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Excerpt from "The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens"

by Dr. John Duffy

The Good-Enough Teenager

“Love me like you would have if I had

turned out the way you pictured.”

—Amy, 15

The challenge for you is to acknowledge and accept your children right now, where they are. Too often, we expect our children to be different than they choose to be. We judge them, and the clear message they receive, far too often, is “You’re not good enough.” I work with many a parent who will present a laundry list of changes a teenager needs to make to graduate to the “good enough” category. If this scenario resonates with you, consider a life with your teenager that is peaceful, where you choose not to judge her, where you support and accept and love her. You need to know that you can decide, right now, before you finish this paragraph, that from here forward, your child will always be good enough in your eyes.

“Good enough” is a starting point, not an ending point. In order to have a relationship with your teen, in order to have influence in his life, you need to acknowledge, accept, and challenge him. You need to respect his boundaries and show that you believe in his ability to master his world. Now, your acknowledgment and acceptance may not mean he is jazzed to sit down with you and entertain a serious talk about grades, but you never know. I’ve seen a number of situations where a teenager will seek out a parent for help when he’s struggling. Believe me, this simply does not happen without acceptance and acknowledgment. This much I know for sure.

Once you acknowledge, accept, and challenge, openly and without judgment, you are available. Then you can really begin to parent. Your discipline will have teeth. Your opinion will matter. Your voice will be in their minds when your children are making tough decisions late at night. If they believe they’re not good enough in your eyes, they’ll throw in the towel on your relationship as well. But remember, you will have done so first. Don’t be that parent. Rejection of your teen will attract heartache and frustration to you, years of joylessness and fear. Start with acceptance, acknowledgment, and understanding, and you’ve got something. Be truly available, and your relationship can be among the greatest joys of your life.


Indulge me for just a few moments in an exercise. Find a time when your teenager is occupied in a more public area of your home, somewhere other than her bedroom. She may be reading, talking on the phone, playing a game, or listening to music. For the purposes of this exercise, as long as she is occupied, it really doesn’t matter. Now, find a comfortable seat in another room. First, I would ask you to gently remove from your mind, just for these moments, any feelings of anger, ill will, disappointment, or resentment you harbor toward her. Take a few moments alone to close your eyes and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. For the next several minutes, assume that all is right with the world. You needn’t worry about a thing. You can cast all of your concerns, just for now, totally aside. As you inhale, allow your lungs to fill with a sense of well-being and contentment. As you exhale, envision your negative thoughts leaving you. Once you feel calm, open your eyes. Stand up, go into the room where your child is occupied, and take a seat. Continue your deep breathing.

Just watch her discreetly for a few moments as you attend to your breathing. Sit quietly, watch, and listen. With no demand on yourself, take note in your mind of what you see in her, what you hear from her. Look at the shine of her hair. Allow yourself to marvel at the perfection of her hands. Listen to her voice and her laughter, her very breathing. Watch her smile. Does she ponder her world? In what ways does she look like you? Now, look at your child’s beautiful eyes. How long has it been since you have seen them in this way? Breathe in the miracle that is your teenager.

When you feel ready, go back to the room where you began this exercise, relaxing and breathing. Have a seat, and take a few more cleansing breaths. Now, think about your teenager. How are you feeling about her now?

In this exercise, I am encouraging you to see your teenager with the same sense of awe and wonder that you had when you first laid eyes on her, when she was a newborn baby. If you participated fully in this exercise, I’ll bet it felt pretty good. If you conduct this exercise from time to time, you may find you get into the habit of appreciation and gratitude for the presence of your teenager in your life. She makes things interesting, doesn’t she? She is a force. She can be upsetting and frustrating, yes. This in fact is part of her job. At her core, though, underneath it all, she is wonderful and amazing—a miracle, really. And you as a parent are really so fortunate. You have the opportunity to parent this wonderful, challenging person, to affect the future of her life, your life, your family, and perhaps everyone. A large responsibility, yes, but none could equal the rewards.

ISBN: 978-1-57344-657-0

Book Price: $15.95

Excerpt Price: $80/page

Available at www.vivaeditions.com

Dr. John Duffy is a clinical psychologist and certified life coach with a thriving private practice in the Chicago area. Dr. Duffy works with both teens and adults and specializes in helping parents maximize satisfaction and minimize conflict in their relationships with their teenagers. In addition to clinical work, he also consults with individuals, groups and corporations in a number of areas, including Emotional Intelligence, stress management, balancing work and family, conflict resolution, goal-setting and the power of thoughts in bringing about change. Dr. Duffy's highly satisfied clients include Sears, Allstate, General Electric, Household Financial, Exxon Mobil, Accenture, Bank of America and Hewitt Associates. The Duffy family lives in Chicago, Illinois.

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