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Book Review: The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager by Michael Y. Simon

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I must admit that I picked The Approximate Parent by Michael Y. Simon because although we are close, I was struggling to understand and communicate with my teen daughter, and hoped for some quick strategies. This is not what I found. Instead I found a wealth of information to enrich my knowledge on teenagers’ development process, which in turn helped me understand my daughter, and thus discover what could help us communicate.

The Approximate Parent begins with biological, psychological information about teenagers’ development, and differences between puberty and adolescence. I found this part a little intimidating at the beginning, but I encourage readers to press through it as I found it very useful in the understanding of not just the coming chapters of the book, but also with understanding some of my teen’s behavior.

After this first part, the tone of the book is less technical. Simon did a wonderful job combining the factual information of his remarkable research with his own conversational voice directed to parents, which allowed me to relate, relax and take in the information.

Each chapter handles a different Issue. It begins with understanding your teen, their identity and relationships, and teens and sex, which are the timeless teen issues. But it goes further as Simon continues with issues like parenting through the digital era, and teenagers’ mental health. Each chapter ends with a “Practical Help” section that readers can refer to quickly.

Simon took me from understanding that many of the responses from teens are not only normal, but they are to be expected, as they are part of their development. He destroyed my argument of “I was more mature at your age,” as he explained the fact that as humans we react to experiences in a very unique way because our genes and our experiences while growing up, do affect the way we develop. His chapter “Parenting in the Digital Age” is one of my favorites because as I read it I realized just how different teen’s brains work in contrast with how teens’ brains worked during the 70s, or 80s. Thanks to this chapter, it finally clicked in my head how different my development was in comparison to my daughter’s generation.

Finally, towards the end of the book in chapter 10, I got my revelation when I read “the story about a boy who did not swim from the dock to the draft as his mother tried to manipulate him to do so.” This story made me reflect about my own teen years, and compare them to my daughter’s to realize that it was the same situation, only now I was the Mom.

The Approximate Parent by Michael Y. Simon is a must read for all parents. However, it isn’t a quick read. It is an insightful guide, a tool that can make a difference in your parenting style to get results. A definite five star read in my book.

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About Susan Vio

  • Susan,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful, honest and kind review of my book. I was really touched. You’re right–it’s not an easy book to read and parenting teens is not an easy thing to do. I can tell how deeply engaged you are with your daughters…and the love comes through, even in your book review. I wrote the book for you and parents like you who struggle every day to love their kids in the best way they can, despite their own daily struggles. Thanks for reviewing the book and for the work you do every day in your family.