So says Teresa LeMay, who is teaching an 11-week parenting course beginning Tuesday, called "Parent Project: Changing Destructive Adolescent Behavior."
The class usually includes parents whose teenagers have been runaways, involved in drug abuse, domestic disputes, gangs or having trouble with the challenges of blended families. Frequently the teens' behavior has included cutting school or failing classes.
"If you have teens you are having a hard time with, this class is for you," LeMay said. "I believe with all my heart and soul in this program."
LeMay, who has two grown children and teaches special education at Alisal Elementary School, credits the program with "saving my life." She received 40 hours of specialized training to become a certified Parent Project instructor.
"I wanted to give other parents hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "The Parent Project gives parents a series of building blocks to create a strong foundation for a renewed, positive relationship with their teenagers."
LeMay teaches the class at the Pleasanton Police Department, and police experts join in some of the sessions. This year Sgt. Michael Tryphonas, who is in charge of youth and community services, will take part.
Step by step, parents are given tools for how to listen without arguing and how to make teenagers accountable for their own choices. They are given weekly "home practice" assignments, then at the next class parents may share how well the strategies worked with their teens.
"These strategies really work," said LeMay.
For example, parents may tie school success with a teen's weekend plans.
A parent might say, "Since you have chosen not to do your homework, you also have chosen not to attend the school dance this weekend."
"Change happens when a person gets tired of things not going the way they want them to," LeMay said.
She noted that parents sometimes continue to meet as a support group after the course is ended.
"Another officer still is meeting with the support group of our first class, seven years later," LeMay said. "Friendships and bonds of trust are formed as parents learn that they are not alone in facing problems with their teenage children."
The Parent Project is jointly sponsored by Amador Valley Adult & Community Education and the Pleasanton Police Department, in partnership with Pleasanton PTA Council. It was started in Ontario, Calif., 20 years ago and has been offered several times in Pleasanton during the last seven years.
The next Parent Project session will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings, Sept. 28-Dec. 14. Class size is limited to 20 parents. Cost is $95 per parent with a 10 percent discount for couples. To register, call Amador Valley Adult Education at 426-4280; go to www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/adulted; or visit the Adult Ed office at 215 Abbie St.