PTA Coffee Break: Author talks on understanding teens

June 02, 2011|By Kate Rogers

How delightful is it to go to a PTA coffee break, be enlightened as a parent and get enormously entertained during the process?

The final coffee break for the school year May 18 proved that one never stops growing, learning and laughing.

Mike Riera is a best-selling author of "Staying Connected to Your Teenager," an award-winning columnist and national speaker on issues of children, adolescents, families and parenting. Riera was also the family and adolescent counselor for the CBS Saturday "Early Show" for seven years and has been a frequent guest on "Oprah" and National Public Radio.

He stressed that enjoying our teens is paramount and that staying authentic and reflective toward them is more powerful than any "how-to-parent" formula he could provide. He encouraged us to tap into the fun in the teenager, and the immense creativity.


"We try to think outside the box, teenagers live outside the box."

Sounds easy enough!

Riera went on to solicit a list of teen characteristics from the audience of parents. Selfish, lazy, rude, argumentative, sullen and moody all quickly jumped onto his notepad.

Then he asked parents for another list of the issues facing our teens, which included drugs, sex, grades, fitting in, growing up, driving, body image and friends. He stopped and pointed out the absurdity of how people with the characteristics of the first list would be asked to handle the gravity of the second list. The irony is that if teens can't make these decisions, they can't grow up, but if they try to grow up too fast, it can be damaging.

The parental model of life manager, which works impeccably well during early childhood, becomes crippling to their growth as they move toward adulthood. The goal is for them to fire us as their managers and hire us as their consultants. We are still hugely important to their development, but we must act as enthusiastic encouragers, like the mother standing at the bottom of the very scary slide and coaxing her child to make that first, impossible descent.

In the role of life consultant, we are best served in understanding the why behind teenager behavior. As parents we can use many lenses through which to view and unravel the mysterious teen behavior. For example, physically teens are growing and adjusting to hormonal surges. They can grow up to one-eighth of an inch in one night.

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