I just finished a book called “Why Do They Act That Way” by David Walsh, PhD. Its a book about what recent neuroscience tells us about the adolescent brain. I listened to it while doing some yard work for a family friend and the work seemed to go by so fast because this book captivated me. Part of it was the narcissistic joy I get from someone backing up things I’ve said for years with science. Things like “teenagers are 10% logical and 90% emotional.” Turns out recent studies prove that the part of the brain that uses logic to make decisions and solve problems isn’t as active in the adolescent. HA! I knew it! I also said that teens shouldn’t be trusted with romantic relationships as they just aren’t ready, for some reason, to make good choices when emotion is involved. Well, look at that, there’s evidence to show that during the first three months of a romantic relationship the adolescent brain is releasing too much of a pleasure causing chemical to make any sort of quality decisions about said relationship. It’s pretty awesome being right. Then, however, I started thinking more about myself and my kids.
Dr. Walsh really dives in to how parents should respond to changes in the adolescent brain and what the science actually can do to help us. I thought a lot about how I handle my own kids. I realized that my brain is only recently done developing as I’m only 31 and the estimated age of full growth is considered to be around 28. I thought about how I was as a teenager and saw the future I could face with my own children. These thoughts caused me to make myself a couple of promises. Maybe you should consider these same things:
1. I will not allow my kids to be or do something at 5 that won’t be ok at 15.
How quickly the annoyingly adorable tantrum turns into a knock down drag out ten years later. I must allow my children to grow up knowing how to handle their emotions and decisions. I can teach my son (7 currently) that it’s better to live in peace than to argue to prove you’re right all the time. I can help my daughter (now 3) understand that running off and pouting will not get her what she wants just like her sister (5) doesn’t get her way from the fits she throws. It’s important to see the future. To understand where your child’s behavior is headed and give yourself a head start on those teenage tantrums and battles. The fights will still come, but just maybe they’ll come from a place that still understands how express yourself without losing your mind.
2. I will not allow my own selfishness or lack of motivation keep me from teaching my kids.
A major theme in the book is the fact that the neuro interceptors grow during “windows of opportunity” that can expire. It’s possible, if not helped through the process, that when our kids are most able to learn certain behavioral and social lessons they can miss the boat. I think about young people who seem to have trouble getting life going once they are done with their teen years. How often were these young people catered to, babied, or left to their own when they were younger?Now we wonder why they can’t seem to be motivated to move forward in life. Is it possible that during the time when their brain was needing lessons for growing and moving forward they weren’t nurtured by their parents and/or other adults who should have been there for them? I say it’s entirely possible.
While my kids are young I can’t make a habit of ignoring their needs because I’m so preoccupied with my own. I am committing to be who my children need me to be. I will stand in when they need someone to be their pre-frontal cortex to make the right decisions. I will model correct social behavior and proper life decision making and teach them along the way.
I reccomend Dr. Walsh’s book tremendously. I found the audiobook on my local library’s online downloadable service. It should be just as easy for you. Or go buy it on amazon HERE.
Don’t just listen to or read “Why Do They Act That Way.” Let it cause you to ask yourself some questions and make yourself some promises. In fact:
What are a couple of promises you’ve made yourself when it comes to raising your children?
What are some things you’ve seen in your kid you don’t want to see them do when they’re teens? (Besides the obvious i.e. wetting the bed)
Let’s start a conversation in the comments below! Also, please use the buttons below to share this post. The more parents start taking their children’s development seriously the sooner our world begins to change for the better.
Author: Michael Prince
Michael Prince co-authored “What’s in Your Pocket? A parent’s guide to protecting your children online.” with his wife Melinda. They have four kids and live in an RV anywhere in the USA they see the need for an internet safety expert. Michael is leading the conversation in the American Church about family online security. He and Melinda founded BecauseFamily, a ministry that exists to inspire and equip parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children, in 2013. Michael is also a geek and loves Star Wars, Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and strategy board games.