Many parents really don’t understand why their teenagers sometimes behave in an impulsive, irrational, or dangerous way. There’s a single word explanation though and that’s BIOLOGY.
It’s an undisputed fact that a teenage brain functions very differently than an adult’s brain’, especially when it comes to decision making or solving problems. Teenagers and their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive Amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex part of the brain. In short, the area of the brain that manages self awareness, organisation and emotional control is still a work in progress and sometimes won’t be fully developed until the mid 20’s.
What is the Amygdala and how does it impact our teenager’s brain?
The amygdala is the specific region of our brain that is responsible for immediate reactions and for emotions like fear and aggressive behaviour. This section of the brain develops early and you can think of it in terms of “fight” or “flight”.
On the other hand, the frontal cortex is the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, and yep, it develops later. This part of the brain is still changing and maturing… usually the process takes well into adulthood.
Of course that’s a simplified explanation of the biology, but I hope it explains why it sometimes seems your teen doesn’t think things through carefully or fully consider potential consequences before they leap into action.
I have witnessed this many times, with teens who are honestly at a loss to explain their impulsive response to a situation when they’ve been asked to reflect. “I don’t know why I did it…. I just did”
Teens make potentially life-altering decisions every single day, yet many of them haven’t really mastered decision-making skills and aren’t fully equipped to make healthy decisions.
Now, this is where our role as parent steps in.
Assisting your teen with their decision-making skills can help them manage their stress levels better and set them up for success later in life.
Now, if you’re curious about how can help your teen make better decisions in life…. without annoying the hell out of them…… let’s talk about it now.
Provide Guidance But Don’t Tell Them What To Do
The key to helping your teen make their best decisions involves providing plenty of guidance, without giving them directives.Telling them what to do and how to do it risks damaging your relationship and is likely to backfire. Be willing to give or share some advice if needed, but don’t be afraid to step back and let your teen make mistakes…. It’s part of their journey.
Many parents fret about their teen making mistakes, but try not to worry as they’ll gain valuable life lessons. Just make sure you’re available if they need your support and reassurance. Remind them each mistake is a learning experience and will help them make better choices in the future.
Identify Any Problem Before It Gets Really Big
Sometimes, teens ignore problems or attempt to blame others for them. They might even be too anxious to face the reality of a problem they’ve been avoiding. It’s impossible for them to learn better decision making around a problem they’re determined to avoid. Facing fears and confronting uncomfortable situations are all part of growing into adulthood.
So what can you do? You can help your teen work through the situation and identify the specific issue. Asking them questions to dig deeper can help your teen spell out the problem that needs resolving without all of the sideline issues.
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Support Them To Come Up With Several Solutions
Encourage your teen to identify their available courses of actions and/or solutions to deal with a problem.
Often, teens will think there are only one or two solutions to a problem – and they’ll rarely like either option! But with some time, encouragement and of course your help, they can usually come up with a long list of creative and more appealing solutions.
Once your teen has a decent list of options, encourage them to identify the potential pros and cons of each. Writing these down will help them determine which options offer the best solutions and becomes a lesson in tackling a problem with logic over emotion.
Ask your teen to identify their final choice based on which seems the best of the brainstormed solutions. Offer input and guidance as necessary, but try to encourage your teen to make the decision on their own.
Move Forward By Sticking To The Decision And Plan
Once your teen has reviewed the pros and cons of their options, talk about how to move forward with the decision and plan.
Discuss how they can implement their choice and identify what steps they’ll need take in doing so. That then becomes their action plan and BOOM they’ve done a great job at developing their decision making skills.
Reflecting on their decision and the process they’ve taken to reach it, is important too. Examining whether their choice was effective can help them learn and will surely assist them to make even better decisions in the future.
Have you checked out the CRASH PARENTING Workbook yet? It’s a simple, yet effective, 20 page PDF to support you parenting your teen with a focus on these crucial pillars – consistency, accountability, respect, safety and humour. Only a small investment that could make a very big difference!
Ohhh, btw. are you a member of our closed and confidential FACEBOOK GROUP? It’s a cool place to hang out where parents of teens – just like you – connect privately to support each other. You’ll love it!