Written by Molly Wingate and Marti Woodward
Reviewed by Kevin Slick
As the parent of a twelve-year-old who has just entered middle school, I’m already feeling the rush of the teenage years bearing down like a freight train, so I was anxious to read this book. When I did, I discovered the title to be a bit misleading. It is not so much about slowing down as it is about taking a different view of the parent-child relationship.
Perhaps the key component in this process is for parents to take ownership of their own feelings and fears. It may seem like a simple switch to move from “These rules are for your own good” to “These rules are for my peace of mind,” but the shift is actually radical. For example, you might want to impose a curfew because you feel nervous when your teen is out late, and you can’t go to sleep until you know they’re safely home. The authors point out that acknowledging your own feelings is more direct than telling the teen they need to be home by a specific time because they need to get up for school in the morning. The parent sets the curfew in either case, but the rule can be based on the parent’s real experiences, instead of speculation about what would be for the teen’s “own good.” Slow Parenting Teens gives examples from a range of scenarios that will be familiar to any parent – parties, homework, driving, dating – and presents different approaches for each situation.
Another important component in the slow parenting approach is to listen without judging. Anyone who has studied techniques of “compassionate listening” will find what the authors suggest here to be familiar. What is unique about the techniques in the parenting context is that the parent-teen relationship is not one between equals. Even so, the authors
demonstrate ways for parents to approach the relationship as a partnership and to listen in ways that let teens know they have been heard and respected. This unlocks a multitude of possibilities and is likely to yield better results.
If I were to re-title this book, I might choose “Long View Parenting.” As a teacher and parent, I find I feel more successful when I’m thinking about the long view. For example, I ask myself as a teacher: Where do I want my students to be at the end of the semester? What skills do I want them to have? I often find there are many ways for them to get where they need to go. They come up with great ideas that I never would have. Wingate and Woodward mention repeatedly that parents need to notice when kids are doing the right thing. Based on my own experience, I agree with them that it’s easier to do this when you’re willing to expanding your definitions of “what’s right.” For example, when a group of kids is being loud, it might be a sign of disrespect, or it might be a sign that they are doing something exciting or discovering something amazing. You could either investigate the situation by starting with “Shut up” or with “What’s up?”
Slow Parenting Teens asks parents to spend some serious time in self-reflection and to take ownership of their own feelings and fears. It challenges parents to acknowledge that their feelings are primary motivators in their parenting decisions. These ideas they may seem radical and, based on the Father-knows-best paradigm of parenting, they are. Even though Friends have a long history of embracing ideas that are outside the mainstream, some of the practices suggested here may shake Friends up. That might be a good thing. ~~~
Kevin Slick is a member of Boulder Monthly Meeting (IMYM). He is a parent, musician, composer, visual artist, writer, and teacher – sometimes all at the same time.
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