Passionate About the Community
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Teenager Brains Got Me Thinking

Recently, another mom friend and I were sharing daughter war stories. She told me about her daughter’s choice to wear pajamas to school one day. She couldn’t convince her that slippers would get ruined in the rain. Her daughter yelled and stomped her feet and had to be physically carried to the car, where she proceeded to scream all the way to school.

I shared that my daughter also wanted to wear her pajamas to school. I couldn’t convince her they wouldn’t pass dress code. First, she yelled and slammed her bedroom door. Finally, she rode to the bus stop in a tense silence wearing her sloppiest pair of sweatpants.

Her daughter is two. Mine is nearly 16! It shocked both of us how similar our stories were.

Study after study shows that toddlers under the age of four don’t have the capacity to understand self-control. In fact, most tantrums aren’t a product of willful disobedience, but the frustration of being misunderstood. What’s hard to believe is that the teens we think should be past these tantrum level events are not.

In an article in the Independent, Frances Jensen, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of The Teenage Brain, explains that teenagers don’t think with the same parts of their brain as their parents. Most of their brain activity happens at the midbrain, where emotion, sexual function, learning, and memory, is processed. (Shocking, right?) She says this actually makes them more susceptible to stress.

In other words, when another girl makes fun of their outfit, they aren’t able to just shrug it off. Their automatic brain response is similar to your brain’s response to news of a terrorist strike. Their emotions are always at the extreme.

Which explains why my daughter and I conduct most of our interactions at an astonishingly loud volume and why the door to her room is barely hanging on its hinges!

So this is the part of the post where I am supposed to share all my wisdom with you. Tips for handling these teenage years that so closely mirror those terrible twos. But here’s the deal…

I got nothing. I am struggling with this as much now as I did when she was two and three.

The best I can tell you is to start every day fresh. Don’t carry over resentment from yesterday’s arguments. Remember she needs as many hugs now as she did when she was two. Know that she is trying to come to terms with a world that is constantly telling her she isn’t good enough. Make sure she understands that she absolutely is.

And keep in mind, you are on the tail end of your full-time parenting gig. One day you will truly wish for one more door slam just to see her beautiful furious face.

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