The real reason why teenagers behave the way they do is because a teenager’s brain has all of the wires, but the wires are not connected properly yet. The good news is it won’t last forever, the bad news is it could last until they are in their mid 20s.
Scientifically, the brain’s remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions and this section of the brain also helps people understand one another. In teenagers the prefrontal cortex is still developing and often doesn’t finish until mid 20s.
Contrastingly, an area of the teenager’s brain that is fairly well-developed early on is the nucleus accumbens, or the area of the brain that seeks pleasure and reward. This then explains their crazy choices and behaviour at times.
So, what do parents do in the meantime?
1. Educate yourself.
2. Talk to your child about their changes due to puberty.
3. Pick your battles and make appropriate rules (bed time, curfews, chores).
4. Set expectations about grades, school, behaviour, appearance, family time etc.
5. Talk about sex and drugs and alcohol.
6. Know the warning signs extreme weight gain or loss, sleep problems, rapid, drastic changes in personality, sudden change in friends etc.
7. Respect their privacy, but also monitor what they see and read.