Parenting Teens

Why does my teen seem so irresponsible?

A Answers (1)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    The teenage brain isn't equipped to handle what seem like life's simplest decisions. Such as: Should you jump off the roof into a swimming pool? Hitch a ride with someone who's drunk? E-mail 10 people a picture of yourself wearing nada? Smart-mouth the teacher on the first day of school?

    The thing is, it's not the kid, it's the kid's brain. And although by age 9 or 10 that brain is the same size as yours, the self-regulatory centers -- the decision zones that govern judgment and impulsivity and should scream, "Hello?! You could break both your legs jumping off a roof!" -- are the last to reach maturity. That doesn't happen until age 24 (later for men). Result? The adolescent brain has adult-size pleasure and sensation centers without adult-level control. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

    So how do you keep your kids safe until age 24? Saying, "What were you thinking?" afterward doesn't work. Instead, you need to get them to practice a bit of delayed gratification. As in: You'll have more fun (be more popular, win more games, get along with the principal) if you don't go for the immediate gain (for example, being the center of attention for 5 seconds before breaking both legs).
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