i'm a parent....
for those of you who are parents....
It's time to put away the misconceptions we've had as parents in the past & take on a new outlook
concerning parenting. There is nothing more important, after taking care of yourself, than realizing that your behavior is
the "model behavior" your teens will aspire to. What kind of person do you want your teen to be? It's all on you parents...
if you're a teen....
learn as much as you can about yourself, your environment & your family. it's very important.
use common sense, think about what you do before you do it... there's tons of info within the network for you to take in....
Living With Your Teen:
Changes in Thinking
At about age 11 or 12, children’s
thinking begins to change. They are likely to become self-centered, to question family beliefs & to engage in thinking that allows them to believe they're protected from the harmful consequences of risky behavior.
This new way of thinking often
causes problems in the relationships between pre-teens or teens & their parents. While the 12 or 13 year-old may understand that people may hold different opinions on a particular topic, he/she may not be aware that others are concerned with many topics besides those that interest teens.
Preoccupation with self
The subject of greatest interest to the young adolescent is often himself or herself. Typically, the young teen primps
in front of the mirror or worries about acne. The hours spent in self admiration or self-criticism are directed toward impressing the audience the young teen feels is always there. Adults often find the teen’s
preoccupation with himself or herself annoying. From the adult point of view, this concern about appearance & behavior seems selfish & unhealthy.
During these times, parents should remember that this self-preoccupation is the result of the young teen's way of thinking & that this style of thinking occurs in all children. Parents
also should remember that the concern of teens with what others think may be justified. Often young teens are very critical of one another.
Following fads appears to play an important role in achieving a positive self-image for the teen. The teen who looks & acts “right” gains approval from friends. Although adults should veto fads that
are too costly or unhealthy, they should consider permitting some fads.
By allowing them to follow some fads, parents may help teens develop self-confidence. The relationship between parents & teens may grow stronger when parents show their understanding & support.
During early adolescence, many teens think that everyone's interested in them. As a result, they may develop the notion that
“the world revolves around them.” Teens show this egocentrism or self-centeredness when they say no one has ever felt the way they do, suffered so much, loved so deeply, or been so misunderstood.
The child who once thought you understood everything & anything may suddenly burst out with “You don’t understand!”
In this case, parents may find it helpful to respond, “I may not understand, but I’m sorry you’re unhappy. If you want me to, I’ll be glad to try to help.”
In this way, parents can express caring without having to argue over whether they do or don’t understand. In addition, the door is open for teens to ask for help if they want it.
Brain: It Really Is Different!
"What Were You Thinking?!"
You climb into your car, turn the key in the ignition &
are assaulted by rap music so loud the windows are vibrating. You just know your hearing will never be the same. Blame it
on the amygdala!
It's a record-breaking frigid day.
You're worrying about the pipes bursting & your teen is going to school without her jacket. You ask her where it is & you get a blank look, then, "Oh, it's in the car" or "It's in my locker at school". Blame it on the amygdala!
While you're muttering to yourself, ''What is she thinking?!'' your teen's
amygdala is having a field-day. Now, confess: You think the amygdala is a new kind
of club drug, don't you?
No, the amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the brain, nestled deep in the back, that pretty much controls the way teens act for their middle-school & high-school
the next time you're ready to bellow, "WHAT in
the world were you thinking
when you did that?", remember this intriguing fact: Teens are NOT thinking the way adults think because they absolutely,
positively can't do that yet. Adolescent brains just aren't ''hard wired''
like adult brains.
Researchers recently discovered
that adults think w/the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of
the brain; teens process information w/ the amygdala, the instinctual, emotional
part of the brain. Teens don't think, ''Binge drinking is very dangerous & stupid.'' Rather, it's ''Oh, boy, a
chugging contest! Wouldn't it be cool if I won?''
What the Experts Say
As recently as 1997, conventional thinking, heralded during the White House Conference on Early Learning &
Childhood Development, held that the greatest
time of brain growth occurred before the age of 18 months & was set forever by the age of 3.
But scientists spent the last several years scanning teens' brains in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine &
discovered that the prefrontal cortex, which
makes people ''act like an adult,'' isn't fully developed in a teenager until after the age of 18.
