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Book Reviews and Other Media
August 2010

Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens

Author Affiliations



Author Affiliation:Student Health and Wellness Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(8):776. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.147

If you have never been caught up in an emotionally exhausting verbal tug of war with your teenage son or daughter, never felt at a loss to explain how you wound up in an escalating confrontation with him or her, or never had to advise parents of your adolescent patients how to navigate the sometimes stormy waters of adolescence, skip this review and find somewhere else to spend $20. Otherwise, I recommend that you buy and read the relatively slim volume entitled Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens. Part treatise on adolescent development (including insights into adolescent behavior based on recent advances in neurosciences and brain imaging), part review of the major developmental challenges facing teenagers and their parents, and part gentle admonishment to parents to reflect on how their own behavior can contribute to problem situations with adolescents, Getting to Calmcovers a wide variety of topics in just 260 pages. The book is divided into 14 chapters; some sample titles convey what makes this book so compelling: “When Your Sweet Child Morphs Into a Sassy Teen”; “When Your Trustworthy Teen Pulls a Fast One”; “When They're Screaming at You—or Not Talking at All”; and “When You're Worried You're Losing Your Teen.” Included also are the obligatory chapters on adolescent sexuality and on drug and alcohol use but it is the other 12 chapters that are the heart of the book. Each chapter follows roughly the same format: a brief description of the problem conveyed in the title (blending in appropriate insights from developmental psychology and family systems and clear descriptions of the advances in the neurosciences as applied to adolescent behavior); a case example with illustrative dialogue between parent and teenager (usually accompanied by insightful commentary on the dynamics of the exchange); and a suggested approach for preventing the problem in the first place or for defusing the situation once it has started. What is particularly appealing about the material is that the authors display a true respect and fondness for teenagers while at the same time acknowledging the difficulties parents face in raising a teenager today but also challenging them to examine how their own belief systems and parenting styles can contribute either to the creation of the problem at hand or its solution. Too often books on adolescent behavior focus on the teenager without considering the fact that teenagers live in families and that the problem behavior in question must be interpreted within the context of family systems.

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