by Scott Sells
St. Martin's Press, 2001
Review by Fred Ashmore on Jun 10th 2002
This book shows on the front of the dust cover 7
steps to re-establish authority and reclaim love and all my prejudices went
off at once. Was this to be another set
of facile head games? Why 7 steps, for
goodness sake? Why not 5 or 13 or
6½? But I opened up and got reading, as
a docile reviewer should.
I chose this book from a list offered by our learned
editor, on the basis that we have four teenagers in our house. (Well, one of them is twelve but she shows
teen symptoms already, and another is 22 but she retains many of them). I count my self reasonably experienced. At times I even think myself quite skilful
at dealing with them. They are all
still at home, generally pretty cheerful, progressing in their lives amid
thrills and spills. But Sells has a lot
to teach me, and I wish Id had this book years ago.
As a family we went through some rough periods, and
I replayed them in my head as I read this.
I replayed them, and I watched my self making mistakes, missing
opportunities and doing quite a lot right as well, thank goodness. I think that the guidance I read here would
have helped us reduce the scale of those tough times, helped us to keep things
at the level of tiffs instead of confrontations and still maintain sensible behavior
on both sides. Maybe one of our kids
who went through some very difficult periods would have been spared a lot of
pain if wed been more skilful, and I think this book might have helped us be
I laughed like hell when I read Sells description
of age regression. Basically, the
longer you stay in face to face confrontation with your teen, the younger you
get in your emotional state
I certainly remember that now. I read about button pushing and how to deal
with it, and nodded sagely while recalling all the time I let my buttons be
pushed. I read his suggestions on
countering teenager aces, and nodded, thinking, Yes, we did that and it
worked, and we didnt do that and it didnt work.
Teenager aces? you ask. Theyre a set of behaviors of ascending vigor that are designed
(maybe not consciously, but certainly skillfully) to reduce a parent to
compliance? Nervous wreck? A state of uncontrolled emotional
turmoil? One or all of these. Heres the list, and I bet it has a grisly familiarity
to any parent of a teenager.
or failing grades
pregnancy or sexual promiscuity
or drug abuse
or acts of violence
We had the lot, bar number 7. We handled them more or less, we went
through a great deal of pain and we came out the other side, but
.. I recall
years ago reading a book called Baby Taming which described the early years
in semi-military terms, and certainly the metaphors of conflict spring to mind
when one reads about the teenager aces.
I know we could have done better!
Lets get down to the nuts and bolts. You can tell that I think this is a valuable
book for any parent. Whats in it for
you? Heres a list of chapter headings.
why your teen is out of control
an ironclad contract
how to think two steps ahead of your teenager
pushing why your teen wins arguments
your teenagers seven aces
is strength in numbers
love between you and your teenager
to do if these steps fail
Most of the content seems to me very sensible,
clear, suggestions rather than prescriptions.
There are clear pointers to when the parent would do well to bring in
skilled outside help, and I reckon most of these pointers are accurate.
Whos it for?
Parents or others in responsible charge of teenagers in some way. But basically parents. It might be helpful for a general counselor,
and certainly Dr Sells strongly suggests that the handling of serious
out-of-control teen problems requires special skills and knowledge, with which
I have a couple. First, this
seems to be conceived for an American small town family. Some of the suggestions on enlisting neighbors
might not work in a European social context, or even in a big city, I suspect.
But who knows? I never thought
of many of them, and never tried them, and maybe, just maybe
Second, I have some experience of the alcohol and
drugs recovery methods. I think that
the chapter on these issues is relatively weak though it does have some great
suggestions on how to deal with the behavior as it affects the home. Dr Sells might find it worth reading a bit
more widely before the second edition because I bet theres going to be one,
and misuse of alcohol and drugs is still going to be there as a problem.
A worthwhile book, full of things I was glad to
learn and wished Id learned earlier.
2002 Fred Ashmore
Fred Ashmore is still learning about his teenagers
and does not intend to show them this book.