Your Teenager Is Not Done Yet
Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
When children become adolescents, many parents watch baffled as their formerly loving, calm, responsible child turn into someone they don’t recognize. The changes may be subtle at first but soon the streaked haired, weird clothed, sulking and sullen alien stands before their eyes. Some teens engage in risky behaviors that can ruin their lives forever (Diving too fast, driving while texting, and having unprotected sex come to mind). It’s painful to watch and even more difficult to abide. Some parents report that their teen,(seemingly overnight) became maddeningly self-centered, rude, selfish, and, a pompous know-it-all whom they can no longer reach no matter how hard they try.
Faced with these challenges, many parents resort to yelling, punishing and cajoling the teen in an effort to make their teen listen and take heed to their teaching. But it doesn’t work.
Yelling has many major draw-backs. 1. It makes things spiral of control. 2. It makes it harder for the teen to hear what you want them to learn. 3. Yelling causes painful feeling that may fuel behavioral problems. 4. Those behavior problems led parents to increase their verbal abuse and escalate the cycle. 5. Anything parents do to berate or shame their teen it erodes the power they have.
According Dr. Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor in the departments of education and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh “Yelling can prove toxic for young teens. Adolescence is a very sensitive period. Teens are trying to develop their sense of self. When you yell, it hurts their self image. Yelling, cursing or lobbing insults, such as calling teens lazy or stupid makes them feel they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless.”
According to Timothy Verduin, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone and co-author of the study with Dr. Ming-Te Wang, “Parents who yell at their adolescents for misbehaving risk causing depression and further aggressive behavior. Shouting cannot reduce or correct their problem behavior," On the contrary, it makes it worse."
Dr. Jensen, in her work researching the human brain found that the behavior is a matter of inadequate brain development. She says "Well, actually, that's the developmental stage. They aren't yet at that place where they're thinking about — or capable, necessarily, of thinking about the effects of their behavior has on other people. That requires insight.”
Teen brains are not fully connected. The nerve cells in the frontal lobes are sluggish because teenagers don't have as much of the fatty coating called myelin, or “white matter” in that area. The brain's "white matter" enables nerve signals to flow freely between different parts of the brain. In teenagers, the frontal lobes (the part that governs judgment) is the last to fully connect. It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they access it more slowly."
Because we can’t see the brain, most of us have little appreciation for how it affects our behavior when in fact, it is the little computer that controls everything we do, experience, think, and feel.
So, what’s a parent to do?
1. You can’t always control my teens’ actions, but you can control your reaction. Walk away and take a breather. It won’t do as much damage as yelling.
2. According to Dr. Timothy Verduin “Parents can discipline teens by taking away privileges, such as screen time or the car keys make sure you do it without attaching a ton of critical, punitive, insulting language to it."
3. Remember that teens are people too. Like all people, they have good days and bad days. Some days things go well for them while on other days, things are difficult. When things are difficult, yelling doesn’t help, and like all people, they don’t like to be yelled at.
4. Incredible moments can happen when you don’t yell. So give it a try.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a private Clinical in Springfield for more than 40 years. She lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles.