Raising teenagers can be an incredibly difficult job for adults, especially when they often seem to behave strangely. One workshop I conduct frequently for parents of older children is titled, YES, YOUR TEEN IS CRAZY. I rarely have trouble filling the seats for that one. Actually, the title is true. Teens ARE crazy because the structure of their brains is changing drastically during the adolescent years.
With that said, there are some truths about teenagers that many parents need to be reminded of. Once we accept these truths and then use the information to alter how we handle our teens, it can change everything. So here are eight (of many) truths about teenagers that parents must be aware of.
They Lie – Daytime Emmy Award winner, Judith Sheindlin, star of the daytime show JUDGE JUDY, is often heard saying, “If a teenager’s mouth is moving, they’re lying,” and in a way, she’s right. Teenagers lie and so do children. If you catch your teen in a lie, do not over react and don’t think you can rid them of the habit through punishment or yelling. Work on your relationship with your teen and as a result, they will tell the truth more often.
Judgment is a Weakness – Having the ability to plan things out or think ahead requires full use of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, one region that is not fully developed until about age 25. This means that teens still need their parents to create boundaries, rules and limitations to help keep them safe and to make smart decisions.
Parent Allergy – Psychologist Dr. Anthony Wolf, wrote about this extensively in his book Get Out of My Life: But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? Because teens need to shed their memory and perception that they were once a baby, they are in essence shedding their parents as well. That’s why they will tell you they’re embarrassed by you, annoyed with you, and don’t like spending time with you. Relax, it’ll pass.
Imaginary Audience – Psychologist David Elkind published his findings in the 1970’s, that adolescents believe everyone is watching them and noticing the finest details about them. That’s why you’ll notice them freaking out about the smallest, newest pimple or changing outfits multiple times per day.
Decisions Based on Emotion – Teens are emotional creatures and therefore think and react based on how they are thinking at the time. This means they need supervision and opportunities to have someone other than their parents to talk things out with to bring situations into perspective.
They Crave Privacy – Based on issues with their development stage, they will do or say anything they can to convince their caregivers to give them space and privacy. Because the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for planning and thinking things through, isn’t fully developed, caregivers must give them privacy within reason. That means monitoring or supervising are required in some capacity.
Immortal – So they think they are, anyway. No matter how many times they hear news stories of their peers committing suicide or dying in accidents, they still believe that it will never happen to them. Take a look at the video games they are playing; totally realistic destruction that desensitizes them from reality. For this reason alone, we caregivers must keep their safety in mind, first and foremost, when granting freedom and setting up boundaries.
Circadian Rhythm Change – Finally, a change occurs in their circadian cycle that causes them to get sleepy later and wake up later. This means that your teen is likely to be up late at night in his or her room, well after you’ve gone to bed. Removing video games, televisions and Internet enable devices from their bedrooms increases their safety and cuts down on the distractions that keep them up late at night. The problem also creates the issue of them not able to wake up on time for school.