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by Neil I. Bernstein
Workman Publishing Company, 2001
Review by Shelly Marshall, CSAC on Dec 30th 2002

How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can't

Both my professional and lay opinion on child raising/handling experts is normally very austere. ‘Politically correct’ aside, it is irresponsible to insinuate that as long as parents are loving enough, involved enough, and communicate in a prescribed and often pretentious manner, their offspring will be immune against negative peer pressure and their own nature. Finally, in How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble, I can hang my hat on a no-nonsense, common sense manual of adolescence supervision.

Here is a book that does not blame the parent for their child’s every shortcoming. Here is a book that asks the parent, and demonstrates how, to teach morality, empathy and be of service to others. Although the mandatory section on low self-esteem is included, the author Neil Bernstein, admits that many factors, other than parental failure, contribute to this. When he speaks of praising your child, he emphasizes that it must be sincere and deserved. In addition, the author has an ingenious section on challenging the teen’s negative thinking. You will definitely want to read this.

Although a less stern overseer than I think prudent, Bernstein emphasizes adolescent accountability and points out that parents are asked to tolerate way too much from their kids. I wholeheartedly agree. He does say that when certain lines have been crossed, placing a child outside the home may be the only alternative—he does not suggest, as many do, that if you parented right the first time you would never reach this threshold. How refreshing!

The only point I could take exception to is Bernstein’s downplay of placing the troubled adolescent in with other troubled adolescents. He claims that residency in a teen facility probably won’t be a negative influence. It “is much more likely your teenager will benefit from the lessons of others than pick up bad traits,” he writes in the chapter ‘Desperate Times, Drastic Measures.’ According to well-documented research, this is absolutely, empathically, not true. I was disappointed that the author seemed to want to cushion this information rather then just say it like it is—if the peer influence on the street affects them so they are not fit to live in a family, than peer influence within these centers will be worse.

Because of the useful nature of this whole book, Bernstein’s one indiscretion can be forgiven. At 518 pages, this manual addresses almost anything you, as a parent, will encounter. It delightfully has many side tables that encasple important ideas and questions, subheadings that are direct and useful, dialogues and concrete suggestions that any parent can implement, and a dynamite index so that you can locate just what you are looking for. You will want to keep this as a reference guide after you have read it. This is the book Dr. Spock would have wanted to write on raising adolescents.

 

© 2002 Shelly Marshall

 

Shelly Marshall, B.S., CSAC is an Adolescent Chemical Dependency Specialist and Researcher. You can visit her site at www.day-by-day.org.