“Well, I’ll tell you…they seem to be pretty determined to blame their students for being teenagers. It’s sort of hard to teach ’em when you’re mad all the time, you know?”
That was the short report from one of my school coaches recently. Being as how I seem to spend a lot of time these days reminding people (parents, teachers, MYSELF) that teenagers are just not adults, no matter how much we WANT them to be adults….well…I’ll give you the tl:dr upfront:
Teenage brains, for the most part, aren’t able to do what adult brains can. At least not consistently. They’re learning how to be adults, but they aren’t there yet. When they were babies we didn’t get mad at them for falling down while learning to walk or when they made a mess while learning to use a spoon. We didn’t go all Zero Tolerance- Suspension- Incarceration on the three year olds who threw tantrums. It’s easier to remember that humans develop on their own timelines when they’re young and cute (and easily controlled physically). We just keep giving them chances to practice, picking them up when they fall, wiping their faces and cleaning up the mess until they get the hang of whatever we’re trying to teach them.
Teens aren’t as cute. They scare us a little. Plus they LOOK like adults so it’s easy to forget…
But they aren’t adults. Don’t for a minute assume that just because they got it right once, they’ll get it right consistently- because they won’t. They can’t.
Need proof? Here you go:
I’m a big fan of Sarah Jane Blakemore’s work
- Adolescent Brains are Works in Progress (Here’s Why), PBS Frontline
- Teenage Brains, National Geographic
Need something a little more academic?
- The Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making, American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.
- The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet, NPR
So it’s pretty clear- they aren’t doing these things just to make you mad. So Stop Being Mad at Them. It’s not helping you and it’s not helping them. You may have to teach it (and “it” could be anything from the Pythagorean theorem to Turn In Your Homework Every. Single. Time to Put Your Phone Away I’m Talking to You) 10,000 times before they get it. Just like their parents had to help them stand up again roughly 10,000 times and don’t even get me started on the success/not yet ratio related to potty training.
This growing up thing is a process, not an event. No fair getting unreasonably crabby when they fall short. And if you’re crabby more than 50% of the time, you’re being unreasonable- and you’re making your own job harder.
Tired of clicking? Here:
“when the youngsters heard the criticism, they had a negative emotional reaction (see: eye roll and exasperated sigh) as well a lack of ability to process what was being said (see: “Wah-wa, wah-wa, wah-wa). But a surprising find was that, while hearing their mother’s criticism, the adolescents were not able to understand where their mother was coming from.”
Yup. Your crabby is actually counterproductive. They aren’t hearing anything you’re saying.
Get the point? Good. Now take a deep breath and go out there and grow some brains.