How do you get your teenager to think before he acts? Well, we're going to talk about that today
on tips on teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and
I specialize in helping kids, teens, and families live happier lives. I lead two organizations
teen Therapy Center and the nonprofit 501 c three organization, child and Teen Counseling,
both here in Woodland Hills, California. And every Wednesday at noon, I jump on the Facebook
Live to answer your parenting questions. Let's jump into today's, Kent. My son is driving us
insane. I would say he has poor judgment, but lately it feels like he has no judgment. He's 13,
and I think he was more mature when he was six. Over the past six months or so, he has developed
a pattern of doing increasingly dumber and more destructive things. This has happened at home,
but recently it happened at a friend's house when he broke their pool filter. Obviously, we
were thoroughly embarrassed and angry. I can't imagine giving
this kid the keys to a car in a few years. What can we do to get him to think before he acts? Thank
you for your question. I think a lot of parents of teenagers can really resonate with this, especially
the teenagers who have attention issues, or maybe with kids who are on the autism spectrum where
their impulsiveness is really through the roof. I think that this makes a lot of sense to them.
Let's first talk about the teenage brain, the adolescent brain. So what we know in science is
that around 11, 12, 13, somewhere in that range, the prefrontal cortex, which is an area right
here behind the forehead, starts developing wildly over the next ten years or so. And this controls
what we call the executive functioning area of the brain. Things like impulse control, emotional
regulation, the ability to see cause and effect, all those parts of the brain are seriously
impaired right now because it's not all connected to the rest of the brain and it's developing.
That's why you may think that your
six year old was more mature then than now at 13, because they weren't having this crazy explosion
of growth in their brain. So what happens is it does start slowing down around 18 or so, and then
you feel like you have a fully developed brain. Or science determines a fully developed brain
is around roughly 25 years old. So what do you do from that 13 to 17 range when your kids bouncing
off the walls, jumping on pool filters? I don't know how you break a pool filter, but I guess you
jump on it. I don't know. So I think there's a lot of things with this. Number one is make sure that
you are maintaining quality connection with your kid. You are spending quality time with your
kid because if you have that, he is more likely to listen to you, pay attention to you, consider
what you're saying, consider your words and take your guidance. If you don't have that quality
connection, if you're always wagging the finger, if you're always giving him instruction
or correcting him, he's not going to
feel connected to you, and he's not going to care what you say. Secondly, there may need to be
some natural consequences for these actions and tie them to the pool filter. I don't know how
much it costs to fix a pool filter, but perhaps your son is now on the hook for paying for the repairs,
or at least some of the repairs. If it's $5,000, you can't expect a 13 year old to come up with $5,000.
It's not realistic. So whatever amount you think is a realistic, hey, you got to work this off.
Washing cars, taking trash cans in for the neighbors, collecting bottles and cans or recycling,
whatever it is, anything that's extra that he has to go out and earn to pay that off little by little.
And for leverage, you're probably going to need to have something that he wants, like his PlayStation
or Xbox. Maybe he has much more limited access to his phone. Maybe he needs his phone for school.
I don't know if he does or not, but electronics seems to be the big motivator for most kids, and
a lot of kids
are on screens way too much, especially like with TikTok and these TikTok challenges. I don't
know if this is the case, but was your son responding to a TikTok challenge to break something
which happens all the time, and if you don't know what's on TikTok, you should be watching your
kids TikTok. Because if you don't, that's a profound influence on your kid that you're not aware
of. And you should be aware of that. So let's say I'm going to throw out a ballpark number. Let's
say it's $200 he's got to come up with and say, all right, I'm going to hold on the PlayStation
until you come up with the $200 and pay this off. And he's going to kick and scream and cry, but
that's a natural consequence to his actions. If I do this, this bad thing happens. That's part
of learning. And the whole thing about decision making, and there's been many people who've
said this before me is kids don't learn how to make decisions by receiving instruction. They
learn to make decisions, good decisions, by banking
decisions. So they have to make decisions to learn how to make good ones, which means there's
going to be quite a few bad decisions in there. But they have to learn from those bad decisions,
learn from the consequences of those actions, better, reasonable, natural consequences
that fit the situation, and they start learning from it, just like we haul. I have, for example,
if you don't have any kind of leverage with him trying to get him to work off this $200 debt, he's
never going to do it because there's no need for him. Just like if you had more money than you can
ever spend in the bank, how important would it be to go to work every day? Not so much. Maybe you
love your job, what you do, but would you do it 40, 50, 60 hours a week? Probably not. You'd have
more time to spend time with the family, do more hobbies, travel more, you'd get around to
work when you had to, when you wanted to, because it's a want to thing. He's likely not going to
want to earn the money, so you have to have
some incentive for him to earn it. He may make mistakes like this several times over his adolescence.
And stay calm. The more you yell, the more he's going to shut you out. So just stay calm. Use the
leverage of screens to have him pay back what he has to pay back, and eventually he's going to
learn, oh, this is not working. I got to think something. I got to do it better. Hopefully by 16
he's more mature and by 18, even more mature when he goes off to college. But we'll cross those
bridges when we get there. Right now he's 13. So let's just deal with a 13 year old problem and
let 16 deal with 16. Anyways, that's our question for today. Thank you very much again. My name
is Kent Toussaint. If you like a question you like answered here on Tips on Teens, please email
us at email@example.com or you can direct message us right here on Facebook.
We love your questions. Thank you very much. And thank you again from Teen Therapy Center and
challenging counseling. This has been Tips
on Teens and I will see you next Wednesday. Bye.
How do I get my kid to think before he does something stupid?
“Good teen judgement” isn’t a phrase most people use in their daily lexicon. When adults think of brilliant decision makers, teens don’t usually come to mind. Thankfully, science offers an explanation for this phenomenon.
Between the ages of 11 and 13, the human prefrontal cortex begins developing wildly. This affects the executive functioning of the brain, resulting in the aforementioned marvel known as “teen judgement.” The result is that impulse control, emotional regulation and ability to see cause and effect all become impaired during this time.
So if you’re wondering why your kid seems so even keeled when they were 6 compared to 13, that’s why! Your child wasn’t experiencing this crazy explosion of growth when they were younger.
How to respond
That’s part of the explanation. To hear more and get some ideas about how you can respond better as a parent, check out this week’s Tips On Teens:
“Kent, my son is driving us insane. I would say he has poor judgement, but lately it feels like he has no judgement. He’s 13, and I think he was more mature when he was 6. Over the past six months or so he’s developed a pattern of doing increasingly dumber and more destructive things. This has happened at home, but recently it happened at a friend’s house when he broke their pool filter. Obviously we were thoroughly embarrassed and angry. I can’t imagine giving this kid the keys to a car in a few years. What can we do to get him to think before he acts?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.