Books on parenting teenagers
The teenage years can be a bit of a shock. Logically, of course, you know they are coming. But it’s impossible to predict exactly how your lovely, loving child will change when they hit the teenage years. Or how you will react as a parent when they do.
Parenting teenagers requires us to adapt our parenting style. Some of us come into our element in the teenage years – this period fits well with our natural parenting style. Things that we were doing ‘wrong’ in earlier years become ‘right’ in the teenage years. Others of us get pulled completely out of our comfort zone and everything we have learnt as parents in the preceding decade no longer seems to work.
Whatever your experience, it’s a good time to reach for a book or two to help you understand what’s going on in your teenager’s brain and reflect on your new family dynamics. To help you choose, here’s my take on a selection of the bestselling books on parenting teenagers.
Get Out of My Life by Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks is one of those books on parenting teenagers that lots of people swear by. I came to it a bit late (having studied the teenage brain and with three teenage boys in the house already). But I imagine it could be a real eye-opener for parents who have woken up one day to find an alien teenager in the house. It’s also very funny, which is a fabulous antidote to teenage conflict and rejection. Laugh and it doesn’t hurt nearly so much! This is a book that is well grounded in the real world of messy families and imperfect parents.
(No time for a book? Quick read alternative: A beginner’s guide to parenting teenagers)
Please do exactly what it says in the title – read this book. It isn’t actually a parenting book but it will give you such an insight into your teenager’s life. It’s written by Ben Brooks, an ex-teenager rather than a parent. His mission is to help you understand what it’s like to be a teenager “in an age of self-harm, sexting and selfies.” And, boy, he pulls no punches and omits no details (be prepared to be shocked). But it’s so well-written, so funny, so human, so insightful. You will never look at your teenager the same way again. It will enable you to actually stand in your teenager’s shoes – and that has got to be the best starting place for parenting a teen. Every Parent Should Read This Book by Ben Brooks (originally published in hardback as ‘Things They Don’t Want You To Know’).
One of the biggest challenges in the teenage years is maintaining good communication. That’s not easy in the face of a volatile or withdrawn teenager. It’s easy to fall into negative interaction habits. So, if you have found yourself in constant conflict or your teenager has turned monsyllabic, it’s a good time to think about how you are talking and how you are (or are not) listening. How to talk so teens will listen by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is a really practical book that will help you reflect on your role in creating a positive dynamic with your teenager.
(No time for a book? Quick alternative, my Watch Now Webinar on Communicating with teenagers)
This is one of the few parenting books that sits itself squarely within modern real-world risks for teens – drugs, alcohol, social media, gaming, sex, suicide. And I really welcome it for that. But it is not a comfortable read. The premise behind the book is that knowledge is power – that parents of teens need to be informed with accurate information if we are to support our teens to navigate these difficult issues. And that is certainly true. But it reads a bit like a litany of everything that could go wrong.
The author, Dr John Duffy, clearly has enormous experience working with teens. But many of the examples he gives are on the extreme edge – such as the young man who got addicted to weed and spent 10 years barely leaving the basement. If a dose of reality is what is required, a great book. If you are prone to worry, it might leave you feeling panicked rather than well-equipped. (If you are a parent and have read it – I’d love to know what you thought?).
This is such a great book for decoding teenage girls’ behaviour. Lisa Damour achieves that rare balance of giving practical advice is a warm and empathetic way that doesn’t leave you feeling criticised as a parent. There are so many ideas crammed into it, alongside a truly insightful peek into a teenage girl’s thoughts, conflicts and emotional journey. The division of maturity into ‘seven transitions’ is somewhat arbitrary (in my view) but it creates an easily navigable thread from a complex issue and makes the book very readable. Untangled (by Lisa Damour) is practical, helpful, down-to-earth, accessible, insightful – in short, if you have a teenage girl you will not regret buying this.
The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances Jensen is one for brain geeks. It charts the changes that take place inside teenagers’ brains and how these can explain typical teenage behaviour (such as impulsivity, risk-taking, mood swings, lack of insight, forgetfulness, and poor judgement). There is quite a lot of technical detail but understanding the neurological drivers of the more frustrating aspects of teenage behaviour might just help you to cope with some of the tribulations of trying to parent one!
If you want a slightly less technical explanation of the teenage brain, with a few more practical pointers on how to manage teen behaviour, check out my review of this great new book The Incredible Teenage Brain.
(No time for a book? Quick read alternative: What’s going on in my teenager’s brain?!)
If you have a teenage son who is not doing as well as you think he should be at school, you must read He’s Not Lazy: Empowering your son to believe in himself by Adam Price. If you have one, you’ll know the type of boy I mean. The boy who doesn’t bother with homework or just dashes it off at the last minute. Who refuses to take responsibility for his schoolwork unless you trawl through his bag to make sure it gets done. The boy languishing in a lower set than his ability. The ‘could-try-harder’ boy who finds it hard to concentrate or is too cool, too busy, or too engrossed in his Xbox to put in the hours on his academics.
If this is your son, then this is the book to help you step back, figure out what’s going on, and get yourself off the treadmill that is sustaining his behaviour. (See full my review of this book here)
The teen version of the Triple P parenting self-help workbooks is a actually a printed parenting course for parents of teenagers. The self-help workbook format means it uses prompts and questions to help you reflect and set goals for your family and provides really practical tools for planning and tracking changes. Frustratingly, the Triple P self-help workbooks are not available from booksellers only from accredited Triple P practitioners. Luckily, that includes me, so if you want one just get in touch via the Contact page.
(No time for a book? Triple P also offer an online parenting teenagers course)
Parenting Teenagers by John Sharry is a very sensible book – the opposite of faddish. It looks at parenting teenagers from different angles and gives practical advice. Because it is so broad, it can be a bit hard to take it all in. But that does means it is likely to cover whatever issues you are experiencing (and help you identify some that you hadn’t realised were happening). My main criticism is that (just like all the books on parenting teenagers I know) it is a bit out of date. It doesn’t cover managing teens’ tech use well – the strategies are there but you’ll need to work out how to apply them.
(No time for a book? Quick read alternative: Parenting teenagers without conflict)
I hope you find these recommendations for books on parenting teenagers useful. If there is a parenting book that you would really like to recommend to other parents, please do pop it in the comments below!
This is not a sponsored post and it contains my honest opinions. However, some of these books were gifted to me as review copies. This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through and buy the book on Amazon, I will receive a small fee. For more details, see my Disclosure Notice.