Understanding Teenagers

What are they thinking? – Inside the Teenage Brain

It’s been said that “raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree.” Parents sometimes wonder how they survive the teenage years, and it can be a stressful time for the teens as well. It’s important for parents to know that efforts to “build bridges” with their teens during this sometimes turbulent time, will go far to strengthen the relationship and bond.

Recent scientific research into brain development in teenagers has revealed remarkable information that parents will find valuable in helping to understand many of the sometimes challenging behaviors of teens. The teenage brain operates mostly in the brain’s limbic system, which is the emotional part of the brain, which controls mood and impulse. A teen’s pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) is under construction for most of the teenage years, which can explain some of the confusing decision making that parents see from teens. In his book, Yes Your Teen is Crazy, author Michael J. Bradley discusses the massive structural changes in the teenage brain and how those changes affect behavior.

But understanding what’s happening in the teenage brain does not excuse many of the behaviors that most challenge parents. From school obligations, driving, dating, awareness of alcohol and drugs, and so many more of the issues facing teens, parents need to have the proper tools to handle these impressionable years. One-on-one guidance is available. If you want more information on how to better understand your teenager and effective ways of handling him or her.

Michael J. Bradley, a psychologist drawing on current brain research, argues that teenagers are “basically nuts”. While 95 percent of the brain develops in early childhood, the most advanced parts aren’t completed until adolescence is nearly over. As a result, teens can appear unstable, dysfunctional and unpredictable, with temporarily impaired judgment and decision-making processes. In the book, “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy”, Bradley argues, contemporary culture further challenges teens’ thinking capabilities; the prevalence of sex, drugs and violence makes the teen’s job of cognitive balancing even more precarious.

The good news is that parents do make a difference, and Bradley clearly explains how parents can encourage and guide their kids through these tumultuous years. Stressing that teens are still “children,” Bradley encourages parents to respond like “dispassionate cops,” teaching and remaining calm even when teens behave outrageously. While Bradley’s prose which he admits might be shocking and offensive at times may be initially off-putting to some, the book is compelling, lively and realistic.

Using crisp, believable anecdotes that are alternately poignant and hysterically funny (while avoiding generic examples, jargon or psychobabble), Bradley homes in on real-life scenarios, showing parents, for instance, how to respond when their teen is “raging,” and how to set curfews and limits. Bradley draws a vivid picture of what the teen is going through, and gives parents the tools to tackle contemporary issues together. An invaluable parachute to parents diving into the teen years.

The field of neuroscience is continually churning out exciting discoveries that help us better understand the human brain. Observing the brain while in action provides rich information on the behavior of teenagers giving us insight into their emotional and cognitive state.

“Parenting the Teenage Brain” combines research from neuroscience and psychology along with a heavy dose of common sense and humor to offer parents important strategies to support and guide their teenager.

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