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How to Create a Positive, Respectful and Fun Relationship with Your Teen

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“We want you to enjoy your teens, and your teens to enjoy you,” say Molly Wingate and Marti Woodward of Slow Parenting Teens.

Their book helps parents to turn their focus to the relationship they have with their teens and away from their teen’s behavior. Woodward’s background is as a therapist and coach specializing in adolescent and family issues; Wingate taught high school and college students. Between them, they have five teenagers. They know teens. They know that whatever the behavior or problem, parents and teens have a better chance of getting through it when they have a positive, respectful, and fun relationship. And the results are in; their book has been endorsed by moms, dads, teens, grandparents, teachers, therapists, and Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids.

1.    What is slow parenting teens?  What is ‘slow’ about it?
Slow Parenting Teens is a parenting model that focuses on building a positive relationship with your teenager instead of focusing on changing his or her behavior. We called it slow because we help parents slow down and enjoy their teens. It is a very proactive approach that encourages parents to think ahead of time about their reaction and responses.  We help parents build positive, fun and sustainable relationships with their teens.

2.    Is there such a thing as fast parenting? How does it compare?
Yes, there is such a thing as fast parenting.  We talk about slow and fast parenting in the same way the slow food movement talks about fast and slow food. Fast parenting is similar to fast food in that it is a reaction to a situation such as lack of planning or a screaming kid. Fast parents quickly address the immediate problem without a lot of thought about the long term.

Slow and fast parenting are on a continuum.  Fast parenting is at one end where parents react quickly and slow parenting is at the other end where the parent reflects on all of his or her actions and reactions.  No one is completely at either end.  Chapter 2 in the book provides a quiz for parents to find out where they are on the continuum.

3.    What are you hoping to accomplish with this book?

We want parents to know that they can have a positive relationship with their teen and still be able to set limits and guide them.  We want parents to have fun with their teens and enjoy the time they have with them. We also want teens to have a safe emotional relationship with at least one adult in their life.  That is the big dream – every teen having a solid safe relationship with an adult.

4.    What are some examples of how slow parenting handles tough problems in a way that is different from the norm?

The biggest difference in handling any tough situation is that we ask parents to first consider what they are afraid of for themselves.  What about the situation is fearful for the parent’s sense of well being?  For example, say you find out that your teen daughter is having sex.  A parent who leans toward fast parenting might forbid her from seeing the young man, restrict her privileges like the car or her phone, and lecture her.  The lecture would be judgmental and emphasize the risks she is taking in terms of her reputation, her health, her life, values, and her heart.

A slow parent in contrast would identify her own fears and own them, and set limits on her daughter that reflect her own concerns.  For example, say the parent’s biggest concern might be that she doesn’t want to end up raising grandchildren, and so decides to take her daughter to get birth control.  The parent is saying, “I am not condoning the behavior, but I am addressing my biggest concern.”  The only lecture would be to say, “I hope you will come talk to me if you need to discuss the relationship or anything else.”  When parents know what their fears for themselves are and they own those fears, they can respond to tough situations with calm and compassion.

5.    What is in it for parents if they practice slow parenting? For teens?

Parents will have less arguing, less conflict, more laughter, more affection, more conversation, fewer surprises, the absolute joy of learning who their teen is growing into – their preferences and interests. Parents will be able to know that their teens are just becoming themselves, and parents can decide, however slowly, how to respond.

For teens, the same – less arguing, less conflict, more laughter, more affection and conversations.  Teens also get more opportunity to have nonjudgmental conversations about failures and successes which can result in increased self-esteem, self-confidence and better social skills. Teens appreciate getting fewer lectures (from parents or themselves) that beat them up for their screw ups.  They learn to take risks and learn from them, good and bad.  They also learn that they aren’t responsible for how others feel.  They have better boundaries and they believe in themselves. We are kidding when we say this is a book that teens want their parents read.

6.    Were your kids involved in writing the book? What do they think about being the examples and guinea pigs?

We talked with our kids about the ideas of the book and ran our ideas past them as we formulated the five attitudes.  They are the reason we wanted to be slow parents, and they are glad that we are.  Our five teens were very good at letting us know we when had it right and when we didn’t.  Because we are slow parents, we needed some help to capture the tone of fast parenting, and our kids see more of it than we do. Their friends also pitched in. When we used examples from our lives together, we cleared them with our teenagers. Actually, they are fairly proud of being the one we chose to illustrate the sex talk, the driving talk, or whatever the situation. They are some of our best spokespersons.

7.    Where can people find out more?

Slow Parenting Teens has a website with our blog, a facebook page and the book is available at Barnes and Noble stores, online at bn.com,  and amazon.com as a paperback or ebook, and from the publisher at www.norlightspress.com. Our community of parents through Facebook and through our blog reaches across the nation.

8.    What is the next book?

We are pretty sure the next book will be Slow Parenting Kids for parents of younger children.  The ideas of Slow Parenting Teens work in any relationship, but it is helpful to have some age appropriate ideas and responses.

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