I’ve got a new book on my nightstand!
Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
The central premise of this book is that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring because key twists in the science have been overlooked. -NurtureShock.com
Since every chapter of this book, turns thinking upside down, I naturally want to dig in and make sense of it all so that I can change my belief systems!
Chapter 7: The Science of Teen Rebellion: Why, for adolescents, arguing with adults is a sign of respect, not disrespect-and arguing is contructive to the relationship, not destructive.
Three Hot Topics:
- When and Why Kids Lie
- Neuroscience of a Teen Brain
- Arguing is respectful
Sometimes it is the quiet, compliant, model students …who lie the most about really big stuff!
“I like to my parents every day. I lie about homework every night. I say I finished it when I haven’t even started it. I finish it – but I do it at school before class. Never when I say it’s done”. … “I just don’t want to tell my mom something if it is going to make my life difficult. She lectures me a lot- and I don’t want her to stop. If she did, I would think she didn’t care. So sometimes, I will tell her the truth-when I feel like being lectured. It just depends on my mood. But I only ever tell her the truth when I want to”.
Drs. Nancy Darling and Linda Caldwell go curious about how much teens lie to (and hide from ) their parents.
96% of teens in Darling’s study reported lying to parents.
By withholding information from the parent, kids carve out their own identity that is theirs alone, separate from parents and authority figures.
To seek out a parents help, is from a teen’s perspective, a tacit admission that he’s not mature enough to handle it alone….It’s essential for some things to be ‘none of your (parent’s) business’.
Surprise to researchers was the age for this autonomy. Darling found that the objection to authority peaks at around at age 14-15. The strongest resistance is age 11. It isn’t the high schoolers. It is the much younger early middle schoolers.
Teens lie about:
- what they spend their allowance on,
- whether they are dating
- what clothes they wear away from home
- what movie they went to with who
- they lie about alcohol and drug use
- who they hang out with (especially if the parents disapprove)
- how they spend their afternoon if parents work
- whether there was a chaperone at the party
- whether they rode in a car with a drunk driver
- what music they are listening to
“Drinking, drug use, and their sex lives are the things kids hide the most from their parents, ” Darling noted… “They really objected to the emotional intrusiveness (of the sex lives)-being asked, “How serious is this relationship?” and “Do you love this person?”. Kids don’t want to answer those questions.
I’m trying to protect the relationship with my parents, I don’t want them to be disappointed in me.
What about the parents?
Many parents are misled to believe that being permissive will keep them more informed. Darling found that kids who go wild have the most permissive parents and the kids take the lack of rules as a sign that parents don’t care. That their parents don’t really want the job of being parents.
Darling found that most rules-heavy parents don’t actually enforce them. “It’s too much work”. These teens avoid direct conflict and just sneak around behind their parents backs.
The parents who are warm and supportive and have the most conversations with their kids were the most consistent at enforcing rules. They set them over key areas and explained why the rules are in place. They expect the kids to obey the guidelines.
Over life’s other spheres, they supported the child’s autonomy, allowing freedom to make their own decisions
The kids of these parents lied the least!
Linda Caldwell’s hypothesis that teens who are bored turn to drinking and drugs was confirmed in The Mod Squad Study.
Can you teach a kid how NOT to be bored?
Caldwell designed a program to see if she could try. Her research showed boredom starts in 7th grade and increases all through til 12th grade. Intrinsic motivation also drops. She got school districts in Pennsylvania to implement a program called TimeWise. Sadly, six months after taking the class, were not dramatically different than the kids who didn’t take the class.
The research also found that it wasn’t just kids with lots of free time who were bored, busy kids were too. The busy kids were doing a lot of things their parents signed them up for. The more controlling the parent, the more likely the kid will be bored.
Why didn’t TimeWise help?
Seems it has to do with how a teen brain is wired.
At UCLA, Dr. Adriana Glaven looked at the brain’s reward center. Teen brains do not get pleasure out of things that are only mildly or moderately rewarding.
Galvan noted that “the response pattern of teen brains is essentially the same response curve of a seasoned drug addict. There reward center cannot be stimulated by low doses- the need the big jolt to get pleasure”.
But that’s not all. When they are emotionally charged, Teen’s brains are handicapped in the prefrontal cortex and lose the ability to gauge risk and foresee consequences. In exciting real life situations, the rational part of the brain gets overridden by the bright reward center.
