If They Only Had a Brain…

When my kids were toddlers, I was told to make note of how they acted because it would be coming back to me in the form of teenagers. I figured if I could handle it once, I could do it again. The only problem with that is trying to tell a boy who is now taller than I am to go sit in time out. But… still, we persevere. Thinking surely it will get better in a year or so.

And yet, a dear friend of mine tells me the problem is that my children don’t have brains. No, really. Apparently, the pre-frontal cortex of the teenage brain is itty bitty. Okay, undeveloped, at least. The National Institute of Mental Health calls it a work in progress. If you don’t know what the front of your brain controls, think higher level decision making, social behavior, judgement. That explains the mood swings, over reactions, and the slaps to the forehead followed by “Doh!” whenever something profoundly stupid is done.

And here I am encouraging my brainless boy to finish up his first lessons so he can go get his driver’s permit. What am I thinking? What are we thinking as a society? Let’s give underdeveloped brains the keys to a 2,000 plus pound vehicle with the ability to travel at 80 plus miles per hour.

Case in point: I delivered a meal to a new family out in the ‘burbs last evening. The sweet little girl was “throwing” a soccer ball to her dad in the front yard. She would pick it up, toddle over to him and hurl it right at his feet. She was so cute. Now, flash forward 15 years and there was a sweet little daddy’s girl driving a car stuffed full of more girls sitting on each others laps and weaving in and out of traffic. I saw them coming up behind me on the highway as I headed home. I thought “Wow. Please God, protect them.” And then I saw the oversized pickup truck jammed full of boys swerving in and out of traffic, trying to catch the car full of girls. Once they passed me I watched brake lights ahead of me as other motorists tried to avoid getting hit. Maybe what I should pray is, “Please God, give them brains. Now!”

The problem is that the prefrontal cortex area of the brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s. There is nothing quick about that. But it does explain my friends who tell me to just wait until my kids go off to college. That is where they will realize how much they love and miss me and will turn into normal human beings. Yeah, because that’s when their brain is finally done cooking.

But, until then, it just makes me more aware of how diligent we must be as parents (or adults who work with youth) to help teens filter and understand their choices and the consequences of those choices. It’s not nagging if they really can’t get it the first five times we say it. It’s repetitive reinforcement. And if that reinforcement comes with a bribe, oops, reward, then all the better.  The HowStuffWorks folks over at Discovery have explained that when offered rewards, teenagers display stronger responses than children or adults.It can be a bad thing if those rewards are drugs or alcohol that the teen seeks out for him or herself. But, I’m sure we parents and adults can be more creative than that.

What ways are you being creative in raising or working with teens?


5 comments on “If They Only Had a Brain…

  1. Like this, even though it scares me! I’m sure I read somewhere recently that when you put teenage boys in a car, you have to start dividing the number of brains. For example – one teenage boy, one brain. Two teenage boys, half a brain. Three teenage boys, one third of a brain, and so on. Speaking as an ex-teenage boy driver, I think that’s spot on.

  2. Oh, Damian. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or lock myself in the bathroom for the next several years. Maybe a bit of all of those in brief spurts.

  3. Love the log line, Michele. Speaking as the parent of one 27 year old daughter and a 22 year old daughter I think it depends on the kid. The 27 year old had brainless moments but they were few and far between. So she must have developed early cause if there were more brainless activities then she had brains enough not to let me find out. The 22 year old, well she has a few more years to go. Patience and remembering she’s basically a good kid helps a lot. And prayers. Lots of prayers. Lol.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement Angela. You are right, it does depend on the kid. And the day. And the time of day. 🙂 And they are good kids, which is why the brainless moments come as such a shock. I’m thinking, Really? Did you just do that?

  4. Diane Combs says:

    After spending 7 hours a day with teenagers (mostly boys) this is so true it is scarey. Although girls are also just as short-sighted and brainless. Believe me, more than once a day I think (sometimes out loud) of that Ferris Bueller line ” I weep for the future. “

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s