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Book teaches teens how to raise parents

The teen-parent relationship has always been a tenuous one. If only you’d had some solid advice on how to relate to and level with your parents on everything from dating dilemmas to nose piercing. Well, today’s teenagers do! An excerpt from "How to Raise Your Parents" by Sarah O'Leary Burningham.
/ Source: TODAY

Five Reason It Rocks to Be a Teenager
1. You’re not a kid anymore

2. You don’t have to pay taxes

3. Summer vacation

4. Prom night and that super-hot dress you’re going to wear

5. When you’re in a bad mood, you can blame it on “being a teenager”

Five Reasons It Sucks to Be a Teenager1. You’re not an adult

2. Your earlier-than-everybody-else’s curfew

3. There are 365 days in a year and almost half of them are school days

4. Homework

5. These four little words: “Because I said so”

When you were born, your parents read stacks of books, watched videos, and got tons of advice on raising children.

But you got squat about how to handle them. That was fine when all you really needed was a few good meals and a regular diaper change, but now things are different (even though you could still use a good meal). Just like they relied on What to Expect When You’re Expecting, you need some advice on how to survive the fights, earn their trust, and get them to treat you like an adult.

Let’s face it: Parents should come with an instruction booklet. What if the cable guy just dropped your dish off on the doorstep without giving you any directions or help? You wouldn’t have a clue how to hook it up, much less actually get it working. It’s the same with your parents. Without instructions, how are you supposed to know what makes them tick and which buttons will totally set them off? What tools do you need to fix them when they break down or when things between you get rusty? And once you get things running smoothly, what do you need to do to keep them that way? Consider this book a crash course in raising your parents. It’s the all-inclusive guide the “cable guy” forgot to drop off, with countless tips for decoding your parents, developing a good relationship with them (yes, it’s possible), and keeping things running smoothly.

When I was a teenager, my need to be an individual kept me at constant odds with my parents. We fought about curfews, boyfriends, whether my shorts were too short, my shirts too low, my grades too average, and everything in between. They were always hounding me about how much gas I’d left in the family car or telling me I needed to stop being so moody. (Moody was their favorite word for about three years — hearing it still makes me nauseous.) A parental instruction book would’ve seriously made my life easier or at least saved me from some of those late night “We Know Best” discussions.

I’m not trying to bash my parents; I was far from the perfect teenager. There was the time I fell asleep watching stupid British comedy reruns at a guy-friend’s house and got home 3 1/2 hours late for my curfew. I knew I was in deep when I pulled up to the house and the light in my parents’ bedroom was still on. I didn’t even stop to take off my shoes when I walked through the front door. I went straight to their room, heart pounding, and started to make excuses. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I was grounded for so long, and I didn’t see my guy friend — or anyone else for that matter — for weeks. (And I know my parents still think I was up to no good, even though I was sound asleep on the couch. I swear.)

Then there was the time that news of my “small” birthday party spread around the entire tenth grade and almost 500 people showed up at my house to celebrate. I was worried that there wasn’t enough cake, but my parents were freaking about people parking on the grass and making a mess of the basement. I guess I can relate a little, but come on, grass grows back and my friends and I picked everything up. Why couldn’t they just relax and enjoy the party?

Why are parents so protective? Sure, they love you, but can’t they stop worrying for at least one Friday night? Are they really that scared of you growing up? In a word, yes. For your parents, the thought of you driving, when just a few years ago you could hardly ride a bike, is totally overwhelming. They just barely taught you to look both ways when crossing the street. How can you already be dating and making college plans? Before you start raising your parents, remember that they are as new to this as you are. They mean well, but they’re totally clueless (and not in the Alicia Silverstone way). Even if they’ve had teenagers before, they’ve never had to deal with you as a teenager, and they desperately need help adjusting to the fact that you’re suddenly capable of handling some things on your own. It’s a new ball game, so don’t be hard on them. Well, not too hard, you’ll want to give them a little run for their money.

Happy reading!

Excerpted from "How to Raise Your Parents" by Sarah O'Leary Burningham. Copyright 2008 Sarah O'Leary Burningham. Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.