Parenting a tween and teen is not for the feint hearted. It is hard work. Applying these 3 R’s to raise teens and tweens may be a solution.
As puberty kicks in, the brain of the tween and teen undergoes a major transition. It gets pruned. If you look at the teenager in your house and wander where they came from, how it is possible that they changed from such a lovely child into a morose teenager who presents as being brain damaged, imagine a sharp pair of gardening scissors working away trimming off all the dead neural pathways in their brain. During these difficult years, it is crucial that we apply the 3R’s for raising teens and tweens.
Approaching this season in our lives is similar to a motor car driving at 120km/per hour on a freeway and without warning hitting a new road under construction.Gavin Keller
The tyres, once firmly connected to the tar suddenly find it impossible to grip the loose gravel. The wheels skid, the car may plunge headfirst into a ditch, ripping the bodywork and damaging the paint. Windows are shattered and the driver is stunned, but safe. This new season in their lives often brings deep confusion and despair.
The 3 R’s for Raising Teens ands Tweens
A word of advise to the parents of teenagers. Make respect a non-negotiable. The uncontrollable vehicle on the road does not provide an excuse for poor manners. Because the brain is under such dramatic change, the size of the teens body should not be the indicator that they should be treated as adults. Parents often mistakenly say: “If you act like an adult – I will treat you like one!” That is ridiculous. It is like a teen telling their parent “If you act like a geriatric, I will put you in the frail care.” At this stage in their lives, body size and brain capacity are not linked. In fact, a rule of thumb is to treat your teenager as you would a 5 year old.
As new neural pathways are created on the gravel road, their mirror neurons are hard at work mimicking the parent and teacher behaviour. The way you react, your visual annoyance, the rolling eyes and pursed lips, the short critical tone and disregard for their opinion is mimicked. You cannot expect them to respect you if you don’t model the behaviour first.
“Ignorance and a lack of driving experience are the chief culprits. Some drivers simply don’t understand how important it is to adjust speed and tyre pressure, properly secure their baggage and check whether the vehicle is roadworthy beforehand. The latter is especially important – shock absorbers and coil springs that are in a bad state will leave you with almost no control in a gravel road emergency. Gravel roads are notorious for causing drivers to lose control because the surface offers less grip. Aggressively braking or over-steering when the vehicle starts to slide will just send it into an uncontrolled spin.”Andre Botha, founder of Just4x4 Adventures
Seven rules for driving on gravel.
1. Avoid sudden braking and aggressive steering. A sudden change of rules in the home is useless. Aggressive application of authoritarian rules in schools will only cause an accident. Use the early days to prepare them for what is going to happen in their brains.
2. Deflate your tyres to 1.8 bar if your load is light. Soften your approach if your teen is coping and not battling with peer or schooling challenges. Be present, watch over, connect, love (even though they present as not being loveable) and insist on respect.
3. Inflate your tyres for a heavy load, taking care not to over inflate. Many teens find themselves carrying a heavy load at this time. Peer pressure is enormous and the demand to conform, overwhelming. This is the time for parents to help them through this season. Keep the conversation going even if it feels like a monologue.
4. Never let your vehicle run free, especially going downhill or around corners. Freedom is not part of the teen years. Yes, they have a voice and they have a choice – but access to the thinking brain, the pre-fontal cortex, is often difficult or near impossible to navigate. Investigate and approve all sleep over arrangements. Fetch and carry. Anticipate putting your adult life on hold even though you are dealing with your own mid-life crises. An out of controlled teen is a dangerous being.
5. Drive slowly to minimise dust. Although you can anticipate dust clouds as well as smoke clouds from various leaf sources, minimising the risk of exposure will help your child access their adult brain by nineteen. Once the brain is fully developed and new neural pathways are laid, they can then make their own choice about recreational substances. The teen years are not the time. Sadly, what we do a lot of in our teen years often informs our behaviour as adults. Neural pathways are myelinated (insulated) by repetition.
6. Research the road conditions beforehand. The best way to assist a teenager is to do the work before they reach the season. A teenager who knows what to expect will navigate the gravel roadway with knowledge and a better understanding. Having a responsible adult giving guidance in the passenger seat can fundamentally change this experience.
Somehow, the modern parents have stopped giving their tweens and teens chores. Chores are essential in an age of confusion. They bring routine, purpose and accountability. Teens need at least 5 adults to whom they are accountable. Parents, parents’ friends, aunts and uncles, youth workers and grandparents play a vital role in keeping teens responsible and watching over them. The research indicates that teens benefit by having a better life.
By the end of this teen season, we all want someone of character to emerge. Character matters and they need all the assistance we can provide to reduce their anxiety and stress. We know that test stress drops the T cells by 80% in Grace 6 and 7. Teens and Tweens often opt for character changes to manage their stress.
What we talk about matters. Imagine your 13 year old as a 20 year old adult. Share it with your teen and together design the person he or she wants to be. Then set about to support your teen to achieve their dream.
Without a doubt, the teen years are the best training ground for resilience. This is the ability to recover quickly from a difficulty. At our prime, when all our neural pathways are at their peak and we are physically strong and healthy, resilience is hard. As a teen, spinning on loose gravel, resilience requires gentle guidance, training and assistance by a significant adult. This is the season for parents to strip away the bubble wrap and stop making excuses for teens and trying to solve their problems.
Build their confidence in the sanctuary of their home where they feel safe and secure and send them out to face the world each day. When they return, create time to talk about the day. Bounce ideas, reminisce about your teen years and give some useful advice. Avoid the temptation to solve their problems or speak to the school. This is time to build the capacity for them to bounce back. It is now that we teach them to become GRITTY adults.
If parents get the teen years right by following the 3 R’s for Raising Teens ands Tweens, they will give their children a springboard in life. Confidence and competence are the natural result.