In his debut book Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle, licensed social worker turned author Neil D. Brown, LCSW, shares his method for dealing with the sometimes devastating conflict in households between well-meaning parents and their teenage children. Honed over decades of working with troubled families, Brown lays out a formula for making positive changes in the way parents and their offspring interact so that trust can be restored and positive behavioral changes can be achieved.
Brown’s approach involves seeing the conflict itself as a participant in the communication between parent and child; an uninvited and negative agent that he dubs “the Beast” that is working to break down the communication process. By doing so, the remaining participants can heap their anger, frustration, and negativity onto this imaginary intruder while remaining positive and open to one another. By working together, the child and parent can “starve the Beast,” rendering the negativity ineffective in derailing the conversation.
This approach, according to Brown, allows parent and teens to come to the table as they are and accepting of who the other person is and what they are trying to say. It invites participation from both sides. By setting clear expectations and relatively higher standards, it creates an environment in which both sides add value with their input, offer support, and by collaborating together, builds trust and esteem.
This all assumes that the situation and the participants are “normal.” Normal, loving parent(s). Normal teen child who is trying to define him or herself in that awkward stage where they are neither child nor adult. Normal, if strained, communication. Normal expectations, such as curfew, cleaning up after oneself, managing household and school related tasks, etc. In the final third of his book, Brown provides insight when dealing with non-normal situations, such as when issues of depression, disability, when two parents aren’t on the same page, or when dealing with a seriously disturbed or out of control teen.
I found much of Brown’s technique to be in line with other books of this type, particularly when it comes to reframing the conversation from one of “Why aren’t you trying harder?” to one of “I know you want to succeed, but something is blocking that success… help me understand.” The part that I’m not particularly sold on is the piece that is unique in Brown’s approach, which is personifying the communication breakdown, with parent and teen working in tandem to kill the Beast. I’m no doctor nor social worker, but I am a parent, and it seems to me that this approach is still confrontational, just moving the focus of the confrontation off of one another and onto some imagined other. My gut tells me that, yes, this approach may have the desired results of creating positive behavioral change in the short-term, but as long as the initial conflict goes unaddressed, there is potential for one bad moment to cause the conflict to rear its ugly head again.
You can pick up your copy of Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle in print or in e-book format online or wherever books are sold near you.