You hear it all the time. “Kid’s these days.” or “I just don’t get teenagers.” There’s a myth that our teenagers are becoming more and more selfish and entitled. In reality, however, adolescence is nothing new. William Shakespeare wrote of the craziness of the teen years in The Winters Tale,
I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting.
Teenagers of “the good ol’ days,” while they may have had jobs earlier in life or were thrown into battle before they could legally buy a beer, were still teenagers and dealt with the same issues as our kids do these days. The issues may be highlighted these days by the availability of technology and the hyper-connectedness of our culture. Young people have the entire world at their fingertips and can have face to face type interactions with anyone from anywhere. This is what is new and some recent studies in neuroscience have shed light on some of the biological reasons for a teen’s selfishness, risk taking, and lack of self control. Watch this Ted Talk from neuroscientist Sarah Jayne Blackmore.
What Parents Should Know
You, most of all, should be encouraged that your teen is just like every other teen. Their outbursts and seeming lack of responsibility is largely based on biological reasons. They aren’t stupid or handicapped, they are developing and this affects their behavior, especially online. A book by David Walsh called Why Do They Act That Way? reminds parents of the “use it of lose it” factor of brain development.
During development your brain synapses are growing and they literally have to connect to each other in order for you to learn something. During the development of adolescence if you are not guided into proper choices the synapses in your brain will never connect. This means you could struggle with those types of decisions for the rest of your life. With the advent of social media and our dependency on screens for entertainment this necessity for guidance in healthy behaviour is even more evident.
When your son or daughter tells you that they want a smart phone because all the other kids have one, this is an opportunity to help their brain develop a proper attitude. When your 13-year-old son has been watching YouTube videos for six hours a day setting time limits on your Wi-Fi is helping him practice self-control. When your daughter received a message from somebody she doesn’t know and you see it on your monitoring app and immediately tell her to block that person you’re teaching her how to make good decisions.
Let this post encourage you. You are the mom or dad, and it’s up to you to help your young adult grow to be a contributing member of society. Their biology can get in the way but your guidance can show them how to make the right decisions. Hang in there, keep doing the hard stuff, we’ll keep giving you the info you need.