Following the Adolescent Mind

Earlier this week I blogged “What were you THINKING!?!”, concerning adult reaction when older children make poor decisions.   A news report concerning adolescents taking selfies on active railroad tracks, encouraged me to continue on this topic.  In the last year over 500 deaths on railroad tracks have been reported.  One of the issues is the adolescent attraction to thrills.  Of course, it was mentioned the influence of music videos and movies.  But we must also look at the physiological development of children and adolescents.

Neuroeducation.com states that by adolescence the brain is full size but is making many organizational changes:

“At this point in development the brain has to decide what’s needed, what’s not, and how to become the most efficient. In order to do this the adolescent brain has to undergo synaptic pruning, in which useful neural connections are kept and less useful connections wither away. One important area of reorganization is in the prefrontal cortex that handles abstract cognitive abilities as well as impulse control.”

Research has shown that the brains of children mainly focus on visual processing and slowly begin to develop in planning and impulse control, a process which isn’t complete until adult maturity.  The adults who are involved with children and teens must keep in mind that the brain function does not keep up with the physical growth on the outside.  To know what is going on in that brain, parents and other loving adults must become very good listeners.  Stephen Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the  intent to reply.”  An adolescent’s adults must listen to them with intent to understand, and often to ‘read between the lines’  throughout the conversation to ascertain what they really want  to be known.   Often you need to restate what you heard for clarification as what you hear is not always what they are trying to say.    They do not want to know what you think, they want you to know what they think.  When you stop listening, they stop speaking, when they stop speaking, there is no communication.   listening to hear

Observation of  adolescents shows they are a whirlwind of brain activity in short spaces of time.  They can be a wealth of knowledge one moment, have the enthusiasm of a  puppy, interest in topics far beyond their years, or want to spend the day watching cartoons.  It is normal!  Expect them to behave like children, be grateful when they act maturely showing signs of brain growth, prepare them as best you can for the decisions that they may have to make when you aren’t around, and love them no matter what.   listening with intent

C. Beth Hoffman M.Ed, author of My Loving Self and Me

What Were You THINKING!?!

Making wise choices comes about from experiences and practice as well as maturation.  In any situation, children see what they are focusing on.  It is only with growth and lessons learned that they begin to realize that there are consequences to every action.  They are usually as surprised as anyone else when things don’t go the way they pictured them in their head.  Being allowed to make their own decisions in a risk free situations encourages them to expand on the possibilities.  My granddaughter has said more than once, “I didn’t see that one coming.”  In reality, adults don’t either sometimes.  Not doing it again in that exact way is a learned lesson.

Actions, whether judged to be good or bad are best handled with a true, calm, question about the process of their thinking.  What were the steps?  Did you think that it might not go as planned?  Was there a risk and was the outcome worth it?  Discussion with children builds their self esteem and courage, reducing stress with decision making.

Teach Kids How,  a website for parents,  lists activities for teaching children early about making choices.  It must be a continuous process for them to become confident.

 

But  too often, a child’s mistakes have an impact on the parent.  Their behavior or choice may be an embarrassment.  It may cause more effort or work when their plate was already full.  They look at the child incredulously and ask in a questioning voice, “What were you THINKING!?!” Although it may sound like a question it really isn’t.  The parent probably is not in the mood to hear the answer.  The question is really a statement that says to the child, “You were not thinking at all.”  It is not a question but a condemnation of self.  mental abuseMany parents heard something similar when they were growing up.  “Are you crazy??” or “What are you? Stupid?” come to mind.  Past generations were not immune to this kind of questioning.  Many were raised this way as well and only through self reflection as parents will they realize it did not have a positive impact on them, either.  Children develop a fear of making decisions when their choices are wrong.  It becomes easier to say, “I don’t know.”

Karen Stephens contributing writer to childhoodexchange.com in her article, ‘Parents Are Powerful role Models for Children“, says “Being a positive role model requires fore-thought and self control. Today we talk a lot about disciplining our children. We parents need to put an equal emphasis on disciplining ourselves.”

