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What Is My Teenager Thinking??

Teenagers are often expected to behave like adults, yet we wonder why they seem to take risks, and make choices without fully considering future consequences.  Scientific research is showing amazing discoveries on the development of the adolescent brain.


Being a parent of a teenager is more than difficult.  Armed with hormonal changes and opinions, I often hear it is the most rewarding and challenging time as parents. The ideas for helping teenagers vary as much as the number of problems.  Most of them begin with a few fundamentals.  keep these in mind as you address what is really going on with your son or daughter.

1.  Boundaries-  A term coined by Townsend and Cloud in their book Boundaries with Teens, parents are encouraged to set parameters fro the home in a loving way based on morals, values, and safety.  When teenagers know the limits and consequences are predictable and consistent, there is freedom found in between.  I often talk with parents about seeing their role as working with three baskets A, B, and C.  "A" basket is for issues that you can give your teenager complete control over the decision process.  So for example, if being late for curfew is something you especially care about- this is one to not put in the "A" basket.  However, perhaps what they wear to school is one you feel better about.  "B" basket is for things that you both need to collaborate on.  This basket is great for when/how often their room should be cleaned, curfew being 10:30pm vs 10:00pm, or the fact that they want to wear green hair to church on Sunday as a form of "self expression."  "C" basket is for non-negotiable issues that are usually safety/value concerns.  Whether or not they have a curfew, disrespectful conversation,  borrowing the car without permission, etc are all things worth setting limits on.  The point here is to choose your battles wisely.  Children and adolescents are no different from adults in heir response to control.  When feeling out of control, we will always seek out the things we can control.  If your child feels they have no choices, they will begin to act out as a way of finding somethings they have control over.  Give them options, know what you are willing to die in the battle for.

2.  Their brain is still forming!!-  Sarah-Jayne Blakemore discusses here research that has come out on how the brain develops and what you can expect from pre-puberty through the twenties.  Most importantly, their frontal cortex (the area of the brain that controls impulse) is still forming.  This often leads to risky behavior and the inability to see future consequences that could become reality from their present day choice.  Definitely worth watching to help you form realistic expectations for your teenager. 

3.  Mentoring- This is a tough one if you are a military family. Male role models are crucial to the self-esteem development of children.  For some reason, both males and females are negatively effected when they have been without a positive male role model growing up.  Girls learn their value in how they should be treated by other men in the future, whereas boys are taught not only how to treat women by their father, but also the value of work ethic, family, and leadership.  If you are struggling with positive role models in your home, or do not have one at all, various community resources such as Boy Scouts, children's programs in your local church, and  Big Brother, Big Sister can help fill the void.  It has been found in research that most male prisoners on death row grew up with little mentoring or positive father figures.  I'm not saying your child will grow up a criminal, but the research is clear that men play a huge role just as important, but different from women.


What are some things you have found that have helped you with your teenager?  Post a comment and help others following in your footsteps...