Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! (Bradley)

Yes, the title, as well as the subtitle (Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind), are flippant. Bradley addresses the question of tone right off, and if you accept his explanation (and I did), then you’ll be just fine with his tone throughout the book. I, for one, can’t imagine reading a book about teenagers that didn’t feature an irreverent tone.

Bradley combines a look at brain science with anecdotes (including a few about his own parenting experiences) and thoughtful and practical advice. In several places, he makes deliberate choices about tone. That he acknowledges his heavy-handedness about the impact of divorce, for example, only serves to make that section more persuasive. So much, for Bradley, depends on patience, and he is quite aware that this is far easier said than done. That’s why he suggests – and I plan to heed this advice – that readers read his book once all the way through and then use it more as a reference or resource book.

Ignore the blurb from Martin Sheen about how great this book is. (Who thought he was the right person to vouch for a parenting book?) If you have a teenager or a child who is practicing to be a teenager, I strongly recommend this book.


Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It (Silverman)

This book is clear and to the point. Silverman has done her homework and presents it in an organized fashion. I felt known by a few of her descriptions of the Dad’s role (the Joker, the “It’s not my Department” father) and disgusted by some of the anecdotes involving teachers.

I didn’t take the quizzes, and I’m not sure how to bring this more explicitly into my parenting (or my teaching – I whiffed on my first opportunity), but I found it quite inspirational and informative. This is a book I’ll keep close at hand.

In addition, it has plenty of great resources in the back.

One quibble: the title. As neither writing lines on the blackboard nor irony are well-understood by our daughter, I deliberately kept the book face down. I didn’t want our daughter to see Good Girls Don’t Get Fat. The subtitle clears it up, but I didn’t want any confusion.

NurtureShock (Bronson & Merryman)

About 60 pages into this, I stopped and thought, ‘This should be required reading for expectant parents, parents, teachers, and, well, everyone.” If you accept the notion that education is largely about clearing up misconceptions (and I do, even in English), this is the book for you. Bronson and Merryman have done their homework and Bronson, who seems to be the lead writer, communicates it well most of the time. Some of the ideas about praise and failure are familiar. It’s time to figure out how to find room for failure. The insights about sleep (and the lack of it) are astounding. It makes me think that any high school that starts much before 9 is borderline criminally negligent. Chapters 3 (“Why White Parents Don’t Talk about Race”) and 9 (“Plays Well with Others”) should make you question much of what you thought you knew. Seriously, if I could, I’d stand outside of schools, day care centers, maternity wards, and just hand out free copies.

The Blessings of a Skinned Knee (Mogel)

She’s coming to talk at my school tomorrow, so I thought I’d read one of her books to get a sense of what she is going to talk about. The parenting advice is as useful as it is familiar – sometimes, as hard as it is, we have to let our children struggle and suffer. They have to learn how to do that as much as they have to learn how to read. It’s Mogel’s subtitle that is bugging me a bit – Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children. I was always aware of the presence of the Jewish strand of the argument, but I never found it necessary. It seems to be her niche, but if that’s all she’s leaning on, I wonder if she’s more unique than she is credible.

The writing itself is fine if unspectacular. It took me a while to get through this one, and I’m not planning to read her Blessings of a B-. I think as a writer, she’s another one of these successful article writers who gets so popular someone says, “Write a book!” And I read it.