An essential part of parenting is keeping your kids safe and helping them make good decisions. Your strong instincts to protect your teens from making bad choices is what motivates you to check in with them and even call their friends’ parents to check to make sure they are being adequately supervised. But what about spying? Is that going too far? It’s possible that your desire to protect may lead you to cross a line that can not only be harmful to your teenager, but also damage your relationship with them.
So how do we act as conscientious, loving parents who responsibly watch over our kids, without becoming so overbearing that we cross that line and end up creating problems even bigger than the ones we’re trying to avoid? Well, we can start by asking ourselves some basic questions:
What are my motives?
Ask yourself why you feel the need to spy. Is it really necessarily? Is your teenager in real danger? If so, then there might actually be a need to monitor at least some of what they’re doing, so you can help them be safe. But it’s a different story if your teen is actually a good, responsible kid. Is there a chance that you’re being paranoid? Maybe you made some mistakes in your youth, and you’re afraid Continue Reading »
Parenting a teenager is a mixed bag of rewards and challenges. One of the most challenging—and important—parts of parenting an adolescent is figuring out how to respond and cope when your teenager rebels. Here are some suggestions.
Put teen rebellion in perspective.
Mark Twain is said to have advised that when a child turns 13, his parents should put him in a barrel, close the lid, and feed him through a hole in the side. Then, when he turns 16, plug up the hole.
I offer this quote not to advocate incarceration or starvation as a healthy response to teen rebellion, but to help you see that you’re not alone. In fact, cross-cultural research shows that there are two universals when it comes to teens: spending less time with their parents (and more time with peers), and doing things differently from their parents (teen rebellion!).
From a big-picture, evolutionary perspective, these two trends are extremely important for society. For one thing, spending more time with peers allows teenagers to Continue Reading »
Why can’t she think before she acts?
Why does he get so emotional so easily? It seems like he misinterprets everything I say and do.
How much freedom do I give her to decide how she spends her time?
How do I give him the skills he needs for meaningful relationships?
Do questions like these ever run through your mind? If so, you might be interested in hearing about some cutting-edge science on the adolescent brain that helps shed some light on these questions. Let me give you two “teen brain facts,” and then we’ll talk about how to apply that knowledge, so you can make good parenting decisions that will strengthen your relationship with your teenager, and help them become the best person they can be.
Teen Brain Fact #1: The adolescent brain is changing very rapidly.
Scientists have shown over the last couple of decades that the actual, physical makeup of the human brain changes throughout a human’s lifetime. And guess when the brain changes the most, aside from just after birth. That’s right: during adolescence.
To put it simply, a “blossoming” occurs during pre-adolescence (around age 11-14), when the brain is creating all kinds of new connections. But then, during the teenage years, a “use it or lose it” process takes over, and brain connections that aren’t being used are “pruned,” similar to the way a tree is pruned. By cutting back weak connections, the whole brain becomes stronger. What determines what gets cut and what stays? Experiences determine which brain connections survive and thrive, and which ones whither and eventually disappear. In fact, teenagers can lose neural connections at the rate of 30,000 per second.
Yes, you read that correctly. Your teen is losing 30,000 brain connections per second. You were right all along–they are actually losing their mind. But unlike everything in Texas, bigger isn’t necessarily better, or else the best brain functioning would occur at age 11 or 12. The brain is actually improved by taking away and pruning down unused connections, so that the more important and valuable ones can thrive. It’s about creating a leaner, meaner brain that’s faster and more efficient.
Teen Brain Fact #2: An important part of the brain is “off-line” during adolescence.
As if losing 30,000 brain cells per second weren’t enough, there’s another problem. Continue Reading »