I taught high school Social Studies for 15 years. And for the most part, I loved it. Granted, there were days when I would rethink my life plan. I came home and cried because some kid had been so mean. There were times I was so frustrated or just at my wit’s end. Do you know that feeling?
I wanted a fairy godmother to come down and just tell me what to do or say. Or just explain what in the world was happening in their heads. When I realized that my fairy godmother was VERY tardy, I started looking for help elsewhere.I wanted a fairy godmother to come down and help me with my students! Click To Tweet
I’ve read lots of books and articles about parenting and teaching teens, but I’ve found these books to be the most helpful. Some of the books discuss developmental issues, while others deal with education and life skills. All of them provide some solid advice for parents or teachers who are struggling or just looking to improve.
Some quick tips for reading – Don’t try to read them back to back. None of these are exactly light reads. Alternate them with beach books. (Don’t do what I did last year. I read a bunch of books in a row all set in WWII Europe and got super depressed. I still can’t bear to open a book set during WWII.) Feel free to skim some sections. In non-fiction, there are no complex plots to follow. Read enough that you understand the author’s point and evidence, but not enough that your eyes start to glaze over. Tip: Read enough that you understand the author's point, but not enough that your eyes glaze over. Click To TweetAlso, You might want to have a small notebook and pen handy to write down good ideas.
Do these books have all the answers? Did I agree with everything in them? Nope and nope. However, I walked away with knowledge and ideas I could implement right away. That’s a win in my book.
Top 5 Books for Parenting or Teaching Teens
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
This is the latest and greatest buzzword in education – grit. What makes Olympic athletes, CEOs, and West Point grads? Turns out intelligence doesn’t really play a part. But passion does. Duckworth explains the Grit scale (turns out I’m pretty gritty), what makes people successful in the long-term, and some advice for how to instill that in your children. Short version – find something that your child is passionate about and you will find something he or she will keep working on.
Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Dr. Carol Dweck has been the “It Girl” of the education community for years because of her concept of growth mindset. We often view intelligence as fixed at birth. You’re either smart or not. But research shows that is not true. The brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger (or smarter) it becomes. Dweck lays out what a growth mindset looks like and how to foster that mindset in kids. For more about building a growth mindset at home, read my post.
The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey
I talked about this book already and my love for it hasn’t waned. Failure is an important part of learning. Kids who never fail also never take chances and therefore never discover their full capabilities. I think this book dovetails nicely with Mindset; both books focus on the importance of failure and learning from your mistakes to improve. Lahey, a middle school teacher and mother, also provides advice about when and how to start letting your child fail.
How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
I read the teacher version of this book years ago and found its advice invaluable in the classroom. I recently read the parent version; it was a great reminder for me about how to talk to teens. The authors use real situations to walk you through ways to talk to your kiddos so that they will listen to you and speak to you. It uses cartoons that are a bit dated, but, honestly, teens haven’t changed that much. I love this book because it is so specific – you get scripts, which are great when you are trying to change long ingrained habits. I used several of their techniques in my classroom for years because they worked every.single.time.
The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances Jensen
So eye opening! Jensen dives into the latest brain research to explain why teens seem to act so strangely. Short version – their brains aren’t fully developed AND puberty leads to some weird brain chemistry. Also, Jensen includes some eye-opening stats about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. I’d keep this book on hand just for those conversations with your kids.