Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Whisper, Not a Scream

I've been meaning to read The Teen Whisperer since I got it to review for The Parent Bloggers Network. I loved the name and thought I might as well get a good book shelf resource for my future with a teen. Admittedly when I agree to review these kinds of books, I use it as way to hold myself accountable to actually read the book instead of putting it off until I feel like I need the book. I mean my daughter is only 9 which doesn't even mean she's officially a tween, let alone a teen but hey, I'm thinkin' you can't start too soon. Especially when she and I have had noticeable communication breakdowns that feel like the little flames that could quickly rage into infernos in the teen years. And that scares me senseless. If we're locking shoehorns at Payless already (not just once but every single time we try to buy her shoes) I can't imagine what might fuel the fire at 14, 15 or 16.

As I picked up Mike Linderman's book I noticed first thing that the forward was written by the lovely and talented Claire and Mia Fontaine of the highly acclaimed and best selling Come Back. Talk about your credibility. I immediately thought, "Hmm, maybe this guy really is The Teen Whisperer." But as I began to read I still wasn't sure the book would be right for me or for my daughter. I was anticipating the book to take a trip down the path of the teens that had already been long gone and the families that were going through hell but as I really got into it, I was surprised at how much of what Linderman shares does in fact pertain to me and to my daughter. Right now. Coming from a gal who rarely is riveted by a book, I. Cannot. Put. This. Book. Down.

What I love about The Teen Whisperer is how straight forward the content is presented. Simply put, teen needs (which are nothing more that Universal human needs) are broken down into the basics and everything relates back to these needs and whether they are being met or not. It all seems to make sense to me. And here I thought that life with a teen wouldn't make any sense at all. Now, I would imagine if I were coming to this book because I was in full teen crisis mode, I might not use the word simple because I know (and the author repeats again and again) it's not simple to navigate life with a teen but I marvel at Linderman's ability to strip down this complex relationship stuff and clear the muddied waters. I quite honestly feel like a light has been shed on the road ahead for my family (I can't wait to share this book with my husband) and I know without a doubt that this will be a parenting reference book that I will keep close at hand for a long time. I am thrilled that I have had the chance to read this now, before crisis mode and I most definitely encourage everyone with children to get this book before they think they need it to help pave the way for a healthy parent/teen journey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

by: Maia Szalavitz
Teen Whisperer or Teen Tormentor: As Congress Takes On Troubled Teen Programs, Times Inadvertently Plugs One
Posted October 23, 2007 03:35 PM (EST)

While I've gotta give The New York Times kudos for its strong editorial "When Tough Love is Too Tough," calling for greater oversight of the "troubled teen" residential industry, I must simultaneously take them to task for running a glowing review of a book by a counselor who worked for 10 years for one of the most notorious organizations in that business.

Mike Linderman, author of The Teen Whisperer served as "clinical director" of Spring Creek Lodge, a Montana program linked with the infamous World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP, also called WWASPS).

Calling Linderman "brusquely compassionate," the Times Styles section approvingly cited him for that work. But it failed to even mention the history of serious abuse allegations and lawsuits involving Spring Creek Lodge -- many of which include the decade in which Linderman worked there.

Take this 2003 Times story, headlined "Program to Help Troubled Youths Has Troubles of Its Own." In it, investigative reporter Tim Weiner notes that "some children and parents call [Spring Creek Lodge] physically and psychologically brutal." He goes on to detail stories of teens locked in solitary confinement for months [photo of the claustrophic isolation room known as "the Hobbit" at Spring Creek is here], fed only beans and bananas. Linderman worked at Spring Creek at the time and apparently was employed by the program until some time in 2006.

Weiner quotes the mother of one teen, Michele Ziperovich, saying "He came out 35 pounds lighter, acting like a zombie. When he came back, he was worse, far worse." Weiner also reports that former employees have corroborated the teens' stories and that one was arrested for sexually assaulting teens in the isolation room.

In 2005, a Spring Creek staffer shot a man seven times and then killed himself. And in 2006, Spring Creek was sued after a teenage girl committed suicide there-- the suit says that the facility "was not designed or operated to provide quality or even adequate care" and that its employees "planned and operated Spring Creek Lodge Academy in such a manner that physical, educational, mental or emotional harm was consistently and foreseeably caused to the children at Spring Creek."

The Times mentions nothing of this controversy -- essentially allowing the author to claim that The New York Times endorses his book and by association, Spring Creek Lodge.

Nor does the review inform readers that when Linderman worked at Spring Creek, it was affiliated with WWASP, which has had no fewer than eight programs shuttered following abuse allegations. In Mexico, police filmed kids chained in outdoor dog cages at one program -- a program to which kids at Spring Creek were often sent if they didn't behave.

Spring Creek Lodge is currently the subject of a large class action suit -- with over 100 plaintiffs claiming serious human rights violations occurred there and at other WWASP programs.

I think parents considering taking advice from the "Teen Whisperer" might want to know that he has been accused as well of being a "Teen Tormentor" and party to institutionalized child abuse.

And we wonder why people distrust the media...