Risky Teen Behaviour
In a recent discussion with friends, the comment was made that kids should be responsible and held accountable for the choices they make. Well – yes, that is right – in theory. But in real life, is that actually the case? When I taught secondary school, it was a tossup as to whether or not the student was going to accept responsibility for a decision or an action. And often, the so-called “responsible” student would make what was considered an irrational decision when the opposite was expected. Is there any way of telling what the kids will decide? In many cases, I don’t think so. This is because, according to a PBS documentary (see link);
“...there is fairly widespread agreement that adolescents take more risks at least partly because they have an immature frontal cortex, because this is the area of the brain that takes a second look at something and reasons about a particular behavior.”
The teen brain is a miracle, albeit in the development stage. Another writer uses a great analogy;
“In adults, various parts of the brain work together to evaluate choices, make decisions and act accordingly in each situation. The teenage brain doesn't appear to work like this. For comparison's sake, think of the teenage brain as an entertainment center that hasn't been fully hooked up. There are loose wires, so that the speaker system isn't working with the DVD player, which in turn hasn't been formatted to work with the television yet. And to top it all off, the remote control hasn't even arrived!
The brain's remote control is the prefrontal cortex, a section of the brain that weighs outcomes, forms judgments and controls impulses and emotions. This section of the brain also helps people understand one another. If you were to walk into a sports bar full of Lakers fans wearing a Celtics jersey, your prefrontal cortex would immediately begin firing in warning; those teams are bitter enemies, and it might serve you to change your behavior (and your clothes). The prefrontal cortex communicates with the other sections of the brain through connections called synapses. These are like the wires of the entertainment system.”
So, to all my friends and followers who work with adolescents, I urge you to keep soldiering on. The brain is still growing and maturing, and you have a pivotal role in helping it make the right decision, the best choice, the positive approach to the situation.
Related Workshop: Parent Workshop 3: Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds (middle schools and secondary schools)