Wise-Minded Parenting: Seven Essentials for Raising Successful Tweens and Teens Reviewed By Kari O’Driscoll of BookPleasures.com
Reviewer Kari O'Driscoll: Kari is a non-fiction writer whose work has appeared online at BuddhaChickLife.com, ElevateDifference.com,and BlogHer.com. She maintains a blog at The Writing Life where she writes about parenting, her unique spiritual journey, and life in the Pacific Northwest. She is currently working on a memoir of a two-month trip to Europe with two toddlers and is an avid reader and cook.
View all articles by Kari O'Driscoll
Author: Laura S. Kastner, Ph.D. with Kristen A. Russell
Publisher: ParentMap dba Gracie Enterprises
This follow-up to Kastner’s “Getting to CALM” is a truly comprehensive manual for any parent of a tween or teenager who needs solid, practical advice. Kastner brings 30 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist and her DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) approach together with a measured acceptance that sets the relaxed tone for the book. Kastner exhibits mastery of the Buddhist principles of acceptance, tolerance and mindfulness as she helps the reader navigate the treacherous and unpredictable waters of adolescent parenting.
The book is broken into sections for each of the seven essentials she believes makes successful and happy teens (and later, adults): secure attachment, self-control, academic success, social thriving, emotional flourishing, strong character and physical health. In each chapter, she explores the differences between individual children such as temperament and learning styles that can account for different challenges, but nowhere does she talk about “good” and “bad” kids. Instead, she acknowledges the physical and developmental difficulties that teenagers face and encourages parents to find strengths in their own children that they can expand on as well as areas needing work.
While the book is easy to read, there is a lot of information packed inside and it will take many, many days to absorb it all. Luckily, Kastner has peppered worksheets and opportunities for interaction such as conversation prompts and websites to visit throughout the book which will get parents and kids thinking about how to incorporate the wisdom in the book. Like “Getting to CALM,” this book also includes sample dialogue between parents and teens about tough issues, offering both perspectives of what not to do or say as well as how to handle hard conversations with grace and efficacy. There is information on everything from romantic relationships to school performance to how to help your child modulate their strong emotions during this rocky period in their lives. She cautions parents against approaching teens with high emotions because we tend to get derailed and end up feeling ineffective and getting our feelings hurt.
There are also “Essential Facts” and “Wise-Minded Mantras” every few pages that help distill the most important information down to something easier to remember. Perhaps my favorite one reads, “I may be right, but am I effective?” As a parent of one tween and one teen, I know how tempting it is to prove my point and chalk one up for the parents’ side (and sometimes even follow it up with an ‘I told you so,’) but Kastner cautions that this is not a way to build a bridge with your child, so that even if I’m “right” about something, I have to remember to stop and think about whether saying so will help anything.
“Wise-Minded Parenting” is one book I will be keeping close at hand for a long time to come. I read it with a pad of paper and a pen and made copious notes and I know I will go back and spend even more time exploring the rich array of other materials Kastner pointed to so that I can help my children be at their best. This is one of the most clear, helpful parenting books I have read and I can’t wait to share it with friends who are also parents of tweens and teens.