After parenting 6 teens for the last 8 years, and also having 14 more years to go to parent another 3 into adulthood, I’ve learned there are 2 major things that cause a truckload of teen-drama.
- Brain development – As puberty cranks-up and their bodies and brains go into hyper growth mode, one area of the brain begins to rapidly mature, and another waits a few years. The Amygdala is the area controls immediate reactions and aggressive behaviors, and begins to develop rapidly during puberty. The Frontal Cortex is the area controls reason, logic, self-control, wisdom, etc. This part doesn’t start to develop until a few years later; and in males, may not be fully developed until they’re 25 years old. As I’m sure you can imagine, this imbalance leads to a lot of impulsive and risky behaviors that horrify parents, like speeding, fighting, risk-taking, etc.
- Dating – As teens go through puberty and their bodies begin to “bloom”, something on the inside wakes up too, and it’s powerful. They become subconsciously aware of the reality that there’s someone outside of themselves and their immediate family that is required to “make them whole”, and they immediately begin trying to stuff other teenagers into that “hole”. The problem is that “hole” is actually meant to be filled by a relationship with Jesus instead of another human, and He’s the only one big enough to fill it. Since a human can never fill the place of God, but the longing to have that “hole” filled is so strong, all kinds of drama erupts in a short order, because a human can never love us with the fullness that God can. And since they’re not “feeling the love”, they either go through lots of break-ups trying to find that “right person”, or they get into ugly and hurtful drama trying to control each other.
So, the message to my teens has been “Even though it feels like I’m trying to control you, I’m really just functioning as your frontal lobe until yours is developed enough to govern you to the point that you won’t do irreparable damage to yourself or someone else”. And “Don’t date. Spend your time an energy with friends of the same gender, having fun, gaining vision for your future, and get to know Jesus. Once you’ve matured to the point that you’re ready for marriage, then have some healthy dating relationships, and avoid all the drama”. They certainly haven’t followed this advice perfectly, but the seed was planted, and helped them to make better decisions once they experienced some of the foolishness of going their own way.