So parents watch their teens whiz thru life manipulated by the wild whims of the amygdala, home to primal feelings such as fear, rage, & impulse.
to complicate things even more, the amygdala gangs up w/all kinds of hormones & pumps them thru puberty-ravaged bodies, making them moody,
unpredictable & seemingly irrational. It's a constant
struggle to see if the still-developing prefrontal cortex can
head off the amygdala &
shout: ''Stop! Use good judgment on this one!
Think about what can happen!''
that's why teens parade thru adolescence doing all those things that keep parents up at night. Sneaking out late at night.
Moving from hysterics to hugs in warp-speed. Flaunting purple hair. Binge drinking, sampling drugs & smoking cigarettes. Waiting until the last minute to do the term paper..... & the list goes on & on.
But just because they may not naturally think before they act isn't
an excuse for bedlam during the teen years.
So, what's a parent to do?!
''Adolescence is a time when everything is out of kilter & nothing is stable in the body or
mind. It's the second time that kids act like they're 2 years old,'' laughs Ruth Kraus, Ph.D, assistant professor of clinical
psychology at the University of Chicago's Child Psychiatry Clinic.
''The difference is that when they're young you say, 'They're only kids. Give them a break.' But when they're teens you expect them to act like adults...& they're not.''
Her advice? Parents have to step in as the "designated" prefrontal cortex & dispense common sense, guidance & advice. In other words, don't just walk away from
your teens & think that he or she is ready to make all the decisions w/out your input.
- Empathize & let your teen understand that impulses are hard to fight, but the end results could be disastrous. Teens must take the time to ponder important decisions & weigh the
options. They should look at both sides of an issue & consider the consequences.
- Help them get organized w/calendars &
planners. Teach them to write down deadlines, meetings & dates & then post them in visible places. Help them understand that waiting until the very
last minute to complete an important assignment is a sure bet
for stress & disappointment.
- Be there for them. Remind your teens that
while you're not running their lives anymore, you're ALWAYS available for advice & help, no matter what comes up.
- Develop a sense of humor! Enjoy your teens as they develop into adults. After all, you can always
blame it on the amygdala, right?
Is your teen acting out? Think differently than you usually do....
Ask yourself, "What is it that I'm not giving my teen, that's causing this behavior?
What does my teen need, that he/she isn't getting?"
The Teenage Brain is a Work in Progress
While 95% of the human brain has developed by the age of 6, scientists tell FRONTLINE that the greatest spurts of growth
after infancy occur just around adolescence.
Interview: Jay Giedd
- Giedd is a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health. Recently, he spearheaded research showing for
the first time that there's a wave of growth & change in the adolescent brain. He believes that what teens do during their adolescent years -- whether it's playing sports or playing video games -- can affect how their brains develop.
What has surprised you about looking at the adolescent brain?
The most surprising thing has been how much the teen brain is changing. By age 6, the brain is already 95% of its adult
But the gray matter, or thinking part of the brain, continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain cells
get extra connections, much like a tree growing extra branches, twigs & roots.
the frontal part of the brain, the part of the brain involved in judgment, organization, planning, strategizing -- those very skills that
teens get better & better at -- this process of thickening of the gray matter peaks at about age 11 in girls & age 12 in boys, roughly about the same time
that peak, the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned. So much of our research is focusing on
trying to understand what influences
or guides the building-up stage when the gray matter is growing extra branches & connections & what guides the thinning
or pruning phase when the excess connections are eliminated.
And what do you think this might
mean, this exuberant growth of those early adolescent years?
I think the exuberant
growth during the pre-puberty years gives the brain enormous potential. The capacity to be skilled in many different areas is building up
during those times.
the influences are of parenting or teachers, society, nutrition, bacterial & viral infections - all these factors - on this building-up phase, we're just beginning to try to understand.
the pruning-down phase is perhaps even more interesting, because our leading hypothesis for that is the "Use it or lose it" principle.
Those cells & connections that are used will survive & flourish.
& connections that aren't used will wither & die.
if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells & connections that will be hard-wired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or
MTV, those are the cells & connections that are going [to] survive.
around the time of puberty & on into the adult years is a particularly critical time for the brain sculpting to take place.