All of this fits what we see in the real world. They sleep in class, drink on the weekends, and don’t realize it is a bad idea to put five friends in a golf cart and drive down a steep hill with a curve at the bottom.
- Parents ask: “What were you thinking?”
- Teens answer: “I don’t know?” “I wasn’t thinking!”
The neuroscience of risk taking is very advanced field, but it doesn’t offer many solutions; some teens brains are wired to take big risks, done deal.
Kids will take stupid chances, surrounded by friends, just for the thrill of it.
There may be some hope for those of us chewing on our fingernails in fear! Researchers have found that teens are only SOMETIMES huge risk takers.
Social terror keeps them in check! Dr. Abigail Brasser watched teens in an MRI scanner and presented good and bad ideas (swallow a cockroach, bite on a lightbulb, light your hair on fire…)
Adults answer immediately, teen brains take a lot longer to answer…they are THINKING. Adults have more experiences so they have more automatic responses. Since kids don’t have painful experiences to draw off of the idea of swimming with sharks doesn’t necessarily scare them.
When parents ask “Why did you have to try that?”…they teen brain can think abstractly, but it can’t feel abstractly…at least not until it has more life experiences to draw on.
Feeling like it is a bad idea is what it would take to stop oneself from doing it
Social exposure and peer judgement vibrantly light up parts of the brain that signal distress and danger.
That’s the teen brain at fifteen in a nutshell – fearless to jumping off roofs, but terrified of having its love of Nickleback exposed.
“Might there be a way to harness the latter to minimize the former” -Bronson and Merryman
The dictionary defines the opposite of honesty if lying; the antonym of arguing is agreement.
To an adolescent, arguing is the opposite of lying.
Darling’s research revealed that the main motivation of telling the truth was in the hope that parents would give in and say it was okay. The kids thought arguing was worth it if the parents might budge.
- In families with less deception, there was a higher ratio of arguing/complaining.
- Arguing stresses parents out
- Filipino teens (where families are viewed as lacking conflict and children do not challenge parents) had the highest rate of convict.
- But Filipino teens were fighting parents over the rules, not over the authority of the parents to set the rules
- American teens didn’t bother to argue. They just pretended to go along with the parent’s wishes, but then go do what they wanted anyway.
Certain types of fighting…are ultimately a sign of respect – not disrespect.
Parents are the ones who are messed up in the thinking. Tabitha Holmes found that 46% of moms rated arguments with their daughters and destructive to the relationship. Only 23% of the daughters felt they were destructive and far more believed that fighting strengthened their relationship with mom. The daughters saw fighting as a way to see their parents in a new way as they heard the mom’s perspective told. Frequent fighting was also not viewed as destructive by the teens.
The variable that seems to be key:
The teen needs to feel heard, and when reasonable, the parent needs to budge.
Holmes found the daughters who felt the arguments were destructive had moms who stonewalled rather than collaborated.
“Parents who negotiate appear to be more informed. Parents with unbending strict guidelines make it a tactical issue for kids to find a way around them.” Robert Laird
Teens view arguing as productive!
But wait, society warns parents not to be pushovers or we will breed beggars and whiners. Even Darling’s study showed permissive parenting leads to lying.
The findings come down to this:
Pushover parents give into kids because they can’t stand to see them cry or hurt. They placate to shut them up. They want to be their kid’s friend, and don’t want to be viewed as the bad guy.
That is not the same as insuring that a child feels heard, and if the child has a good argument for why a rule needs to be changed, that parent lets the discussion influence a change in decision.
Darling found a similar distinction: The type of parents lied to the least had rules and guidelines that were enforced consistently, but found ways to be flexible that allowed kids to respect the rule-setting process.
“Collaboration retains a parent’s legitimacy” -Bronson and Merryman
WOW! What do I take from all this?
I need to continue to find the balance in parenting that guides my kids to becoming independent responsible resilient adults.
Duct Tape Parenting has guided me to practice parenting in a way that matches this current research.
- Raise Thinking Kids
- Examine my own beliefs and rewriting them to strengthen the relationships with my children and dropping the beliefs that no longer serve the strength of my family bonds.
- Make agreements that provide guidelines for acceptable behavior in our home and make sure they match the expectations of society-the real world.
- Allow my kids a voice in those agreements. Value their input in the process.
- Remind them over and over again that they have worth in our family and gifts to contribute to the world.
- Appreciate my kids every day, every hour, every minute if possible.
and…I’m going to be…. (Click the pic for strategies!)