move towards a solution.
Question: Can you talk us through the idea behind mediation techniques?
Michael Hawton: Mediators get trained in -a process' when they're learning their craft.
Parents can also follow a process to resolve a point of conflict with a teenager.
By anchoring yourself in a process, you follow a step-by-step script that tells you what to do first, second and third etc.
By also following a process you learn how to say what you need to say.
There are many tried and proven mediation techniques available to parents and they're not that hard to learn.
In Engaging Adolescents, I talk about some conflict resolution skills which are easy to learn and which are also easily transferable to problems you experience with your teenager!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Michael Hawton