Emotional Health

Although Kesler’s book, Emotionally Healthy Teenagers, is expected to calm the nerves of those parents who are truly agitated about their teenagers’ rebellious behavior – the author’s arguments for his ten principles undermine the fact that parents must be firm with their teenagers, the reason being that the teen brain goes through changes that parents cannot interfere with.

The purpose of Barbara Strauch’s book, The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids (2003) is to describe new scientific findings regarding the teen brain in order to help bewildered parents, teachers and other members of society to understand the irrational behavior of teenagers. The book offers many examples of strained relations between parents and their teenagers, including the experience of a mother whose thirteen year old son refused to follow rules at the school dance. The boy seemed to refuse to understand the consequences of his behavior.

But, Strauch explains that the boy was truly not at fault, given that the prefrontal cortex of the teen brain is under development. It is the prefrontal cortex that allows individuals to know the consequences of their actions and helps them to plan ahead. This is the reason why the parents of the thirteen year old should have understood that their kid simply could not help doing what he did. Kesler mentions the importance of teaching teenagers to learn about consequences, but he does not explain changes in the brain as Strauch’s book, The Primal Teen.

What if parents make every effort to explain cause and effect to their teenagers but the latter find it impossible to understand simply because their brains would not allow them such understanding? In fact, the biggest weakness of Kesler’s book is the fact that it attempts to boil down parenting skills to love and compassion without asking of parents to take a firm stance in case their teenagers rebel against learning imparted in their homes. After all, the teen brain may not have the capacity to understand everything that a parent may want to teach his or her teenage kid.

It is for this reason that disciplinary action is considered necessary. Kesler denies the necessity of punishing teenagers. All the same, parents that are helped through his book may decide that it is better to read Strauch’s book, too, in order to gain a healthier perspective on parenting. Still, Kesler’s book is useful for counselors as well not only because it describes various facets of a parent’s relationship with his or her teenage child but also offers guidance that counselors may impart to their clients who happen to be parents experiencing problems in their relationships with their teenage kids.

A parent may approach a counselor because he or she cannot seem to handle a teenager at home. The counselor, having been guided by Kesler, would have to find out whether the parent has a strained relationship with his or her spouse. Similarly, it would be necessary to learn from the parent whether he or she has been offering negative criticism to the teenager. The methods of imparting knowledge about cause and effect would also have to be described by the parent before the counselor may offer advice from Kesler’s book.

Then again, Kesler’s book, Emotionally Healthy Teenagers, does not make a case for changes in the teen brain. It may very well be that the parent is using the proven principles of love and compassion in the home, and teaching the teenager about consequences, but the latter refuses to understand what he or she is taught by the parent. It is for this reason that the counselor should have sufficient knowledge about brain chemistry to offer necessary advice to parents. Kesler mentions the Christ.

But, the Christ did not only teach love and compassion; he also asked his disciples to carry the sword. Hence, if a counselor has read both Emotionally Healthy Teenagers and The Primal Teen, he or she would be in a better position to guide parents to balance love and compassion with firmness in their relationships with their teenage kids. Parents that give up on firmness upon perusing Kesler’s book may discover that their teenage kids cannot understand everything they must, at the same time as they are struggling for their independence.

Of course, independence without sufficient knowledge and understanding could be very dangerous for teenagers. It is for this reason that Kesler’s book is helpful albeit incomplete for a professional counselor.


“Emotional Health. ” Focus Adolescent Services (2008). Available from http://www. focusas. com/EmotionalHealth. html. Internet; accessed 26 November 2008. Kesler, Jay. Emotionally Healthy Teenagers. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998. Strauch, Barbara. The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us

About Our Kids. New York: Doubleday, 2003. “Understanding Your Teenager’s Emotional Health. ” American Academy of Family Physicians (2008). Available from http://familydoctor. org/online/famdocen/home/children/parents/parents-teens/590. html. Internet; accessed 26 November 2008 “Ways to Stay Emotionally Healthy. ” MCG Health System (2007). Available from http://www. mcghealth. org/iHealth_Women/teens/staying_healthy/emotional_health/stay_healthy/index. htm. Internet; accessed 26 November 2008.

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