Dial Down the Drama by Colleen O’Grady

Book Review
Anyone who now has a teenage daughter or one who’s coming close to that age (which seems to start earlier every year… now at 11 or so?!) will resonate with the tagline of O’Grady’s book: “Reducing conflict and reconnecting with your teenage daughter.”

Yet, in the midst of the “sassy attitude” and defiance and sulking, just reducing the conflict may seem like a monumental task; never mind reconnecting and finding compassion for what she’s going through in the highly charged environment of the teen years.

O’Grady not only has worked as a marriage and family therapist, but wrote this book while her daughter was a sophomore in high school! So she speaks not only from theory and the Power Your Parenting program she created but also from daily experience.

This is a book to keep at hand as you navigate your children’s teen years. It is organized in a powerful way to help you on the journey: starting with the idea that you are not a bad mom because of the struggle with your daughter (this can easily apply to sons as well!); she reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect and we DO need to find time to take care of ourselves. Everything doesn’t have to be about your family at all times while you put yourself last. In the very first chapter she recounts all the ways that paying little or no attention to YOU can have drastic, negative consequences to your physical and mental/emotional well-being.

Next O’Grady addresses the fear that is at the core of the discord with our daughters: the fears parents have about what “might happen” if we aren’t vigilant in protecting them. And, fears girls have about not being good enough, looking good enough, etc. There is a deep conflict between our need to protect and their need to seem all grown up and autonomous. She addresses this as the “myth of the perfect daughter” and the “pressured daughter.” It’s a good reminder that our children, at this vulnerable age, are facing stresses we may not fully remeber from our own teen years, nor understand in the social media environment of today.

She devotes a chapter to the very important issue of brain development, delineating why teens are “hard wired” for drama. “The massive reconstruction project in the teenage brain is unlike anything that occurs at any other time in life. During adolescence there is an increase in the neural circuits utilizing dopamine that creates a drive for rewards.” One result of this drive is a strong focus on the upside of decisions she makes and very little on the possible downside… thus creating situations where she makes choices that seem (to adults) irrational and even dangerous.

In one chapter, O’Grady addresses the need to, and ways to, discipline daughters. Definitely a difficult task, but she offers a number of options for “learning conversations” and stresses the absolute requirement for clear and consistent consequences.

Finally the last few chapters focus on the positive, loving possibilities: helping our daughters grow and thrive while we reconnect and recapture our own dreams and lives.

You can connect with Colleen O’Grady at colleenogrady.com and on Facebook at /poweryourparenting

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker