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Teenage Brains Are Still Developing

In order to be better guides through the turbulent waters of the teen years, parents should be aware of the teenage brain's developmental process. As teens engage in repetitive behaviors, these become neurologically "hard-wired" and follow them into their adulthood. The more time they spend learning a subject, a musical instrument, how to get along, the importance of others, or, conversely, zoning out on television, their iPad, texting, or bullying, the stronger and deeper the connections of these activities within their brains.

Being a teenager is also a time of vulnerability because the prefrontal cortex, which continues to develop into the mid 20's and is responsible for making complex judgments, isn't fully developed yet. Further, this part of the brain is prone to being hijacked by emotions, traumas, or other unconscious motivations. It is believed that this lack of brain maturity is what drives impulsive and sometimes high-risk behaviors in teens.

That is why teens need the influence and guidance of kind, loving, and understanding adults. The stakes are high because some of the decisions made from teen brains have life-time consequences.

Disciplining Teenagers

Though spanking may decrease due to the physical size of the teen, many other fear-based methods of punishment are used to keep a teen "in check": shaming, lecturing, shouting, ignoring, threatening, insulting and bullying, to name a few. Sometimes these temporarily work to slow down unwanted behaviors, but at a price. The price is that there is a disruption in the parent/teen relationship.

Research supports my observations and experience. You can find any number of articles, blogs, and websites that give statistical data to support the fact that any of the above types of punishment teach children that aggression, mental and emotional abuse, and physical pain are acceptable methods of response.

The Rev. E. Sagendorf may have summed it up best when he wrote, "The much-touted 'biblical argument' in the support of corporal punishment is founded upon proof-texting a few isolated passages from Proverbs... Would Jesus ever hit a child? NEVER!"

The relationship a teen has to their parents is a reflection of the relationship that the parents as children had with their parents. Over the years of my counseling practice, I have witnessed parents who didn't make a shift in their thinking and parent from this paradigm based on love and understanding. By the time their children were teens, the gap between them begun in childhood was a chasm. By the time they are teens, children who are abused or neglected in childhood are fed up with the adult world. They have little trust in adults.

When teens are punished instead of taught by modeling through love, they turn away from parents and other adults for safety, comfort and guidance. Instead, they turn to their peer group: meaning the inexperienced and impulsive are leading the inexperienced and impulsive.

Deborah Chelette-Wilson, is an author, speaker, master relationship coach and counselor. For over thirty years she has worked 'in the trenches' with children and families who have experienced stress, trauma, attachment and relationship problems. When people use her approach their relationships improve.

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