When we were kids, my mom used to get upset when we said we were bored. It was almost like saying a bad word – “only boring people get bored,” my mom would say. Today I hear kids saying that all the time, and it annoys me. Well, this chapter reveals that for many teenagers, their brains actually register boredom for all but extremely exciting/exhilarating activities. For activities that excite the adult brain, they actually feel no response, or even a negative one. This is probably why teens often make impulsive, bad decisions that their parents are shocked about – their brains crave excitement. Experts try to teach teens how to combat boredom and how to be intrinsically motivated – I think we can do that too as parents.
This chapter is on teenage rebellion. It contains a lot of research on brain development, as well as a history of how the various psychological studies on teens and rebellion have contradicted each other, and why. There is too much to cover in a single blog post – I’ll only mention a couple more major points.
Remember Barbara Coloroso’s preference for “backbone” parents? Well it turns out she has scientific evidence to back her up – these parents are more likely to have solid relationships with their children through the teen years, are less likely to be lied to and rebelled against. These parents set rules for their children to follow, but are willing to discuss and negotiate with their teens, sometimes amending rules as they see fit. Children know this, and so they are less likely to lie or sneak.
Parents who do not set rules for their children (the “jellyfish parents”) are more likely to have rebellious teenagers. Sometimes overly-lenient parents try to avoid teen rebellion by giving into every whim and even allowing their children to do things that are clearly wrong. The teens get the idea that their parents do not care about them, so they tend to engage in more risky behavior. I once knew a fourteen-year-old girl whose parents allowed her to date and ultimately marry a 20-year-old man – they figured she was going to do it anyway, and so at least this way she would not be sneaking around. I always wondered about that parental decision.
Really strict households where rules are not negotiable under any circumstances DO tend to experience less teen rebellion. They also have more incidents of teen depression.
Oh, and many teenagers see arguing with their parents as a sign of respect. If parents listen to their children and are willing to negotiate, they might experience more arguments along the way, but their children will continue to communicate with them because they respect them and know that their opinions are heard.
Other posts about NurtureShock:
Post 1: NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Post 2: Your Brain is a Muscle
Post 3: Sleeping Makes Kids Smarter
Post 4: Race is a Tricky Topic
Post 5: Tattletails and Liars
Post 6: IQ Tests for Toddlers
Post 7: I Love My Sister
Post 8: Those Wacky Teenagers
Post 9: Learning Through Play
Post 10: Daddy, Hug Mommy Now
Post 11: I am Raising a Little Chatterbox