ON GROWING UP
Taking a tour inside your
kid’s head and heart
If your experience is anything like ours, we imagine you’ve found parenting
to be a dizzying combination of joy, frustration, amazement,
confusion, delight, and anxiety....sometimes all within a single hour. It’s
both exciting and sobering to watch as those little fat babies who coo and
smile delightedly at us transform into long-legged teenagers who shake
their heads over our complete lack of coolness.
It feels like one day we’re pushing them on the swings and the next
we’re pushing them into college. And that seeming nanosecond of time
between the two is, obviously, the most formative period of our children’s
lives. As we help our kids navigate these foundational years, most of us
realize we need a little guidance ourselves.
As we embarked on several research projects to help people understand
those closest to them, the two of us realized that unraveling the mystery
of what’s going on inside our sons and daughters was one of the most
important things we could ever do. So after a year of intensive research,
focus groups, and surveys of kids and teens across the country, we revealed
our findings in the book For Parents Only.
Understanding Our Kids
There’s an ancient Hebrew proverb that 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.” It is for this reason we’re relaying to you
what our children are privately thinking and feeling, even though we certainly
do not endorse all of it. But we believe listening to these heart cries
is a critical step in building the relationship that will allow your kids to listen
to you and your guidance for years to come.
The chart below offers a summary of the six key insights we uncovered
about the inner lives of kids....the things they say too many parents
“just don’t get.” The left column outlines what we often assume about our
kids based on their behavior when they hit the ’tween and teen years,
while the right column reveals the surprises about what’s really going
inside their minds and hearts.
As we travel and speak to various groups about these and other findings,
we frequently hear, “How can I apply these findings to my life, with
This discussion guide will help you do just that. It’s designed to be
used in two different ways: (1) as a catalyst for group discussion and life
application with other parents, and (2) as a helpful road map for initiating
some eye-opening conversations with your child.
Each chapter in this guide corresponds to a chapter subject in the
- Chapter 2: Freedom
- Chapter 3: Identity
- Chapter 4: Taking Charge
- Chapter 5: Security
- Chapter 6: Listening
- Chapter 7: Attitudes
- Chapter 8: How Your Kid Really Feels About You
For consistency and ease of use, each chapter follows the same format,
opening with tools for group discussion and personal reflection, then
highlighting practical ways to test and apply your insights in your daily
interaction with your child.
Each chapter has basically the same layout. Among other features
- a Recap of key insights from the book
- Key Questions for discussion and/or personal reflection
- Life Story case studies with follow-up questions for practice in
getting inside your kid’s head (in other words, learning the skill
of reading their minds).
- a Kid Perspective and a Parent Response....a new quote that
reflects what a real-life teen is thinking about the topic at hand,
and an opportunity for you to respond to that input
- Weekly Challenges....action items to help you practice your new
insights during the week
- Bringing It Home....stand-alone sections to help you connect
with your child on each topic and hear what he or she has
Because every discussion group has its own character and goals, and
each individual parent has different primary concerns, this guide is
designed to be flexible. You can use it over any number of weeks, mixing
and matching the different elements in whatever way best suits your needs.
For example, your group may opt to cover only a single subject over
one or two sessions, trying to hit as many of the different features as time
allows. Alternatively, you may want to combine chapters and only tackle
the Key Questions in each. Your group may even want to skip most of the
Key Questions and focus your time on the case studies and Weekly Challenges.
We encourage you to pick and choose the combination that works
best for you.
Though our findings primarily focus on the teen and preteen years,
you can also adapt the questions for younger kids, to lay a solid foundation
of understanding before adolescence arrives. (For example, you might
rephrase a question such as “How can you address this problem this week?”
to ask “What can you do that might prevent this problem down the road?”)
As parents ourselves, we know that it’s not always easy to really hear
what the kids are saying. But as we interacted with all these amazing young
people during our research, we gathered some terrific nuggets of wisdom
about how to apply their insights to our parenting. We hope that you, too,
will find fresh insight from this eye-opening journey inside your kid’s head
Best to you in your journey,
Shaunti & Lisa
P.S. If your group has an introductory week, here’s your first Weekly Challenge
Weekly Challenge: This week, look at the chart
on p. XX and identify which revelation you
already have best incorporated into your parenting
approach....and which is the most likely to
require changes in your life.