Teacher Man: Douglas Haddad on ‘The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens’ (Q&A)

Today, I’m honored to share virtual space with local Renaissance man Douglas Haddad.

Douglas is the author of the recently released parental handbook, The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers). He previously wrote Save Your Kids … Now! and co-authored Top Ten Tips for Tip Top Shape with Matthew DeLeo. Also an award-winning middle school teacher and parenting / education expert, Douglas was named the 2016-2017 “Teacher of the Year” in his Connecticut school district and is serving as a Teacher Ambassador in Public Education in the State of Connecticut. He is a regular guest expert on television, blogger, contributing writer, and has been featured in many national print and online outlets. He has worked as a coach, mentor, personal trainer, nutrition counselor, and tai chi ch’uan and reiki master; he is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Performance Enhancement Specialist for elite athletes. Douglas’s other accomplishments have included singing onstage, playing piano, writing music, performing voice-overs for various companies and products, and acting in theatrical performances, film, television, and commercials.

Douglas Haddad
Douglas Haddad

Praise for The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens:

“Haddad, a middle school teacher, shares insightful strategies for parenting teens and tweens. Many children don’t openly talk with their parents, so Haddad has designed his book to equip parents to be “supportive facilitators” who guide their children through life’s various challenges. Haddad addresses such difficult situations as a child overtaking parental power, talking back, or failing to follow rules … Each chapter includes practical exercises for parents to follow, as well as personal stories that poignantly illustrate key points. This is a crucial, thoughtful guide that will aid any adults with responsibility for mentoring children between 10 and 19.”—Publishers Weekly

“Douglas Haddad delivers parents a no fail approach to raising children. If you could read only one book to help children become successful and reach their unlimited potential, Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens has everything you need and is the one to get!”—Jack Canfield, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul ® series, success coach, and human potential thought leader

“Kudos to Douglas Haddad for helpful, meaningful tools for bettering our parenting skills. Nothing is a more important service today to both our children and to us. There are treasures here for every parent seeking a better relationship with their tween or teen.”—Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times bestselling author, spiritual teacher, and lecturer

From the publisher:

Are you concerned or frustrated with the choices your child makes when it comes to their peer groups, study habits, and use of social media?

Do you feel your child is pushing you away and your connection is weakening?

Are you unsure of the next steps you should take to help your child succeed?

A whole new set of parenting concerns arise during tween and teenhood that can be overwhelming for any parent. The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens offers a step-by-step plan for raising your adolescent through this tumultuous time. Douglas Haddad provides specific, proven tools for you to help your child become a problem solver and grow to be smart, successful, and self-disciplined.

In The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens, you will:

  • Discover the secrets of effective communication with your child
  • Learn the techniques to stop behavior problems right in their tracks when they happen
  • Know the strategies to best motivate your child and unlock their potential
  • Find out how to set appropriate limits and hold your child accountable for their actions
  • Understand today’s “child-limiting challenges” and the solutions for handling them with your child

Every parent wants the best for their child, and these years can be fraught with challenges: bullying, violence, gambling, sex, smoking, alcohol, substance use, eating disorders, depression, suicide, unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, etc. Making sense of these challenges, this book offers exercises for incorporating the ten child unlimited tools into your parenting style and anecdotes to illustrate strategies and techniques. Supported by current research, the tools found in these pages will serve as a guide for any family with tweens or teens.

The Ultimate Guide To Raising Teens and Tweens

Now, Douglas shares his lessons and logic with us …

John Valeri: What inspired you to write The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens – and how do you feel that your book differs from others on the subject?

Douglas Haddad: Being around teens and tweens as a teacher, mentor, and coach for 17 years, I have seen the array of challenges that children are faced with each day. In addition to the traditional problems that have affected children for generations and continue to affect them today, technology has opened up a new can of concerns in which kids are partaking in inappropriate and unsafe behaviors. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that a child’s ability to effectively communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems, and persevere through challenges have diminished over the years. Seeing that and also being actively involved in students’ lives as a teacher, my goal in writing this book was to equip parents with the tools necessary to help their children navigate through challenges and rise up against adversity to achieve their potential.

JV: Though you don’t have children of your own, you are a veteran school teacher. How has that influenced your understanding of, and approach to, guiding impressionable minds?

DH: As a veteran teacher of 17 years, I spend 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week with children and have worked with children in this age range from a variety of different backgrounds – with different strengths, capabilities, needs, learning styles, and motivation levels. Furthermore, I witness behaviors from a unique perspective in how they interact with their peers and adult figures in the classroom, hallways, at lunch, afterschool, and in other settings and offer a unique approach to helping raise children that parents may or may not be directly aware of and see outside the home.

JV: What guidance would you offer to parents, or other leaders, who struggle with balancing relationships that are both supportive and authoritative? Also, what are the pitfalls of forming bonds that are based on seeming friendship?

DH: Being supportive and authoritative go hand in hand. Research has shown that the most effective form of parenting is when there is an equal amount of parental demandingness and responsiveness by the parent – hence “authoritative parenting.” The role of the parent is a tricky one in that you want to connect with your child, but you don’t want to give up your power in the process. Setting appropriate limits for your child with natural consequences that are reinforced is key to setting the appropriate boundary between “parent” and “friend” of your child. Helping a child set goals and teaching them to do this early on is a key life skill that will foster their internal motivation and willingness to take on more and more responsibility and ownership for their actions.

JV: This generation of teens / tweens face some unique challenges. In what ways can adults endeavor to understand, and relate, to these issues – and how has technology / social media factored into the equation?

DH: While children are more connected than ever to technology, they are becoming more disconnected with their families. In my book The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens, I discuss ways that parents can best connect with their child by first going back to what it was like being a child and thinking about the day-to-day activities. I pose some questions to jar the memory of parents to better empathize with and understand their child. Furthermore, having a solid connection with a child is about opening up the lines of communication through empathy, reflective listening and responding and non-judgmentally allowing a child to express themselves. This is invaluable for the sake that when they are little, having you there to listen to their worries and concerns will translate into them into being more apt to listening to you later on in life when the challenges become graver and the stakes are higher.

JV: Adolescents often suffer depression and /or other mental / physical health problems that may not be readily apparent. What might be some of the warning signs to look for – and how can parents initiate healthy conversations, should concerns arise?

DH: Depression is different from teenager irritability. Depression lasts for at least two weeks and adversely affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities or complete tasks. Young people who suffer from depression typically have a difficult time interacting at school and at home. Some warning signs to lookout for include: a persistent sadness, anxiety, or apathy, loss of interest in once pleasurable activities, drastic changes (in mood, grades, physical ailments, grades, appetite, weight, sleep, etc.)

In my book, I discuss the best questions to be used as starters in conversations with your child if they exhibit any warning signs. Parents can initiate conversation by asking their child how things are going and how they are personally doing. The key thing to note is that you cannot “make a child suicidal” by starting conversation about how they are feeling. In the process, be sure to show empathy for what your child is going through, listen to their feelings non-judgmentally, and allow them to express how they feel.

JV: Given society’s relentless pace and the many responsibilities that demand our collective attention, how can we still create meaningful quality time – and in what ways can these activities be used to foster togetherness

DH: Without a doubt, find time to have at least one regular meal together a day (most likely dinner during the weekdays) as a family (without any phones on the table). Find time to do a family activity together – take a walk, play a game, do an activity, or watch a television show. These are opportunities to bond, laugh, teach life lessons, and most importantly connect and get to really know your child.


With thanks to Douglas Haddad for his generosity of time and thought and Jennifer Rose, Senior Publicist at Finn Partners, for facilitating this interview.

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