Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D. (4 stars)

About Age of Opportunity

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 9, 2014)

Adolescence now lasts longer than ever before. And as world-renowned expert on adolescent psychology Dr. Laurence Steinberg argues, this makes these years the key period in determining individuals’ life outcomes, demanding that we change the way we parent, educate, and understand young people.

In Age of Opportunity, Steinberg leads readers through a host of new findings — including groundbreaking original research — that reveal what the new timetable of adolescence means for parenting 13-year-olds (who may look more mature than they really are) versus 20-somethings (who may not be floundering even when it looks like they are). He also explains how the plasticity of the adolescent brain, rivaling that of years 0 through 3, suggests new strategies for instilling self-control during the teenage years. Packed with useful knowledge, Age of Opportunity is a sweeping book in the tradition of Reviving Ophelia, and an essential guide for parents and educators of teenagers.

Praise for Age of Opportunity

“As a mother of two boys and an educator, I am so grateful Laurence Steinberg has written this amazing book. He not only clearly and elegantly communicates the newest insights into understanding teenagers’ brains but also shows how adults can manage ourselves when we get frustrated with teens’ behavior.” — Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes and Masterminds and Wingmen

“Steinberg explains how ‘abnormal’ adolescent behavior is actually ‘normal.’ This book belongs on the shelf of every parent, teacher, youth worker, counselor, judge — heck, anyone interested in pre-teens and teenagers.” — David Walsh, Ph.D., author of Why Do They Act That Way?

“If you need to understand adolescents — whether your own or anyone else’s — you must read this book. Steinberg explains why most of our presumptions about adolescence are dead wrong and reveals the truth about this exciting and unnerving stage of life. Written with warmth, lucidity, and passion, Age of Opportunity will fill parents with relief by demystifying their children. Educators and policy-makers should study it carefully.” — Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun

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As the mom of three girls ages 14, 12, and 9, I am just beginning to see the ebbs and flows of the adolescent years. I am also the oldest of three girls, so I remember those years as well. Just in one generation, I am shocked by the new averages being thrown at me about when girls entered puberty. One pediatrician told me the average was getting closer to 9 than 10. 

Age of Opportunity supports the idea that the adolescent phase of life is getting longer. The author states, "The brain is radically transformed by stress hormones like testosterone and estrogen." This is certainly not new information, but when coupled with data supporting an elongated adolescence, it's significant.  I also found it interesting that while parents try to delay adolescence, society seems bent on a delayed adulthood.

Further studies show, and are illustrated in this book, that our brain is heightened during these years and captures the corresponding memories with vivid detail. In addition to all the brain studies, the book provides worrisome data comparing our teens to those in other industrialized countries.

At this point, I was convinced and craving solutions. After all, my kids are there and depending on me. I loved his basic principles: Be Warm, Be Firm, Be Supportive. It's the gray area that gets confusing. When is warm too warm (we create kids who go on American Idol and can't handle any critique and think they can sing even when faced with the reality that they can't) and firm too firm (although he does address that the punishment shouldn't be extreme and to be consistent and fair)? 

As a parent, we know what we should do in a perfect, calm environment. Unfortunately, too often the chaos and expectations of our time take center stage: pressure to perform in sports and academics, an overload of technology, and constantly changing education focuses (hello, Common Core). 

Overall, two-thirds of the book convinced me about a problem I suspected, while only one-third focused on possible solutions. I would have rather seen that flip-flopped.

If you are looking for a kick in the pants to search out parenting solutions to benefit your children, this is a great starting point. It's a book I'd love to see followed up by a manual with more specific solutions and examples for parents craving to make that difference.

Rating: 4 stars

About the Author

LAURENCE STEINBERG, a professor of psychology at Temple University, is the author of the leading textbook on adolescence, as well as over 350 scholarly articles and a dozen books. He has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Psychology Today and is a regular guest on NPR.

Thanks to TLC for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Please visit other stops on the Age of Opportunity blog tour page.


Anonymous said...

I clearly remember my teenage years and boy was I a handful! My son turns 13 in a few months and I'm sure that I'll be dealing with a whole new set of challenges very soon.

Thanks for being a part of the tour.