Much like Michelangelo's David, you start out w/a huge block of granite at the peak at the puberty years.
the art is created by removing pieces of the granite & that's the way the brain also sculpts itself. Bigger isn't necessarily
better, or else
the peak in brain function would occur at age 11 or 12. ... The advances come from actually taking away & pruning down
of certain connections themselves.
lobe is often
called the CEO, or the executive of the brain. It's involved in things like
organizing, initiating attention & stopping & starting & shifting
a part of the brain that most separates man from beast, if you will. That's the part of the brain that has changed most in
our human evolution & a part of the brain that allows us to conduct philosophy & to think about thinking & to think about our place in the universe. ...
think that [in the teen years, this] part of the brain that is helping organization, planning & strategizing isn't done being built yet ... [It's] not that the teens are stupid or incapable of [things].
It's sort of unfair to expect them to have
adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brain is finished being built. ...
also a particularly cruel irony of nature, I think, that right at this
time when the brain is most vulnerable is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment
with drugs or alcohol.
when I'm working with teens, I actually show them these brain development curves, how they peak at puberty & then prune down & try to reason w/them that if they're doing drugs or alcohol that evening, it may not just be affecting their brains for that night or even for that weekend, but for the next 80
years of their life. ...
Tell me a little bit about how the brain develops.
How does the brain - arguably the most complicated 3 lb. mass of matter in the known universe - how does the brain become
the brain? It does so thru 2 simple but powerful processes.
The 1st one is over-production. The brain produces
way more cells & connections than can
possibly survive. There are only so many nutrients, there are only so many growth factors, there's only so much room in the
skull. After this vast over-production,
there's a fierce, competitive elimination, in which the brain cells & connections fight it out for survival. Only a small percentage of the cells & connections make it.
This is a process that we knew happened in the womb, maybe even the
first 18 months of life. But it was only when we started following the same children by scanning their brains at 2 year intervals
that we detected a 2nd wave of over-production.
This 2nd wave of over-production is manifest by an actual thickening in the gray matter, or the thinking part, in the front part of the brain.
this 2nd wave of over-production is occurring, it prepares the adolescent brain for the challenges of entering the next stage of life, the adult years. There's enormous potential
at that time. People can take many different life directions.
about around that time of puberty, people start specializing,
so to speak. They start deciding, "This is what I'm going to be good at, whether it be sports or academics or art or music."
All the life choices, even though they're still there, start getting whittled away & we have
to start sort of focusing in on what makes us unique & special.
Do you have particular concerns about that
period, too, though?
It's a time of enormous opportunity & of enormous risk. And how the teens spend
their time seems to be particularly crucial. If the "Lose
it or use it" principle holds true, then the activities of the teen
may help guide the hard-wiring, actual physical connections in their brain. ...
you describe to me what people used to believe about the brain, actually, very recently?
of the most exciting discoveries from recent neuroscience research is how incredibly plastic
the human brain is. For a long time, we used to think that the brain, because it's
already 95% of adult size by age 6, things were largely set in place early in life. ...
was the] saying. "Give me your child & by the
age of 5, I can make him a priest or a thief or a scholar."
notion that things were largely set at fairly early ages. And now we realize that isn't true; that even throughout childhood
& even the teen years, there's enormous capacity for change. We think that this capacity
for change is very empowering for teens. ...
is an area of neuroscience that's receiving a great deal of attention ... the forces that can guide this plasticity.
- How do we optimize the brain's ability
- Are schools doing a good job?
- Are we as parents doing a good job?
the challenge now is to ...
bridging the gap between neuroscience & practical advice for parents, teachers
We're not there yet, but we're closer than ever & it's really an exciting time
in neuroscience. ...
next step will be, what can you do about it, what can we do to help people?
What can we do to help the teen optimize the development
of their own brain? ...
There has been a great deal of attention on the early
years & particularly on stimulating the early brain. What do you think
of that work & that popularization of that
been a great deal of emphasis in the 1990's on the critical importance of the first
three years. I certainly applaud those efforts. But what happens sometimes when
an area is emphasized so much is other areas are forgotten.
even though the first 3 years are important, so are the next 16. And the ages between 3 & 16, there's still enormous dynamic activity happening in brain biology.
I think that that might have been somewhat overlooked w/the emphasis on the early years.
Not so long ago, people were emphasizing teaching little children thru flashcards,
thru particular kinds of mobiles w/black & white checks on them, playing Mozart.
In fact, some states have sent CD's back w/new mothers. What do you think of that? Has that been a misinterpretation of brain science?
