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With Vanessa Van Petten

Q & A

Youthologist explains her methods, saying teens want to know what they have to do to get what they need.

May 18, 2010|By Magda Liszewska | For OCLNN.com

She's not a therapist, or a counselor, but Vanessa Van Petten says she can help parents tame their unruly teens. The 24-year-old has been running Radical Parenting website for the last few years and has been featured in magazines and TV shows around the country. She's also appeared in the last season of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." OCLNN talked to her about what it's like to be the "teen whisperer." OCLNN: How did Radical Parenting start? Vanessa Van Petten: Radical Parenting is a blog written by kids. It's a way for adults who can't talk to their own kids to talk to ours and also for adults who want to get a better look into what teenagers are doing. The website started in 2007. I wrote a parenting book when I was 16 so that's how it came about. I was grounded and totally not getting along with my parents. I couldn't watch TV, I couldn't be on the phone. My parents said, 'If you're not going to talk to us, we're not going to be able to help you,' and I figured out that if I talk to them, they would understand me better. It took a few years until I realized that communicating with them was the best thing I could do. I interviewed 700 other teens and parents and put it into a book of stories of teens talking to parents.

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OCLNN: What's your background? Van Petten: I was a Chinese major in college, but my senior year I realized I really loved helping teens and parents. I'm not a therapist, I'm not a counselor, I'm a translator for kids who are able to talk to me but are not able to talk to their parents. I just wanted to be a medium between teens and parents.

OCLNN: And now you do Radical Parenting full-time? Van Petten: It took about eight months to start getting traffic on the website, media attention, attention from mommy blogs, all these moms thinking "we are guessing what teens are talking about and here we don't have to guess."

OCLNN: What are teens talking about? Van Petten: A lot of time, teens are way more mature than we give them credit for. They really want boundaries. They want to know what they can and can't do, and what they can do to get what they need. They want more specifics, more guidelines, that's what we hear a lot. It's what parents are really surprised about.

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