Any parent who has raised a teenager can tell you about waking up to a different attitude every day. Teenagers have a way of looking at the world from a very specific viewpoint, one that is not easily persuaded. This can make teaching and parenting them rather challenging. Teenagers are struggling with hormones, undeveloped brain chemistry, and a new sense of identity. It is best not to be too quick to judge their mental state, as many behaviors are normal, albeit challenging. Take into consideration the many physical changes that may contribute to teenage behavior.
Teenagers experience hormones in their system that were not present in their young lives. The main puberty-inducing hormone is gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). Once this is given off by the brain, the pituitary gland is awakened. This, in turn, releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). While these hormones are the same in both males and females, they accomplish different physical effects in each. Along with these hormones, there is also a mix of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Aside from the physical changes, hormones also wreak havoc on the emotions. This results in mood swings and impulse decisions. You may experience a happy, crying, and angry teen all in one day.
Teenagers are masters of disguise when it comes to their identity. Their style, favorite music, and friends may change often. Psychologically, teenagers have a lot of growing up to do. They are often torn between their childhood existence and the new possibilities available to them. You may notice that teenagers mimic the behavior of famous people or “popular” people at school. As they begin to form their new identity, they may feel very strongly about aspects of their beliefs. This can result in the shunning of people that were once good friends. They cannot quite make peace with the fact that you can have differences and still be friends. They have strong ideals and feel that to truly be themselves, they must reject those that oppose them. These reasoning skills come later as the brain develops and more of life has been experienced.
Power struggles happen mostly with parents and other authority figures. This is a natural part of the separation of parent and child. This shows that a teenager is preparing to leave the nest. For parents, this is often the most difficult part. Teenagers become rude, disobedient, and all-around difficult. As teenagers begin to take on more responsibility, such as getting job and driving, they feel like more of an adult. This can lead to feelings of superiority, initiating a conflict with their parents. It is important to remind them of their place in the home and continue teaching respect to adults. They may not see the value in this until much later, however.
Risky Behavior and Social Interactions
Teenagers may not be able to discern the long-term effects of drug use or the consequences of other risky behavior. Teens may drive too fast, hang out with unsafe people, and shun safety measures in many situations. The part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control is still underdeveloped. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain in question. This remains in a state of change until the mid-twenties. Many people report seeing a major change in their children around this time.
The frontal lobe connects to the rest of the brain just like in adult brains; however, the connections are not formed well. The coating on the nerve cells (myelin), is in short supply. This matter insulates them, making a smooth and swift connection in the adult brain. In the teenage brain, the right answers to behavior in questionable situations may come too late. This also affects how teenagers treat other people. Proper connections in the frontal lobe also help adults to predict how their behavior has an impact on another person. Teenagers are more focused on themselves, and often seem aloof when it comes to the feelings of others.
This can, obviously, lead to drama in their relationships during this time.
High-Speed Learning and Addiction
Young minds are made for learning. While the frontal lobe connections may need work, other parts of the brain are helping to form habits quickly. Think about how easily little kids learn new languages an academic concepts. These are very formative years. The brain, at this stage, is easily excited to prepare for learning. It forms new connections with every new situation. The brain is made to be very reactive to stimulation from the environment. This is why it is a good idea to provide young kids with many opportunities to learn. This starts to slow down a little as they age, however habits still form very quickly.
Addiction is the brain’s way of “learning” a behavior. Teenagers that start drug and alcohol use may be addicted for many years.
The teenage years are often dreaded by parents. In an attempt to keep the peace, many parents give in to poor behavior further contributing to the discrepancies. Teens experience many behavior changes due to hormones, psychological changes, and their underdeveloped brains. Regular enforcement of rules and expectations can help to keep them focused. Many things, however, may not change until they are well into their twenties. This is when the brain is thought to become fully developed. The teenage years come with many behavioral challenges. Perhaps a better understanding of their physical development at this stage would help many parents cope in a positive way.