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Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid

Written by Shaunti FeldhahnAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. RiceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lisa A. Rice

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On Sale: January 21, 2009
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-56171-8
Published by : Multnomah Books Religion-Business-Forum
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

For every bewildered parent, there’s a kid longing to be understood.

What parent hasn’t occasionally looked at their beloved but bewildering offspring and wondered, What in the world is he thinking? or Why is my sweet little girl acting like that?

In this remarkable book, Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice take you inside the mind of teens and preteens through the same innovative approach that seized national attention in the best-selling books For Women Only, For Men Only, and For Young Women Only. They explore the results of a nationwide survey and personal interviews with more than 1,000 real-life teens and tweens to tackle those things parents often don’t “get” about their kids. You’ll hear first-hand about the longings that drive your kids’ seemingly illogical decisions, the truth behind those exasperating “attitude problems,” and what your children would tell you if they could trust you to truly listen.

Excerpt

Chapter One
LOOKING IN ON GROWING UP
Taking a tour inside your kid’s head and heart

One recent fall weekend, I (Shaunti) went tent camping with my family and some good friends. With four couples and eight children under the age of seven, there was lots of laughter, not much sleep, and plenty of great memories.

One memory in particular will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life. After joining some other campers–a youth group–on a hayride, we all piled out of the wagon and began strolling back toward the camping area. One of the youth-group parents smiled at our small children. “Oh, enjoy this time, while they look like this,” she said. Then she turned and gestured at the group of tall, lanky teenagers now walking far ahead of us on the rolling country road. “Because in the blink of an eye, they’re going to look like that.”

As if on cue, our little ones began to break free from our hands and skip ahead, first walking, then running down the hill. The rays of the setting sun seemed to capture a portrait of the small admirers racing toward the supercool teenagers…racing toward growing up. I couldn’t stop the tears from leaping to my eyes.

Wherever You Are on the Road…
As I write this book with my friend Lisa, whose kids are long and lanky and off doing their own thing most of the time, we’re both struck by the fleeting nature of childhood and sobered by our role in turning these dependent little people into healthy, independent adults.

Whether you’re the parent of a small child or you only have a few months left until Junior leaves the nest, the goal of this book is to help you understand several key things that are likely going on– or soon will be–in the inner life of your child, some inner wiring that you may have never understood before. As any parent can attest, there’s a lot that we don’t “get” about our children, a lot that leaves us feeling baffled. Why does a little girl who wants to be your best friend one minute become painfully embarrassed by your existence the next? What causes a normally good-natured teenager to yell something hot headed and even cruel, then run to his room and slam the door? What provokes a firmly grounded, responsible youth to start questioning everything your family believes in?

Most important, what do we do about it?

In the chapters ahead we’re not going to focus as much on these confusing–even infuriating!–outward behaviors and attitudes as we are on the inner feelings, needs, and temptations that often lead to those behaviors. And as we do, we’ll get a much clearer sense of what our kids need from us.

The goal of this book is to help you understand several key things that are likely going on in the inner life of your child.

As parents, we are often so busy putting out fires that it’s hard to be settled and confident in guiding children along the ups and downs of the road to adulthood. But our research has convinced us that once our eyes are opened to how our children are wired, we’ll be better equipped not only to maximize but also to actually enjoy the precious time that we have with our children.

An ancient Hebrew proverb says, “Happy the generation where the great listen to the small, for it follows that in such a generation the small will listen to the great.” That encapsulates the reason we’ve written this book. As we hear the dreams, concerns, and confusion common to so many of our kids, we’ll learn how best to be an influence in their lives for years to come.

The People Behind the Book
Before we go too far, we should give you a bit of background. Shaunti is a public speaker, newspaper columnist, and the author of many best-selling books, including For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men and its companion book, For Men Only. Lisa is a screenwriter, a youth speaker and leader, and the coauthor (with Shaunti) of For Young Women Only: What You Need to Know About How Guys Think. This series has been dedicated entirely to investigating and analyzing the key surprises about the people most important to us. And as sometimes-bewildered parents ourselves, we knew very early on that we needed to dig into those things that we just tend not to “get” about our kids.

As with the previous books, the eye-opening findings in these pages are entirely research based. We are not psychologists or family therapists. Rather, we are trained analysts just crazy enough to try to apply our skills and experience (Shaunti as a Harvard-trained analyst on Wall Street, Lisa as an appraiser conducting high-level business valuations) to helping people understand one another. And we think the best way we can serve parents who want to understand what’s going on with their kids is by taking you directly to the real experts: the kids themselves.

At first, some observers questioned whether children could really speak about their inner lives with any sort of clarity. But in our research, we were amazed by the profound insights and often brilliant analysis the kids (primarily teens and preteens) offered into what’s going on inside their hearts and minds–and what they most need from their parents.

We were amazed by the profound insights and often brilliant analysis the kids offered into what’s going on inside their hearts and minds.

