- Their reactions are not necessarily a bad attitude, character flaw, manipulation or rebellion.
- It is likely they are really forgetting their homework and chores
- They are as confused by their behavior as you are
The onset of adolescence occurs 18 months prior to puberty or as early as age 8 or 9. When your child’s hormones that lead to adult maturity are beginning the stages of growth, the adolescent brain enters a development phase that decreases activity in the frontal lobe of the brain. When this occurs, the changes that parents see in their children are very significant. These behaviors are very frustrating to the parents let alone the child. These three things will help you understand the changes in your adolescent:
1. Their reactions are not necessarily a bad attitude, character flaw, manipulation or rebellion
Emotional regulation happens in the frontal lobe of the brain. Given the decrease in activity, our children will become more sensitive, especially to things that have bothered them in the past, but have not been addressed by them with their parents. As a result, any minor thing we say or do may result in a major reaction and a period of brooding that can lead us to the conclusion that our child is selfish, has a bad attitude or has become rebellious. Rather than jumping to these conclusions, an overreaction by your child presents a great opportunity to get below the surface with your adolescent to explore what is going on the inside. This requires a relationship and level of trust between us and our children. Talk through and ask about different situations with your child, so they can figure out a course of action when going through this. With this they will answer these deeper questions and allow us access to the emotional cauldron that I find exists within the majority of adolescents.
2. It is likely they are really forgetting their homework and chores
Given that short-term memory resides in the front lobe of the brain, when our children forget the things we told them minutes before, it is likely not a dodge. This is the reason so many children struggle to remember homework and the things we ask them to do. Instead of becoming frustrated and saying things that damage the relationship or punishing them because they keep forgetting, try to understand as they probably did forget.
Here are some ways to help cement the things we ask into their changing brains. First, do not simply tell them what to do. Ask them what they heard you say, so that they repeat it back to you. The act of repeating it helps anchor the thought in the brain.
Another point is to help them establish a routine where they record their own schedule and review and revise it daily. Have fun spending time writing out daily routines for school mornings, mealtime, bath time, bedtime, housework, hellos and goodbyes. While schools provide planners for children, few students use them, nor have the basic skills to use them effectively. Having worked for Franklin Covey and taught time management workshops, here is a thought that helps young people engage with using a planner, “Parking your mental traffic.” Explain that school can be like a highway at rush hour. All these cars, the assignments, activities and things they need to do enter the highway and get tangled up. When we keep these thoughts running around in our heads it causes congestion, and produces stress and anxiety. When we write things down it removes that item from the traffic jam in our heads. This process will help with the confusing and it is far easier to write things down and look at the planner twice a day and update it, then to have all this traffic running around in our heads 24/7.
We need to help our children understand the reality of the adolescent brain and come alongside them to help them develop a way to succeed instead of becoming frustrated or taking their phone to try to get children to perform. When we make this change things will improve, our children will learn new skills that will help them compensate today and succeed in the future.
3. They are as confused about their behavior as you are.
Often when parents do not understand the adolescent brain changes, they become worried and frustrated by the changes in their kids’ behavior. This is very normal to come to these conclusions. These changes result from the unused connections in the thinking and processing part of the frontal lobe of the brain. The process causes these behaviors to become very frustrating. In discussions with the parents and adolescents that I coach, I find when parents push on these issues it creates a sense of negativity in adolescents about themselves. In my coaching sessions I find that our children are as concerned about the behavior changes as their parents are, but parents rarely stop to ask questions and come to understand how their children are feeling about their lapses. As result, many adolescents have concluded that there is something wrong with them, because they do not understand why they are reacting, arguing and forgetting things either. When I share the reality of the adolescent brain they are relieved. Many openly share that they were convinced something was wrong with them that would last the rest of their lives.
As our kids approach adolescence, we need to understand the changes occurring in their brains and adjust our approach to parenting. We need to have a relationship with our children that allows us access to come alongside our child, have deeper discussions and establish a platform to help them develop strategies to compensate for the change. You and your children can have the relationship you are longing for. Revive Family has developed a program for parents of 6 to 18 year olds that is making a world of difference for parents and their children called the Secrets of Influential Parenting. Watch the first two sessions for free today!