Gregory L. Jantz,
The Stranger in Your House
(David C. Cook, 2011)

When my review copy of Gregory L. Jantz's The Stranger in Your House arrived, I was initially surprised and somewhat disappointed that a skimming of the book showed that this book has a significant religious component. I am not anti-religious, but I was expecting a more scientific book. I forged ahead.

What I found was a good deal of common sense advice and a refreshing lack of a tone found in many books like this, in which the author claims or implies that the book contains the one, true successful method of dealing with the topic at hand. A while back, I read an excellent book by Barbara Strauch, The Primal Teen, that explained how recent neurological findings helped to explain many aspects of adolescent behavior. I was pleased to see quite a bit of this information cited and discussed in this book.

The first two chapters -- "Who are You and What Have You Done with My Child?" and "What's Going on with Your Teen?" -- deal with the overall changes often seen in adolescence. Chapters three and four -- "Emotional Roller Coasters aren't Very Fun" and "Shaky Connections" -- address the typical changes in parent-child relationships. "This is Your Body on Adolescence" talks about biological changes involved with that time of life. The next three chapters talk about detecting and seeking help for problems that go beyond the common ups and downs of the teenage years. "Crisis of Belief" focuses on common changes seen in adolescence related to religious involvement. The last chapter brings together many of the ideas already discussed and summarizes the changes needed in parenting.

What I liked about this book is the direct, polite, even-handed wording of everything. There was a strong emphasis on what the parent should expect and the changes the parent should anticipate having to make. As parents are the reading audience, this was the right approach. Many books on parenting teenagers cover the what-to-expect aspect and then focus on how to change the teen.

Another good point found here comes out when Jantz talks about seeking and utilizing professional help. He includes clear ideas about the costs involved, in money, time and effort. Again, the point comes out that getting professional help for a teenager will involve the parent needing to make changes in order to make progress.

One more strength is how the author incorporates Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development and Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development into everyday common sense approaches. The language is simplified so that it does not come off as academic or distant.

I guess my only dislike associated with the book is what I mentioned in the beginning. I was not thrilled being surprised by the religious component involved in the book. Again, it is the unexpectedness of that component that I did not appreciate. For those of you who do not want the religious component, there is very little of it in the first eight chapters. The final chapter has religion blended into it, but has value for those who want a secular focus. Only the ninth chapter is very religiously oriented.

book review by
Chris McCallister

7 April 2012

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