At this point, you might already want to ditch a book that forces you to listen to teenagers, especially if you’re having a bad week or thinking ungenerous thoughts about your blessed offspring. (Or are we the only ones who do that?) And we won’t deny that some of what we heard from the kids was challenging. But overall, we think you’ll be not only surprised by what these kids have to say, but also encouraged and better able to relate to your own kids…at least most of the time!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look
You might be wondering how we managed to wring all this information out of a bunch of monosyllabic adolescents. Well, first we conducted confidential focus groups with teens and preteens around the country. We also held numerous kid-on-the-street interviews, stopping teenagers in shopping malls, coffee shops, schools, and arcades to ask what they were really thinking and feeling about all sorts of issues. We dug into our files of input from hundreds of teenage guys for our earlier book For Young Women Only and followed up in more depth. Whenever either of us traveled for speaking events– from Los Angeles to Kansas City to Saratoga–we talked to kids to confirm that what we were hearing was fairly universal.

Finally, we conducted a groundbreaking, professional, nationally representative survey with the help of two sets of experts: Chuck Cowan at Analytic Focus–the former chief of survey design at the U.S. Census Bureau–and Kevin Sharp and Kelly Puig of the internationally renowned survey company Decision Analyst. In all, four hundred and twenty-seven anonymous kids across the country– ages fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen–answered roughly two dozen questions about how they think, what they feel, and what they need.*

The survey confirmed the results of our personal and group interviews. Not only did we hear the same things over and over from our young sages–reflected in the quotes you’ll find in the following pages–but the personal stories and perspectives they shared with us were backed up by statistically valid evidence. In the end, this book incorporates the input and insight of more than twelve hundred kids.

We also asked some adult experts to help us make sense of what we were hearing from the kids, and these consultants allowed us to pepper them with questions via e-mail, phone calls, and in-person discussions. These are not parenting experts so much as they are experts in understanding what’s going on inside kids. We are indebted to, among others, Dr. Julie Carbery, PhD psychiatrist and child and family therapist who counsels troubled families; Nerida Edwards, nationally certified middle-school guidance counselor; Emerson Eggerichs, former pastor who now runs a national ministry to help the sexes understand each other and author of the best-selling book Love and Respect; and Vicki Courtney, founder of the Virtuous Reality organization for teen girls.

* The scientific survey anonymously surveyed kids of all major racial groups, belief systems, and socioeconomic strata, and provided a 96 percent confidence level with a +/-3.5 percentage point variation.

Before We Start
Before we take you inside your kid’s head, we need to emphasize a few points:

1. We are not endorsing the behavior or excusing the poor choices described by some kids in these pages. Our goal is to serve as your tour guides through the strange and wonderful world
of “teendom” and to give you new information to help you understand what’s going on inside the kids, why they might do some insane things, and how these facts can give clearer direction to your parenting. We need to emphasize that just because certain thoughts and behaviors are seen over and over, we are not saying they are desirable or acceptable.

2. Our findings are nationally representative, but we personally approach parenting from a Christian worldview. We aim to lead our children toward choices that will help them reach their full, God-given potential. We want to help you do the same, and we believe our nationally representative findings and analysis will be helpful even if you do not share our worldview.

3. This book is not just for parents of teenagers. Although we were limited to surveying teens for legal reasons, and we focused the book on the most intense application of these truths in the ’tween and teen years, we believe parents of small children will find this advance information immensely valuable. As the mother of two young children, currently ages four and seven, I (Shaunti) can already see the application of several of these findings, and the value of laying the right foundation before the teen years arrive.

4. There are exceptions to every rule. When we say that most kids appear to think a certain way, realize that most means exactly that–most, not all. We’re making generalizations out of necessity, and as the professional survey shows, there will be exceptions. (In addition, since some exceptions may include serious problems that are beyond the scope of this book, we strongly urge parents in those situations to seek guidance from a professional child and family therapist.)

5. This book is not intended as a comprehensive overview of parenting principles. Our sole goal is to open your eyes to several critical things that are likely to be going on inside your child, things that many parents tend not to “get.” But new insights alone are rarely enough to change a life. Once you recognize certain realities, you may want to investigate the wonderful resources out there that address particular topics in more depth–especially those that explore God’s power to transform the heart. (You’ll find links to several resources–including our survey data–at www.forparentsonlybook.com.) In addition, because our “what to do about it” sections can’t cover the highly individual situations parents will encounter, we strongly suggest that you read with pencil in hand and make running notes about how you might apply a particular insight in your family. The companion For Parents Only Discussion Guide can help you put
your new insights to work.

One last point: as you read, give yourself a break. None of us as parents can possibly measure up to everything we think we should do–or, for that matter, to all the things kids say they need. At the end of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen, the oldest daughter says to her dad (played by Steve Martin), “You taught me that there’s no way to be a perfect parent, but there’s a million ways to be a good one.” We believe that if you’re reading this book, you’re already a good parent. Please keep the big picture in mind and avoid the temptation to judge your parenting or that of others. Because there’s only one perfect parent…and we’re not Him.

