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Teen behavior explained: 13 is the new 18

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






How to parent teens

If you're suddenly confronting someone who looks vaguely familiar but acts like a complete stranger, you may have become the parent of a teenager. And you need to read "13 Is the New 18," by Beth J. Harpaz. Run, do not walk, to your local bookstore or library. Trust us.

13 is the New 18The signs are unmistakable. The child who used to cling to your leg now pretends you don't exist in public and is openly derisive at home. Your every request is met with sneers and snorts, and a distinct odor emanates from the laundry baskets -- or more accurately, the piles around the baskets.

You definitely have a teenager in the house. Perhaps you thought that the teen years wouldn't really start in earnest until 14 or 15. Silly you. Did you miss the tween years, when your child experimented with teen behaviors? Did you notice the t-shirts with funny/inappropriate slogans? The excessive Internet use? The attitude?

Maybe it was cute at first. But, as you learned when you laughed when your toddler first threw his food on the floor, what you indulge once you will live with for years. You have a teenager. And you're stuck with him or her for the next few years. At least.



Don't panic.

You might be thinking that this is the perfect time to panic. But it's actually just time to get yourself a copy of 13 Is the New 18 - And other things my children taught me while I was busy having a nervous breakdown being their mother, by Beth J. Harpaz (Crown Publishers 2009).

Harpaz chronicles the journey she and her husband took with their two sons as the first entered his teen years. Behaviors she had not expected to see for many years -- if ever. And if you're experiencing these same behaviors, you will laugh out loud in recognition.

If you're children haven't entered this delightful stage yet, at least you'll realize that it's possible to come through the experience alive, if not unscathed. And with an intact sense of humor, if also with a few bruises to your self-esteem.

This book is an honest, open look at what it's really like to watch your child change and to confront some of the scariest things the world has to offer: drugs, alcohol, smelly socks, and expensive hair products. It's funny. It's bittersweet. It's real. And you should read it.

You should read it because Harpaz admits that she's an imperfect mom. And she lets you know, gently, with love, that it's okay for you to be one, too. And she shows you through this brief glimpse into her own life that imperfect moms can do amazing work.

Also, it's funny. Really funny.

This is a woman who types "I found contraband hidden in my child's room." into Google to figure out what to do next. And when she realized that she already knew the answer to the question behind the statement (What should I do now?), she removed the offending items and left a note in their place. "We need to talk. Love, Mom and Dad." This is real, and even as it makes you laugh, you recognize the gravity of the moment.

There are a lot of books full of parenting advice. This isn't one of them. But it's still an important book for parents to read.

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