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Customer Review

HALL OF FAMEon December 22, 2000
"Dad, trust me, when it comes to teens, you don't get it!" Thus, Mr. Jay McGraw told his Dad, Dr. Phil McGraw, that Dr. Phil was violating his own first rule for Life Strategies, You Either Get It or You Don't. Mr. Jay had wanted to use Life Strategies to improve his own life, and found that it took him 6 years (from age 13 to age 19) to translate the lessons into a teen perspective that made sense to Mr. Jay. Mr. Jay was naturally appalled when he found that Dr. Phil had a book contract to do a book on Life Strategies for teens. The project was reborn in Mr. Jay's hands.
By the time Mr. Jay was done, he was no longer a teen, having reached the ripe old age of 20. But his memory of teenage perspectives is strong and salty.
Early in the book, he candidly points out that the teen did not buy this book. It was a gift from an adult, usually a parent. And that's a very good point -- one that I would like to comment on.
I suggest that you read this book before giving it to anyone. That may be its greatest benefit. Mr. Jay does a good job of taking on the key psychological, social, and developmental challenges of the teenage years. As you visit these points of view, you can begin to see how your teenager might see you.
For example, do you ever tell you teen stories about what it was like when you were your teen's age? I know I do. Mr. Jay points out that any self-respecting teen "knows" that those old lessons don't apply now. Times are much different and tougher now. Dad or Mom is just being "boring" again.
Do you ever interrupt your teen? Mr. Jay indicates that that means "that Mom or Dad doesn't ever listen to me." That can cut off the possibility of communication.
There's also a wonderful section on the roles that teenager's today choose to play (their social masks). All of a sudden it clicked. I saw each of our teenager's friends fitting neatly into one of these categories. I could suddenly predict how each would respond in any given situation. Wow! What a gift! Thank you, Mr. Jay!! What has happened is that a few new categories have been established since the Middle Ages when I was a teenager. I am very glad to get up-to-date.
The book itself follows Dr. Phil's 10 laws. You can read my reviews of Life Strategies and the Life Strategies Workbook if you want to know more about them.
Mr. Jay takes the perspective of what the payoff is from the teenage years. For example, he candidly points out that you can decide not to get good grades. But you have to understand that that means that you will get less respect from everyone, and have fewer choices after high school is over. Coming from a parent, that would have sounded preachy. Coming from Mr. Jay, it just sounds matter-of-fact.
Many teenagers are into not reading anything they don't have to, so I don't know how many will read this book. From a psychological point of view, it probably should have been positioned as something like "Have Great Teen Years Without Being Hassled by Your Parents and Friends." The book needs more rebellion against the convention wisdom to be appealing.
Regardless, it is great for us parents. Enjoy the examples, learn the role-playing, appreciate the angst, and avoid acting "boring." And by the time your teen is 24, you'll start to look pretty good in her or his eyes again. Be patient in the meantime.
If you have a pretty good relationship with your teen, a possible approach is to start doing Life Strategies yourself. Ask your teen if he or she would help you with the exercises in that book. As you open up about your issues, hopes, and dreams, you may stimulate an interest in your teen. In the meantime, be sure you have a copy of this book around the house, and be perfectly open about reading it. Who knows what might develop next? You could possibly start a dialogue by asking your teen to tell you what the three things are that you do that most annoy your teen. Then, see if you can do better.
Communication is the most important bridge to your teenager's development. Keep building that bridge daily, in ways that your teenager likes!
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