The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.

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For Parents Only...

Shanti Feldhahn & Lisa Rice

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For Parents Only (book excerpt)

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 super cool 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 and 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 hotheaded 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 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.

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 reams, 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 co-author (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.

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!

The Six Findings

So what are these surprising findings about the inner lives of our children? The chart below shows six areas in which parents often misunderstand what's happening with their kids when they hit the 'tween and teen years, and the surprising truths our research uncovered.

To find out what the six findings are, you can purchase the book here:

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