We have a tendency today to over-parent, micro-manage, and under-appreciate our adolescents. Dr. John Duffy's The Available Parent is a revolutionary approach to taking care of teens and tweens. Teenagers are often left feeling unheard and misunderstood, and parents are left feeling bewildered by the changes in their child at adolescence and their sudden lack of effectiveness as parents. The parent has become unavailable, the teen responds in kind, and a negative, often destructive cycle of communication begins. The available parent of a teenager is open to discussion, offering advice and solutions, but not insisting on them. He allows his child to make some mistakes, setting limits, primarily where health and safety are concerned. He never lectures — he is available but not controlling. He is neither cruel nor dismissive, ever. The available parent is fun and funny, and can bring levity to the most stressful situation. All of that is to say, there are no conditions to his availability — it is absolute.
Duffy's advice for parenting adolescents springs from radical optimism, a form of practical spirituality that recommends being open and available to the possibility of change, essentially exchanging fear and the need to control for hope and positive results. Duffy challenges parents to stop micromanaging and judging their kids and instead acknowledge and accept them the way they are, respect their boundaries and abilities, and let them know they have the power to master their own world. Only then can parents be truly available to provide discipline, direction, understanding, and love in an environment that fosters competence and resilience. Rather than focusing on the child's behavior, parents must look to their own, check their egos, and "be the change" that familiar self-help axiom. Part Two is especially straightforward because it explicitly lists what never works and why parents ought to stop lecturing, snooping, underestimating, judging, smothering, coddling, overindulging, bribing, playing good cop/bad cop, and waiting. This short book has plenty of sidebars, tips, dialogue, and anecdotes about difficult situations and how unconditional love and an "I'm here for you" message may help some adults help their teens, and, at the same time, ease their anxiety about being good parents. Although there really is nothing new, this book will show some overwhelmed parents how to calm down, let go somewhat, and maybe even enjoy being with their teens and tweens.