As parents of teenagers, havent we all wondered at one time or another What was she thinking?
We endeavor for years to instill good judgment in our growing kids and then, one day, our formerly level-headed daughters seems to wake up like alien beings. Maybe its sour moods or a really curious choice in a new friend. Or its a herculean stubbornness about what appears to be a minor issue. Or a lapse in responsible behavior that leaves you speechless.
Neurologist Frances Jensen, in her recent study of the development of adolescent brains, discovered something that should provide some comfort or at least an explanation. She learned that its not really what our teenagers are thinking, its how. Her research reveals that a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it. In other words, contrary to what scientists used to believe, their brains are not yet fully formed.
It appears that the critical missing link is in the crucial nerve connections in teenagers frontal lobes. These connections provide a sort of insulation which allows adult nerve signals to flow smoothly. Inefficient connections in teenage brains cause a breakdown in communication between parts of the brain and these sluggish connections cause serious lapses in good judgment and insight.
Which also might explain why teenagers often seem so self-centered. As Jensen observes, You think of them as these surly, rude, selfish people. Well, actually, thats the developmental stage theyre at. They arent yet at that place where theyre thinking about or capable, necessarily, of thinking about the effects of their behavior on other people. That requires insight.
So, the next time your teenager tests you with one more snarled lip or lower-than-expected grade, remember that her brain is busy growing. She cant help but think the way shes thinking. And thats what shes got you there for.