... We all want to do the best for our children. And what I fear is happening
is that we're leaping too far from the neuroscience to such things. I don't
think there is any established videotape or CD or computer program
or type of music to play that we've shown w/any scientific backing to actually help our children.
& more advanced the science becomes, often the more it leads us back to some very basic tenets of spending loving, quality time w/our
children. The brain is largely wired for social
for bonding w/caretakers.
sometimes it's even disappointing to people that, w/all the science & all the advances the best
advice we can give is things that our grandmother could have told us generations ago: to spend loving, quality time w/our children. ...
I think [it] probably does more harm than good for parents to be confronted
with so many of these conflicting reports in the
media without any scientific basis. ...
What directions is the research taking to explore how we can
optimize brain development?
that we've been able to detect the developmental path of different parts of the brain, the next phase of our research is to
try to understand what influences these brain development paths.
it nutrient or parenting or video games or the activity of the [child]? Or is it genes? By studying twins, we can begin to address some of this
very basic nature/nurture-type of questions.
when twins are in the 1st grade, their parents often dress them in
the same clothes. They get the same haircut. It's sort of cute how alike they are. But that's not as cool in high school anymore.
And so a lot of the twins as teens in high school start doing different things.
one who was a little bit better in sports may become an athlete. The one who was a little bit better at academics may become
a scholar. Or one may turn to music and one to art. But they often have different daily activities.
we can scan the brains when the twins are young & doing everything very much alike; then we can scan them as teenagers,
when they start having different daily activities. This gives us a sense of which parts of the brain are influenced by behavior
& which parts by the genes themselves.
already got some interesting early data on this. One part of the brain is called the corpus callosum: a thick cable
of nerves that connects
that two halves of the brain & is involved in creativity &
higher type of thinking. It's very popular for imaging studies because
it leaps out of the picture. It's very easy to measure & quantify.
also interesting because it changes a lot throughout childhood & adolescence. It's been reported to be different in size & shape
in many different illnesses that happen during childhood ... many higher cognitive thought [processes] like creativity & ability to solve
it's been of great interest, especially to child psychiatrists. And what we find is that the size & shape of the corpus
callosum is remarkably similar amongst twins ... & [so] seems
to be surprisingly under
the control of
another part of the brain - the cerebellum, in the back of the
brain - isn't very genetically controlled. Identical twins' cerebellums are no more alike than non-identical twins. So we think this
part of the brain is very susceptible to the environment.
interestingly, it's a part of the brain that changes
most during the teen years. This part of the brain hasn't finished growing
well into the early 20's, even. The cerebellum used to be thought
to be involved in the coordination of our muscles. So if your cerebellum
is working well, you were graceful, a good dancer, a good athlete.
we now know it's also involved in coordination of
our cognitive processes, our thinking processes. Just
like one can be physically clumsy, one can be kind of mentally clumsy.
this ability to smooth out all the different intellectual processes to navigate the complicated social life of the teen
& to get thru these things smoothly
& gracefully instead of lurching ... seems to be a function of the
so we think it's intriguing that we see all these dynamic changes in the cerebellum taking place during the teen years, along
with the changes in the behaviors that the cerebellum sub-serves.
What would influence the development of the cerebellum?
it was thought that physical activity would most influence the cerebellum & that's still one of the leading
thoughts. It actually raises thoughts about, as a society, we're less active than we ever have been in the history of humanity.
good w/our thumbs & video games & such. But as far as actual physical activity, running, jumping, playing, children
are doing less & less of that & we wonder, long term, whether that may have an effect on the development of the cerebellum.
The recess & play seems to be the first thing that is cut out of school curriculums
in tight times. But those actually may be as important, or maybe even more important, than some of the academic subjects that
the children are doing.
think that the "Use it or lose it" principle holds for the cerebellum as well. If the cerebellum is exercised &
used, both for physical activity but also for cognitive activities, that it'll enhance its development.
... One analogy that computer people use is that [the cerebellum
is] like a math co-processor. It's not essential for any activity. People can get by quite well w/out large chunks of it.
But it makes many activities better.
more complicated the activity, the more we call upon the cerebellum to help us solve the problem. And so almost anything
that one can think of as higher thought - mathematics, music, philosophy, decision making, social skills - seems to draw
upon the cerebellum. ...
relationship between the findings that we have in the cerebellum & sort of practical advice or the links between
behavior aren't well worked out yet. That's going to be one of the great challenges of neuroscience - to go from these neuroscience
facts to useful information for parents, for teachers or for society.