Parenting must come from the heart to raise children who are confident, caring and loving.  Teach them to love themselves by loving, respecting and caring for yourself.  “Do as I say, not as I do.” was resented by every child who ever heard it.  It won’t work on your child either.  Don’t raise your children as you were raised without forethought as to how it affected you.  Keep the best learning experiences and discover new ways to interact with your child where you  were not positively affected by the lesson.  Structure and discipline can always come from love.

 

Understanding One Another

images0ET2QGJ4I recently wrote a story entitled “Miss Misunderstood” to address the pre-teen dilemma of feeling “no one gets me”. With this on my mind, many things that I observed fit into the same category making it clear, that it isn’t an issue limited to preteens and teens. Perhaps they react more vocally than other age groups, or perhaps for the first time they are feeling a disconnect with a parent. But  they definitely are having a hard time with something.

I had a conversation with a mother concerned about her child’s success in school. nosiyHis kindergarten teacher told her that he was one of the best and brightest students in her class. But he had just finished an optional summer school program and that teacher’s report was that he can’t stay focused, is easily distracted and doesn’t complete tasks. Obviously she was concerned that the two reports were so far apart. Before I could form a thought, the six year joined the conversation and very calmly told us that he couldn’t concentrate because it was too noisy. He was more interested in what the boys were doing and saying that was funny, than the paper in front of him. Without an understanding of the setting in the classroom, the description creates a judgment of the child that is if not inaccurate, certainly incomplete. He understood that what his mother was being told was different than his truth.

This happens all the time, doesn’t it? Judgments are made and voiced based on limited perspective. The teacher in this case had a class that was less structured and if that is her norm, doesn’t see that as anything unusual, where for the child, it may have been his first experience in that setting. When we make judgments in everyday life, and we do it all the time, the same thing happens. We are judging one another from our own perspective with a disregard for the situation of the other. Sometimes adults are strong enough in their own self-worth to stop us in our tracks and tell us that that was an unfair assessment, but too often, they leave hurt and holding a grudge or just plain angry.

Pre-teens and teens see the unfairness immediately. If you the parent are the culprit, they can’t avoid the situation and either let it all out or run away. Parents see tween behavior in black and white. I asked you to do this. You didn’t. You chose to disrespect me. The truth is they may have forgotten, and not out of disrespect.imagesIUHK70WV There is so much going on in their heads as they begin to mature. They can’t always prioritize and remember. Something fun and entertaining, or on the other side something devastating comes up and regardless of their intention to follow through with what they began, it doesn’t happen. Isn’t that why adults make lists? For the most part what is on an adult list can be put off until tomorrow and yet children aren’t afforded the same flexibility. And they are blamed for choosing to ignore their responsibilities. They feel misunderstood.

As a school administrator, I met with many parents, teachers and children. Often the discussion evolved around understanding perspective. Everyone has their own perspective and for them that is their truth. In any relationship, understanding comes from being willing and able to see things from the other’s perspective. 10519659_10152640477383628_8988237184025393490_nAll children from birth on, need this understanding to grow, and to learn to do the same with others. Seeing things from their perspective and explaining your perspective to them is valuable at any age. “Because I said so!” didn’t work when your parents said it to you and it doesn’t work now. Aha Parenting.com has a section for all age groups including school age, tween and early teens with many worthwhile articles on this and many other topics written to aid parents in navigating the route to successful, happy, secure children.

About the Author

11115609_10204369689187957_9074883143868021693_oC. Beth Hoffman has a master’s degree in education, and after more than thirty years as a teacher and administrator in New Jersey public schools, she is now retired, giving her time to pursue interests in angels, energy healing and living from the heart. She has studied Reiki, IET (integrated energy therapy), angel therapy, and Magnified Healing. She and her husband reside in the Lake Wallenpaupack area of the Poconos in Pennsylvania where they are blessed to spend time with their grandchildren, one of the inspirations for this book.