How To Think About Teenagers
I'm a child psychologist. This includes training about
Teens, by definition, are still children from the
ages of thirteen to the day
before they turn eighteen.
Nineteen year olds, though technically adults,
teenagers. On the low end of the teen spectrum, very maturetwelve year olds will act like immature thirteen or even
fourteen year olds.
For this purpose, I treat mature twelve
year olds like immature teens, even
though the chronology
doesn't exactly line up. The same is true in reverse
nineteen year olds. If they are immature, they will respond
ideas that are aimed more at 13 to 18 year olds.
Teens are different "animals." They are transitional
really young, nor particularly mature.
They are neither fish nor fowl.
They sometimes look like
adults, even though their nervous systems are not
They sometimes look like younger children, even if their
systems are comparatively more mature. Their
behavior changes from one to
the other. For example, one
minute your sweet child is begging you to come
on the class
trip or to lie down with him or her while s/he falls asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, s/he starts treating you like dirt,
everything you say and snickering at your suggestions.
Some parents think
of teenagers as just larger children, while
other parents think teenagers are
smaller adults. Technically,
they are still children, even though it's
sometimes hard to tell
whether they are acting like children or adults.
They are both
and they are neither.
Teens are beset by pesky hormones, which start earlier than
This hormonal shift actually begins between the ages
of 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 years,
depending upon whether your teen is a
girl or boy, respectively. Hormones
spark huge emotional and
physical changes. Teens often look lanky, having
one or more growth spurts, which usually means they are not
coordinated because, literally, their brains have not gotten used
their new physical dimensions. This and numerous glandular
tremendous behavioral changes and concomitant
At thirteen, parents become "aliens;" that is, thirteen year
typically withdraw from parents and overly bond with and seek
support from peers. Again, mature twelve year olds
do this earlier and
immature fourteen year olds do it later, but
this stage is one most teens
traverse in this age range. All of
this is normal.
Over my many years of working with individuals and families,
developed techniques that profoundly influence behavior.
Despite being in
that awkward stage, teens, just like little
younger children and adults,
respond to these and other often simple,
but well-understood treatments.
When I say simple, I do not
mean that everyone knows these things--they don't.
And, when I
say profoundly, I mean they are powerful and work quickly--instantly in some cases. I developed one technique only after observingsuccessful families for a whole year. Other ones I swiped from
than my own; for example, from B.F. Skinner
(the "rat" psychologist) I use
some behavioral techniques.
Skinner never applied his findings and
techniques to what I
address in this or other of my articles.
I put these and lots of
experiences I have had with kids over twenty-six years to form a
system--a way to think about teenager behavior and many ways to positively change it.
The best part is that my system is positive. The emphasis is
punishment even though there is a place for that, if needed.
It's all based
upon parenting techniques that are sort of good,
then tweaked with hard
research evidence of what really works and
then applied warmly, with love--that makes them really good.
I've been developing and using these ideas for
years with very,
very good results. Mothers leave my office shaking their
after I've turned around "monster" children in a matter of minutes. Parents report a sharp increase in the quality of their relationships
their children. If you have younger children, these techniques
in my ebook, How to Change Children's Behavior (Quickly),
and are repeated in
part, but modified (for teens) in this ebook.
For the present publication,
I use different examples because I'm
talking about older children, for the
most part. Younger children
often will "change" in a matter of hours, even
typically take longer, owing in part to their newfound
which predisposes them to resist older folks. The techniques
work, so be persistent and patient.
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