Both of us believe that although we may encounter some challenges along the way, there is also a heavenly Father guiding those who seek the truth. That may or may not be your worldview, but we hope our findings and analysis will be helpful no matter where you are in your own parenting journey. So are you ready? Let’s embark on a thrilling and sometimes scary adventure…inside the head of your kid.
Shaunti Feldhahn|Lisa A. Rice

About Shaunti Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn - For Parents Only

Photo © Judith Brock Photography

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of For Women Only and other books with sales of more than two million copies in 22 languages. With a master’s degree from Harvard, Shaunti uses her analytical skills to uncover life-changing surprises about our most important relationships. Her research has been featured on The Today Show, Focus on the Family radio, in Cosmopolitan magazine, and in the New York Times. She and her husband, Jeff, have two children and live in Atlanta.

About Lisa A. Rice

Lisa A. Rice - For Parents Only

Photo © http://old.faithfulreader.com/authors/au-rice-lisa.asp

Lisa A. Rice is the associate editor of Christian Living magazine, the mother/foster mom of three teenager girls, and one teenage boy, and an experienced screenwriter and producer. She’s also the coauthor, with Shaunti, of For Young Women Only and For Parents Only.
Praise

Praise

"Shaunti and Lisa have done an outstanding job talking about the issues, confusion, and dreams our kids face as they grow–and thus the issues we face as parents. Someone once said to me, ‘God gives us the most important job in the world called parenting, and gives that job to inexperienced people.’ That is so true. But as you understand the inner life of your child, you will be much better equipped to meet the challenges and joys of being a good parent. I encourage you to pick up this book and start the journey of understanding today.”
-Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family

“Shaunti and Lisa have boldly gone where no one has gone before: straight into the brain of a teenager! The insights they have found give us a unique peek into the hopes, fears, desires, and challenges facing the next generation. Savvy parents will read and respond to what they learn in this book, and their family will be better as a result.”
-Dennis Rainey, president, FamilyLife

“I will be buying this book by the case. As a youth minister, I’m always trying to communicate to parents exactly what Shaunti and Lisa so eloquently and poignantly communicate in For Parents Only. Every parent of teens should read this brilliant book!”
-Dannah Gresh, author of And the Bride Wore White

“Sandra and I love this book! With two teenage boys and a daughter who just started middle school, we soaked up Shaunti and Lisa’s insights and discoveries like sponges. This is not just another book on parenting. It is a fascinating look at the way your child’s mind works. We plan to use For Parents Only as a curriculum in our home group.”
-Andy Stanley, pastor, North Point Community Church

“Shaunti and Lisa dive into the deepest core of kids’ hearts to bring parents amazingly insightful truths and advice. They hit the bull’s-eye when it comes to advice on raising children in the twenty-first century!”
-Dr. Joe White, president of Kanakuk Kamps

“At times I felt like I was sitting at a school lunch table, listening in on how kids really feel about their parents and what they would like to tell them. Shaunti and Lisa do an exceptional job of researching the topic and then making very practical suggestions. This gets my Five-Star rating on the HomeWord.com web site.”
-Jim Burns, Ph.D., President, HomeWord, and author of Confident Parenting

“I am so grateful for the hours of compassionate listening, ton of credible research, and weight of brutal honesty represented within the pages of this book. As a mother of three teenagers, I am the first to admit that I need help! Thank you, Shaunti and Lisa, for coming alongside on this wild, woolly, and wonderful adventure.” 
_Lisa Whelchel, best-selling author of Creative Correction, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer, and Taking Care of the “Me” in Mommy

For Parents Only beautifully breaks down the communication code between parents and children. Shaunti and Lisa consistently support their findings with extensive research and rock-solid solutions. This book delivers and we highly recommend it!”
-Dr Gary and Barb Rosberg, America’s Family Coaches, authors of The 5 Sex Needs of Men & Women and co-hosts of Dr. Gary and Barb Rosberg–Your Marriage Coaches

“Shaunti Feldhahn’ s latest series of books have helped her readers unlock some of the mysteries of family relationships. Now she and Lisa Rice have given us keys to understanding our teenagers by hearing directly from them about why they do what they do. We only wish that this book had been written when our kids were younger!”
-Bob and Cheryl Reccord, speakers and co-authors of Launching Your Kids for Life

“Do you remember how Maria responded when Captain Von Trapp proposed marriage? That’s right, she said, ‘Let’ s ask the children.’ Instead of speculating and postulating and pontificating, Shaunti and Lisa have done a brilliant thing. They’ve asked the children. And the children–teenagers–have told them the truth. I commend this important book to you.”
-Dr. Robert Wolgemuth, best-selling author of She Calls Me Daddy and Dad’s Bible


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