But it's just so recently that we've been able to capture the cerebellum that no work
has yet been done on the forces that will shape the cerebellum or the link between the cerebellum shape or size & function.
When you look at the recent work that you've done in terms of the frontal cortex, do you see a difference
between girls & boys?
Yes. One of the things that we're particularly interested in as child psychiatrists is the difference
between boys' brains & girls' brains, because nearly everything that we look at as child psychiatrists is different between
boys & girls - different ages of onset, different symptoms, different prevalence & outcomes.
Almost everything in childhood is more common in boys - autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome - are all more common in boys. Only anorexia nervosa is more common in girls. So we wonder if the differences between
boys' & girls' brains might help explain some of these clinical differences.
male brain is about 10% larger than the female
brain across all the stages of ... 3 to 20; not to imply that the
increased size implies any sort of advantage, because it doesn't. The IQs are very similar. But there are differences between
the boy & girl brains, both in the size of certain structures & in their developmental path.
basal ganglia which are a part of the brain that help the frontal lobe do executive functioning are larger in females
& this is a part of the brain that is often smaller in the childhood illnesses. I mentioned, such as ADD & Tourette's syndrome.
girls, by virtue of having larger basal ganglia, may be afforded some protection against these illnesses. But in the general trend
for brain maturation, it's that girls' brains mature
earlier than boys' brains. ...
read an additional informative
interview by clicking here!
teens are people too
Belief in personal magic
Along with their self-centered beliefs, young adolescents develop a belief in a personal magic that'll protect them from the bad things that happen to other people. Belief in this magic may make a girl think she can’t get pregnant or a boy think he won’t
get a girl pregnant if they have sex.
Belief in this personal magic can make the teenage years difficult for both parents &
teens. Parents see that their teens are behaving carelessly & irresponsibly. Teens, feel overprotected & want to be treated as adults.
Even experts in adolescent psychology admit they have no perfect solution to this problem. Many parents find it helpful
to give teens greater responsibility in non-dangerous areas, such as selecting their own clothes or determining bedtime, while retaining control over potentially harmful situations.
Parents can help to smooth conflicts & also teach teens important critical
thinking skills at this time. Discuss the consequences
&/or rewards of certain behaviors.
For example, ask your teen what might be the consequences of going to a party where alcohol is served.
What are the advantages & disadvantages of smoking marijuana before school?
What might be the outcome of driving friends around in the car after midnight?
Don’t forget to discuss & encourage teens to think about outcomes of acting in positive ways.
For example, ask your teen why it’s important to treat other kids & teachers with respect, even if you don’t always agree w/what they say or do. Ask,
“What could you do if you’re
with a group of kids & they start to bully or harass another person?
What can you do if your boy (girl)friend is trying to talk you into having sex?
What are the advantages for you in waiting until you’re older, or married?
On your 28th birthday, why might you feel grateful you worked hard & got good grades in high school?
Rather than saying “No,” parents can help teens learn to act responsibly by encouraging them to solve problems &
think thru the consequences of actions.
why did i include this information? why do you need to take the time to read it?
It's important to realize that there are different thought processes & reasons for these very
automatic processes in our minds... once you're educated & can understand them, there's a much better opportunity for
positive change in your thinking for better over all well-being!
teens may question their religion, their parents’ political beliefs & other values that their parents hold. They may suddenly refuse to go to religious services w/the family. This refusal may
be accompanied by statements like “I don’t believe in that anymore.”
Teens may develop elaborate religious or political beliefs of their own. They may believe they have plans to solve world problems. Many parents have found it difficult to get children of this age to
follow family values. It's often best for parents to simply state their beliefs & refuse to get into a debate.
It's important to recognize & acknowledge teens’ right to have different opinions or beliefs than other family members. Nevertheless, parents should emphasize there are some family rules teens must obey.
How many times do you hear yourself saying, "Why did you do that? Didn't you think about what you were doing?"
Experts believe egocentrism begins to diminish by the time a young person is around 15. The teen begins to recognize there's a difference between what he or she's interested in & the interests of
Teens begin growing aware that not everyone's looking at their appearance or behavior all the time. Some teens realize there are people
who are interested in them as individuals. The belief in the power of personal magic gives way to an understanding that no one has special protection. Talking about their personal
thoughts, feelings ideas & listening to those of other teens helps adolescent thinking to mature.
