Feb 262009
 

A new book says parents should handle their adolescents as if they are ‘tall toddlers’
By Alexandra Frean from «THE TIMES».
ANY parent will recognise it; the tears, the tantrums, the screaming fits that signal another day with a difficult child.
But if you think the wanton disobedience that marks the toddler years ends once they turn five, think again. The pubescent years are so similar to the Terrible Twos that parents should treat their teenagers as if they are little more than tall toddlers, according to a new book on adolescence.
What’s more, parents considering when to take time off work to look after their children should wait until their offspring hit puberty when they are able to articulate what they really need, the book by noted child expert Penny Palmano recommends.
Ms Palmano, whose own children are aged 16, 17 and 19, believes that getting it wrong with a teenager can have far more disastrous consequences than with a toddler. «I believe the teenager years are very much like the toddler years, a time of great development to strive for independence,» she said.
«Apart from the usual problems that teenagers have to deal with — puberty, peer pressure, exams, and finding out where they fit into the world — research in the past ten years has discovered that the prefrontal cortex is very under-developed until people are in their early twenties,» she said.
As this can affect teenagers’ ability to prioritise and to control their emotions, there is more chance they might indulge in risky behaviour and more of a need, therefore, for parents to spend time with them. Her recommendations in the book Yes, Please, Whatever! are backed up by Sebastian Kraemer, a leading child psychiatrist who says that teenagers are so dependent on their parents that no one else can look after them.
«A lot of parents think that once their children can do up their buttons and wipe their bottoms they can look after themselves,» he said. «But teenagers need a lot of looking after.»
He added: «They are very good at bullying their parents. It’s just like a toddler throwing a tantrum, only because they are bigger they can walk out of the house if they don’t get what they want,» he said.
However, Ms Palmano recommends that if parents really want to take control, they must first show how much they respect their children. The chapter on respect, for example, contains this advice on how to avoid arguments. Instead of shouting, «What sort of time do you call this?» the book suggests a conciliatory response, such as, «I was so worried when you were late.»
Ms Palmano has provided a nine-point check list for parents of teenagers: dress your age, do not talk «hip», don’t kiss your teenagers in front of their friends and do not show show photos of them to friends. Do not swear, drink too much, make jokes about sex or kiss your partner in their presence.
And finally, whatever else you do, do not try to be cool in front of their friends.
• Yes, Please, Whatever! Published by Harper Thorsons on September 5
WHAT TYPE 0F PARENT ARE YOU?
Angry Driven to distraction by their teens and resort to shouting, ordering and lecturing. They are heading for a complete breakdown of communication
Controlling:  Never let their teens take control of any part of their lives. As a result, if their children are not allowed to learn that there are consequences for certain actions, they will be incapable of accepting responsibility for their behaviour, turning into complete nightmare adults
Abandoning:  Happy to allow their children to push away from them, believing that their parenting days are over. But the lack of caring, supportive parents can lead to violence, depression, anxieties and even mental health problems
Over-indulgent: Did not put enough boundaries in place when their teenagers were children and gave them everything they wanted. Their teenagers tend to be very disrespectful in the way they treat and talk to them
Respectful: Listen, set boundaries, compromise, trust, support and encourage. Their teenagers will be able to experiment with independence and will develop and flourish within this supportive framework.

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