Winning Ways with Teens: A Practical Guide for Parents. 
By Esther Tan.
Singapore: Federal Publications. 1997. 122 pp.
Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng

The developmental phase of adolescence is often described as a period of "storms and stress" for teenagers growing up.  They do not want to be treated as children nor are they ready to assume adult responsibilities. The "neither-or" transition is marked by rapid physiological changes that greatly impact their intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. Parents who are unprepared for the transitional changes are bewildered and panic to search for answers to fathom how their "bundles of joy" infant, "cute and adorable" toddlers and "docile and co-operative" kids have transformed into "demanding," "self-centred" and "impossible" teens to handle! (p. 1).  Parenting adolescents can often be a time of "storms and stress" and parents who feel that they are "losing" their teens can consult Dr Esther Tan's book to look for principles to guide their ways to "winning" them back.

The book begins with real-life stories to depict the inevitable presence of conflict between the two generations and the gap exists because of the "difference in ideas, feelings and interests between parents and teenagers, often leading to misunderstandings" (p.7).  According to the author, the key to avoiding misunderstandings is to have both generations communicating with one another to close the generation gap. That is,

if there is communication, there is interaction. Through interaction comes understanding and bonding which can then lead to mutual acceptance. Thus parents and teenagers can learn not only to get along, but also to enjoy each other's company (p.8).

The topic of communication is elaborated in chapter 8.  The strong message to parents is the need to equip themselves with effective communication skills to prevent breakdowns and be creative to make room for discussion and dialogue with their teens.  The chapter also cautions some of the communication blunders to avoid or unlearn and it highly recommends the skill of reflective listening to build a two-way communication to strengthen the relationship bond.

Parents who have firm relationship bond with their teenagers are likely to have a better understanding to empathize and accept the behavioural changes and the growing pains of their children entering the adolescence period of human development (chapter 2). The ability to accept them is to help them develop a positive self-esteem (chapter 3), to guide them in their academic pursuits (chapter 6) and to support their career choices (chapter 7). The chapter on "Peer Relationships" calms parents' fear of being rejected by their teenagers when they "enjoy the company of their peers more and spend less time with their family" (p. 25) and gives advice on the "how" to counteract negative peer influences. Other moral concerns of parents on their teen's relationship with members of the opposite sex, dating, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, eating disorder, bullying and depression are addressed in chapters 5, 10 and 11. Chapter 9 deals with the complicating task of disciplining teenagers.

In each of these chapters, information given are accompanied with examples to focus parents' attention on the issue involved and practical tips are listed suggesting how the problem can be handled or resolved. Parents can use the practical tips to assess their strengths and weaknesses in understanding and coping with issues in parenting their teens. The awareness can help to identify the communication skills they are lacking and to seek ways to improve their parenting role.

The author does not claim that communication skills alone are sufficient to "win" their teens. There must be a strong bond of relationship between the two generations and the bond should be built in their children from young. For example, when young people are confronted to choose between family values and those pressured by their peers, it will depend on their relationship with their parents. Hence,

it is so important to build strong family ties and instil the right values in your children from a young age so that during such moment of decision- making, the values of the family would prevail (p.18).

Therefore, parents should strive to

build a close bond with your teenager. When there is bonding in the family, teenagers are more likely to refrain from deviant behaviour as they do not want to disappoint their parents 
(p. 39).

Parents who are lamenting that they have not been diligent in laying a strong foundation of bonding with their teenagers when they were young need not feel hopeless. The author has offered numerous suggestions on building better relationships with them throughout the book and to pay close attention to the three "Ls" in parenting teenagers in chapter 12. Those parents who are at a lost in handling their teenage children can contact the different agencies listed in the appendix section.

The book is a required reading for parents-to-be and parents of young children. Why? Learning the art of parenting to "win" teenagers begins with infants and children growing up in a home environment that is warm, supportive, sensitive to providing positive role models and not lacking in "talking" between the two generations,

Studies have shown that teenagers whose parents smoke are five times more likely to do so themselves (p.88).

 

When the teenager realizes that his parent is not critical of him but tries to understand how he feels, he will be encouraged to share further (p.61).

 

The foundation of this love for learning must be laid in their childhood days. If a child has learned to enjoy learning from young, he will be a self-motivated learner in his teens. Being self-motivated, he will not give up easily when faced with difficulties. In this way, he is more likely to succeed in whatever he does (p. 43).

It is a preventive measure to be taken seriously.

The focus of the book is on parenting teenagers but it is also a practical help for guardians and teachers of teens in the church and parachurch organizations. The author keeps to her promise that the "book does not claim to provide all the answers" (p. vi) but readers who desire to explore further wish the author had provided a list of references or texts.

(The book can be purchased from BGST Library.)

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr. John Lim was our Chapel speaker last Wednesday, 29 September. He drew lessons on obstacles to strong faith from John 4:43-54.

Dr Aquila Lee was the Chapel speaker on 6 October.

NEWS BITS

1.       Away from office. Dr Aquila Lee is away from 11 to 22 October for his ordination in Seoul. Our Dean, Dr Quek Swee Hwa, is ministering in India from 13 to 30 October.

2.       A Philosophy of Christian Ministry (CM101, 3 credits) by Dr John Lim will be commencing on 15 October covering 8 sessions at Bishan campus. This is a required course for  MDiv students.

3.       Dr Bruce Milne will be conducting a course “The Calling & Work of a Pastor” from 16-19 November at Bishan campus. More details will be announced.

A Blessed Birthday to…

Mr Samuel Ratnam  11/10
Mdm Susan Yap  11/10
Mr Vincent Yu  11/10
Mrs Dorcas Tan  11/10
Mr Tan Chee Leong  12/10
Mr Steven Lee  12/10
Mr Amos Gan  13/10
Rev Dr Daniel Chua  13/10
Mr Ng Hern  13/10
Mr John Tan  14/10
Pastor Jeffrey Tay  15/10
Assoc. Prof. Quek Ser Aik  15/10
Ms Susan Goh  15/10
Mrs Jess Goh  16/10
Mr Michael Goh  16/10
Ms Janice Koh  16/10
Ms Theresa Tan Lee  17/10

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