As teens begin to think more like adults, they're better able to form adult relationships. They begin to
think more realistically about their places in society. At about this time, teens often reestablish the warm relationship w/their parents that might have become strained
during the early teen years.Parents must now be prepared
to recognize that their teens think like adults. The parent-child relationship can never return to what it was before adolescence.
The task becomes one of establishing the special relationship that can exist between two adults who also happen to be parent & child.
A look into the adolescent mind
by Michael K. Meyerhoff
Every once in a while, I am asked to teach a course on "Adolescent Psychology" at a local college. At the start
of the first session, I always suggest to my students that they might want to consider asking for a refund of their tuition
money. I tell them quite honestly. "The notion that I or anyone else really understands what's going on in the mind of a teenager is absolutely ridiculous."
Of course, that isn't completely true. We do have a handle on some of the bizarre mental machinations associated
with this period of life. And while a knowledge of these may not enable parents to be particularly proficient at dealing with
their teenager, perhaps it does encourage them to be a bit more sympathetic & patient.
First of all, it helps to realize that "adolescence" is an artificial construction of our modern world. Throughout
history & even throughout much of the world today, the concept of a special period between childhood & adulthood has
been non-existent. The term "adolescence" was coined by a psychologist only about 100 years ago in response to an industrialized
society's new requirement that individuals obtain substantially more education & maturity prior to being granted full
Previously, the transition from child to adult was a smooth, gradual affair. As soon as one was capable of performing adult roles, one was placed in a position to perform those roles. While puberty typically was
celebrated with some kind of rite-of-passage ceremony, passing thru the teen years was no big deal.
Consequently, parents should understand that much of the anger & angst associated with adolescence can't be blamed on those convenient "raging hormones." Teenagers are crazy largely because this unnatural modern phenomenon
would drive anyone insane.
Think about it. Five hundred years ago, the average age at which individuals achieved
sexual maturity was roughly 15 or 16. At what age did young people get married back then? That's right--15 or 16. As soon
as you were feeling those powerful sexual urges, society placed you in a position where satisfying those urges was permissible & even applauded.
Today, thanks to better health & nutrition, the average age at which individuals achieve sexual maturity,
is 13 or 14. And what is an acceptable age for marriage these days? Most people aren't comfortable with a couple entering into matrimony until they're
at least in their mid to late 20's.
So, we have created a period of 10 to 15 years when your body is screaming at you, "Have sex! Have sex!" & your society
is admonishing you, "Don't have sex! Don't have sex!" That has to drive you nuts.
Meanwhile, can you remember being a teenager & doing something silly? Your parents came down on you like a
ton of bricks, shouting, "You can't do that! You're not a child any more! You're not a child!" A little while later, you asked
for the keys to the car so you could attend a party. Now they shouted at you, "No way! When you're adult you can do that!
You're not an adult!" The resulting realization that you are stuck in this not-a-child-&-not-an-adult limbo of increasing
responsibilities without commensurate privileges certainly is enough to drive you over the edge.
Now to be fair, I should note that not all of the anger & angst is induced by society. There are some things going on developmentally within the adolescent mind
that inevitably cause problems as well. The fact is that the teenage years bring a major advance in cognitive functioning
& the side effects of those advances can be extremely annoying.
It's during adolescence that an individual first becomes capable of abstract thought. This
opens up a whole new dimension of contemplation. One can't only think about what is & what was, but about what will be. could be & should be
as well. The teenager is now titillated & taunted by the sometimes wonderful & sometimes scary world of possibilities.
Naturally. one is inclined to first apply these newfound thinking abilities to oneself. This results
in a preoccupation with one's own thoughts & feelings: what is referred to as "adolescent
So, for instance, everybody is getting ready for Uncle Harry's funeral. You walk past your teenager's room &
hear her sobbing uncontrollably. You open the door & remark comfortingly, "I know, Sweetheart, we all loved Uncle Harry
& will miss him terribly."
Your teenager lifts her head mid wails in reply, "Look at this zit on my face! I can't believe I have to walk around
with the world's biggest zit in the middle of my forehead!"
