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by Michael J. Bradley
Harbor Press, 2001
Review by Shelly Marshall on Oct 18th 2002

Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy!

Ever since Judith Rich Harris’s The Nurture Assumption came out to challenge the sacred beliefs surrounding child-rearing, parenting experts have scrambled to put out a definitive refutation and assure parents that what they do, indeed will produce “good” kids. Yes, Your Teen is Crazy by Michael J. Bradley, Ed.D. is no exception. Book after book extolling parenting skills have hit the shelves for the umpteenth time stating that if a parent would only begin soon enough, understand their child deep enough, stay involved, learn to communicate, never hit, always love the unlovable, and be reasonable in the face of unreasonableness, then their child/teen/alien pod will eventually reach 21 intact and not incarcerated. Again, this book is no exception.

Where Bradley does give the reader the exceptional, you will be as amazed at his inventiveness as you will by his cruelty. This book is well written, engaging the reader with down to earth anecdotes that any parent can relate to and yet Bradley doles out advice that wrenches the heart because there is no way to implement it with your self-worth intact.

Part one tells us what any person with offspring already knows, that teens are crazy. The author repeatedly asserts that research says this and research shows that, but maddeningly never bothers to name the actual studies. For parents willing to trust the author about what research finds, this won’t present a problem. For parents wanting verification about the whys and wherefores, they will be disappointed. You simply have to take Bradley’s word for everything. Notwithstanding, part one’s most usable feature deals with adolescent insanity and distinguishing between what is normal and what you need to seek help with.

Part two and three, predictably, take the reader to parental hell where once again you will be lectured, however poignantly, about how self-sacrificing, self-defacing, omni-present, and omni-potent you must be to raise a good kid.  In shades of Dr. Laura, Bradley extols “setting aside your own needs and focusing exclusively on your child.” He acknowledges you are human while asking for the inhuman; he acknowledges that what he asks for is impossible and warns you if you don’t do the impossible, your child is lost.

Basically you are told that your adolescent can abuse you (only exception is physical violence) and that you can take it, must take it, to show him or her how stable you are, model good behavior, and create a base of love that your kids can count on. You must also find every opportunity to apologize to your child, even when doing things you believe in and would do a second time, ostensibly to gain your child’s respect.

Your child can’t help what he or she is doing, you are told, and you can. It is difficult to understand Bradley’s argument that allowing your kid to treat you like a dog is going to help your child in the outside world. I sincerely question his contention that your adolescent can’t help screaming profanities, hurling insults and threats, and disobeying you at frequent junctions—I doubt it because teens seldom act that way around their friends and in other settings. If they can stifle their acting out at the mall, they can stifle it in the kitchen.  Even if standing up bravely in the face of abuse from your child really did make them respect and love you (again, something I doubt), what does that teach them about how to treat the ones they love the most? That if you love someone you don’t react to abuse and/or that it’s OK to abuse the ones you love? To be fair, Mr. Bradley does say his advice is counterintuitive. Many readers will come away believing it’s counterproductive, too.

Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy validates what a parent already knows about their brain-challenged teen, presents new ways to look at and implement seasoned techniques of parenting, and provides a decent chuckle of recognition now and again. After reading this book, you will no longer be plagued with guilt that anything you did turned him or her into a raging, insane, out of control Marilyn Manson groupie. Peers, genes and developmental brain chemistry do that, but you are not off the hook for long. You will forever be plagued with guilt that your inability to embrace the humiliating and downright cruel standards required of you, creates bad blood between you and your child that is your fault and your future.


© 2002 Shelly Marshall


Shelly Marshall, BS, CDAC, is a researcher and specialist in adolescent addiction recovery. A best selling author of recovery self-help books, Marshal also trains counselors Internationally and is a representative to the United Nations for a Russian Charity NAN (Not to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction).