‘Why we butt heads with our parents…’

Five children review Why Your Parents Are Driving You Up the Wall and What To Do About It (Penguin) by Dean Burnett.

We reached out on Twitter to invite parents to share this book with their teenagers. Joanna Brooks (University of Manchester) shared it with her three children, Ellie (17), Milly (14), and Mal (8), who picked it up herself as the title appealed, even though it’s not intended for her age.

Ellie: ‘I think understanding more about where your parents are coming from is useful, and thinking about that helps to not get so frustrated as quickly. The points about explaining reasonably being more effective than arguing and not having these discussions with high emotions are practically helpful. It’s good advice and it makes sense. I’d have appreciated this book a few years ago, but it did feel aimed at people just a bit younger than me.’

Milly: ‘I really liked the layout. Usually I have a really low attention span for books but the way this one had different fonts and images was really good, it kept me interested and it felt personal. What will change for me as a result of having read it – I think I’ll worry a bit less about some things. I really liked the explanation of the brain losing the connections it doesn’t need and being like a phone that needs upgrading round about age 11, and why that means you forget childhood memories and find stuff that used to be interesting boring now. I’ve felt bad about not remembering things and guilty about not being into stuff anymore (like when people have tried really hard to get me a present that I’d have loved a few years ago but it’s not really what I like now) so understanding that and having it explained in a way that made sense was really good. Understanding more about the reasons why we butt heads with our parents over things like wet towels, and why my emotion levels can be so extreme, does help. It means I don’t have to worry about feeling so emotional lots of the time – it’s just because my brain hasn’t worked me out yet and by 23 I’ll clearly have this sorted ;)’

Joanna’s conversation with Mal:

Mal: ‘Can I tell you what I think?’

Joanna: ‘Have you got something you want to say?’

Mal: ‘I am 99.9 per cent sure the person who wrote this is a parent. Are they?’

Joanna: ‘I think so.’

Mal: ‘I knew it. Then he shouldn’t be writing books like this. You forget everything about being a kid when you’re a parent, all your feeling goes off and you’re all just guessing.’

Joanna: ‘Have you read it?’

Mal: ‘I read the introduction. There should be less of why and more of what to do. Like: “Hi, I’m Dean, and if your parents are annoying this is what to do about it. Number 1 do this, number 2 do this…” Like that, short and snappy.’

Marilyn Sher, Consultant Clinical & Forensic Psychologist, Woodlands Consulting and Therapy, shared it with her son Shai Muniah (11). ‘The book was okay, some funny bits. Best thing I now say to my mum "I’m not stroppy – my brains just getting more sophisticated – so be patient" (grin). I also try to be more patient with my mum and dad now – as long as I am not too tired from school. I know they love me, they are just adjusting to me being older and doing my own stuff. We also make more deals now so we both get a bit of what we want. For example, I explained to my parents that my brain doesn’t let me go to sleep early. The book helped me explain why to them. Now I can stay up later if I can’t sleep. I just read my book and promise not to go on my iPad.’

Judith Marshall (University of Wales Trinity Saint David) shared it with her son Daniel Bendle (16). ‘I think that most kids would be given this book by an adult. When my mother gave me it, my initial thought was that kids might think their parents had a motive for making them read it; that it was to justify all the nagging and rules. At first, I thought it was to test or persuade me, which although I had agreed to read it, put me off for a while. Now I’m glad I read it!

‘The words are good for young people – not too adult, but not patronising either. The book could be read by anyone and there’s something to learn (even adults/parents). The bonus facts at the bottom of some of the pages were beneficial. I did feel I was learning, but not in a stuffy way. I really liked the in-depth information about the human body. The fact that it has a strong scientific element made me feel it was not biased towards my parents and that it was helping to explain why adults and teenagers can clash over things and parents aren’t always right.

‘There is a lot of information to explain how we think the way we do because we are young. It helps for kids to see that it is not because we are bad people, but that we can’t always fight the emotions we feel. For example, things that give our brains pleasure.

‘Overall, I felt that the use of humour and a lot of different types of text helped to stop the book seem like a school book or a ‘preachy’ book. I particularly liked the chapters on mental health, smartphones and digital natives. I think these are things that affect even very young people nowadays. Personally, I did recognise a number of things that I do myself that can annoy my parents.’

- Dean also had a new Audible audiobook out on World Mental Health Day – Psycho-Logical. We fired him some of his own ‘Why?’ questions that he considers in the book, along with some of our own. Read the interview now.

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