That egocentrism is exacerbated by another irritating side effect referred to as
"imaginary audience." Adolescents become extremely self-conscious & spend a lot of time primping because they're thoroughly convinced that everyone is looking at them all
Anyone who has had the misfortune of sharing a bathroom with a teenager knows she will be in there for hours making
sure every article of clothing is properly adjusted, every accessory is correctly selected & every hair on her head is
perfectly in place.
After all, as soon as she walks out the door, you can forget about Uncle Harry & the rest of the population
living or dead - she'll be the center of attention for all family, friends & strangers. A comment that "Nobody will notice"
- with either a tone of comfort or aggravation - will fall on profoundly deaf ears.
Perhaps the most difficult side effect to deal with is referred to as the "personal fable." Teenagers are thoroughly convinced that they are the only ones to ever think & feel the
way they do & that their experiences are unique in the annals of mankind.
So, for example, your adolescent has a falling out with her boyfriend of a few months & again is sobbing
uncontrollably. Your attempt to console her by saying, "Everybody goes thru this kind of heartache with their first love"
is met by the furious response, "No!
Our love was the purest, deepest love there has ever been!" And incredible as it may seem,
she truly believes that. Offering "been there - done that" comments such as "I know what you're going through" or "I went through
the same thing at your age" is like trying to throw a raw egg through a brick wall.
And then there is the immensely irritating "idealism/
hypocrisy" combination which comes from the blending
of abstract thinking & lack of "real world" experience. Your teenager will rail against you &
other members of your generation for spending billions of dollars on bullets & bombs when a small fraction of that money
could be spent on food to save all the starving children in Africa.
Remarkably, before you can respond, she'll insist that you give her 8200 so she can go to the mall and buy that cashmere
sweater that she absolutely must have to wear to school on Monday.
I wish I could offer parents some pithy advice for dealing with all of this. But if I had the answers for dealing
easily & effectively with the adolescent mind, I'd be on a private island counting up my vast financial fortune instead
of sitting at my keyboard.
All I can recommend is that you give your teenager as much room as possible, exercise a little empathy, pick your battles wisely & be patient. Constant condemnation makes the situation a lot worse & time
does tend to solve those problems that often are impervious to the strongest & most well-meaning parental efforts.
It's helpful to remember that although your teenager's seemingly irrational behavior & attitudes may be aggravating & even alarming on occasion, at least she is acting & thinking "normally" for an individual going through this particularly difficult yet mercifully temporary period of life.
And it also helps to recall the anecdote often told by the famous American author and humorist, Mark Twain:
"When I left home at the age of 18, I thought my father was the stupidest man on earth. When I returned home at the age of
21, I was amazed at how much my father had learned in those three short years."
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D., is executive director of
The Epicenter Inc., "The Education for Parenthood Information Center," a family advisory and advocacy agency located in Lindenhurst,
Illinois. He may be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Pediatrics for Parents, Inc.
2005 Gale Group
How to Get Your Child to Think for
Themselves - By Jill Brennan
Do you find that you are continually telling your children what to do?
Brush your teeth, put your plate away, make your bed, don’t forget your hat, put on your shoes…sometimes the list
I don’t know what it is about putting on shoes but I used to have battles with both my children
to put their shoes on. I remember one time screaming at Jake to put his shoes on because I had told him, maybe ten times to
do it, and he hadn’t. He was playing or getting distracted or pretending he didn’t know how. Then I lost it, he
burst into tears and his shoes still weren’t on. I’m sure the neighbours must have thought I was balmy yelling
about shoes! Before I became a mother I would never thought that I could end up screaming about something so trivial.
I thought about what had happened and I was shocked that I had exploded over such a simple thing but as any parent knows it’s
the simple things that trip you up. The positive out of all of that was that I knew there had to be a better way.
started off by asking Jake to put his shoes on and then just expecting him to do it. I refused to repeatedly tell him what
to do. That helped but it wasn’t quite enough. Then I started asking him what he needed to do to get ready and after
a short period of time, bingo! He got that going out meant shoes on. Sure there was the odd grumble but nothing like before.
you’re tired of being your child’s personal alarm then try asking them questions instead. Questions like ‘what
do you need to do to get ready?’ if you’re going out somewhere.
Or ‘what do you do after you’ve finished your dinner?’
when they get up & walk away from the dinner table with their plate & glass sitting where they left them. Or ‘do
you have everything you need?’ when they're about to begin their homework or go outside & play ball.
the difference between these 2 approaches? Well the first means you have to do all the thinking & all your child has to
do is follow your instructions (it’s surprising how difficult that sometimes can seem for your child!).
