If you’ve ever heard a teenager utter the phrase, “No one understands what I’m going through”, for the most part they were correct. I say for the most part because unless you have a masters in physics or medical understanding of what happens in human development; you really don’t know what they’re going through.
As children we communicate based mostly on how we feel at the time for example, when we’re hungry or hurting or need to be changed. As we grow older our frontal lobe area begins to develop or mature and our communication abilities become more diverse. The frontal lobe area is our rational or logical decision making department of the brain. Here’s how Frances Jensen a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston explains it:
“It’s the part of the brain that says: ‘Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?’ ” Jensen says. “It’s not that they don’t have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they’re going to access it more slowly
This also may explain why teenagers often seem so maddeningly self-centered. “You think of them as these surly, rude, selfish people,” Jensen says. “Well, actually, that’s the developmental stage they’re at. They aren’t yet at that place where they’re thinking about — or capable, necessarily, of thinking about the effects of their behavior on other people. That requires insight.”
And insight requires — that’s right — a fully connected frontal lobe.
So, here are a few ways we currently manage the process of teen development.
- Yell at them for not being as smart as we are
- Ignore them and pray that it goes away
- Talk to them from our “wise” positions
- Punish them for it
How do they typically respond to this?
- Do poorly in school
- Turn to alcohol or drugs
Basically, anything to get away from the rejection, depression or negative feeling they may be experiencing at the time. These are all feelings based reactions. How we feel about things begins as a thought, once this thought is accepted it becomes a part of our subconscious behavior. We then act on what we “know” automatically.
Let’s say that a teenager commits a crime while acting based on their feelings at the time. He or she will be incarcerated with other like or worse minded individuals at one of the most suggestible times of their lives.
The Pew Center on the States has released a major new empirical study on recidivism rates among released prisoners. Bottom line: about 40 percent are returned to prison within three years of release. About half are returned for violations of parole conditions, and half for new convictions. Return-to-prison rates vary widely among the states, from 22.8 percent in Oregon to 61.2 percent in Minnesota. Wisconsin’s 46-percent rate is a little above the national average.
This means that roughly half of the people convicted of crimes in the US return to prison. This is a problem. Even if the person doesn’t return to prison; having a criminal record makes it extremely difficult to lead a productive life. This makes a life of crime more attractive and thereby increases the chances of a repeat offender… brilliant! I think prisons should play self improvement CDs over the loud speakers all day and all night. That alone would probably drop the crime rate in half. They’d either change or kill themselves to keep from having to hear anymore.
Let’s say a teenage girl get’s pregnant. Now in addition to her brain developing and all that comes along with that process, her hormones are about to start performing circus tricks. The child comes into the world under these circumstances and learns communication from someone who hasn’t quite grasped the concept herself… and the cycle continues.
This all comes back to that sneaky word suggestibility. Whatever you continually suggest to someone becomes real after a while. This doesn’t mean that if you say happy and positive things to your child often they will become good kids. Your child is not only picking up on what you say, they’re also learning how you say it. Your movements and gestures are all being recorded and this becomes what the child accepts as normal or correct. If your communication ability with others needs improvement, your child’s will too.
This is important because as a teenager expression is one the biggest priorities, if not the only one. Whether it’s through sex, introversion, acting out or simply leaving, a teenager is going to express him or herself. At the core, expression is only energy trying to find where it fits in on this grid of electricity called life.
Lastly, “proper” communication comes from listening and paying attention to nonverbal communication signals. Don’t simply listen to what is said, listen to what he or she is saying. “I want to go hang out with my friends”, could mean that you’re not spending enough time; or they could just want to go hang out with their friends…
Related articles : The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet www.npr.org, Major New Study on Recidivism Rates Shows Stability Over Time and Variation Among the States, http://law.marquette.edu