Don’t get me wrong there's a time & place for straight out instructions
but in many instances there is a better way & that way is by asking questions in order to get your child to think for
themselves about what they're doing & what they need to do next.
If you consistently use this strategy then over time you'll not even need
to ask the question to prompt them into action. They'll just do what needs to be done. No, really, it does work. Give it a
try, you may be surprised.
I’ve been following the ask, don’t tell strategy for some time now with my
two boys & ok, we do have the odd hiccough in the system but on the whole it works well & saves me the endless round
of rote orders.
The best evidence I have that it works is that when we're getting ready in the morning & I tell
them I’m going upstairs to brush my teeth they know that's their cue to put on their shoes, collect their bags &
lunch boxes & strap themselves into the car. Then I come down & off we go. It makes getting out the door soooo much
There's still the odd drama about which shoe goes on which foot or delays while they negotiate which toys to
select & take with them in the car but even in amongst all that, it's still a dramatically streamlined routine compared
to what it was & as a result, the odd fuss can be easily accommodated & rarely escalates to a stand off.
Raising Entrepreneurs: What to Do When Your Kid is Born to Think
Differently - By Sam Rosen
Adolescence brings with it many challenges –
for both parents and kids. Young people, still new to the world, are embarking on a journey to discover their passions, joys,
and authentic self-images. More often than not, however, their journey more closely resembles an elongated stampede of enraged
elephants than it does an innocent soul-searching endeavor. But no one said growing up would be easy.
And there are
young entrepreneurs out there who see the world in a truly positive light. Sure, they have their ups and downs like most teenagers,
but they are motivated, focused, and want to make a difference.
Who are these kids? How were they raised? What do they
have in common with one another? At the risk of making some sweeping generalizations, I will paint the picture of the young,
confident entrepreneur – with the knowledge that this over-idealized portrait often comes in many colors and hues.
entrepreneurship was never common in my family, many young entrepreneurs had experiences early on in life that lead them towards
an entrepreneurial path. In general, there are two possible ways young people feel compelled towards entrepreneurship: inspiration
and avoidance. Both can act as powerful catalysts for taking action.
In the case of inspired action, the young entrepreneur
most likely grew up in an environment where individuality, responsibility, and financial literacy were encouraged. Even if
the parent made little money to support his or her child, the underlying message often centered around taking initiative and
following one’s own path.
On the other hand, in the instances where avoidance is the primary motivator, the child
usually wants to avoid becoming like their primary caregiver, who was most likely a negative influence. Friends of mind who
have exhibited this type of motivation often have a very strong drive to succeed, yet, in part, base their motivation on what
they don’t want to become – and must overcome even greater adversity in life.
In order to facilitate the
spirit of entrepreneurship in your family, there are many steps you can take. While these steps are particularly geared towards
entrepreneurship, they apply toward creating any harmonious relationship between parent and child:
-Teach your child
in creative, ‘outside-the-box’ ways. In a recent article with 19 year-old CEO Cameron Johnson, he told a story
about how his parents gave him stocks – literally, shares in a company – in his stockings for Christmas. There
are many ways you can teach your child about financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and individuality.
and wealth consciousness the highest priorities. This entails a significant amount of soul-searching. And while many adults
are adverse to the concept of change, often letting go of fear and facing your demons can be the most inspirational model
for your child. I have a friend who, after years of living in a fear-based reality, she learned to let go and allow herself
to forgive and love others. She has never enjoyed better relationships with her children.
-If your kid acts up, stand
in your truth. Don’t beat around the bush or overreact. Of course, you want to be sensitive to your child’s feelings
and come from a place of authentic compassion. But when it comes down to it, tell it like it is – they’ll appreciate
it in the end.
-Give your child ample opportunity to discover independence for him or herself. It’s critically
important that your child learns the process of creating one’s own experience of reality from a first-hand perspective.
Sometimes this requires being more firm or lenient than one would like. Yet remember that you grew through making mistakes,
and so will your child.
If you see your child exhibiting entrepreneurial behaviors, make sure you show your support
throughout his or her growth process. And if your kid is struggling to find motivation, don’t worry – as long
as you follow the guidelines above, you will instill the characteristics of greatness and, in due time, inspire the leader