Don’t tell them to stop because they won’t listen, but do tell them about the damage that it can do

16 Feb

“It’s not that your child is trying to make your life miserable, there are biological reasons that they are acting that way. It happens will all species. At that age their brain is telling them to start leaving the nest and taking chances. They are discovering new freedoms.

“I would never tell an adolescent not to do something, there is no point, because their brain is telling them, to do something different.

“Teenagers are going to do whatever they want to do. Their brain is telling them to go out there and do things regardless of what their parents say. If they are going to smoke pot, don’t tell them to stop because they won’t listen, but do tell them about the damage that it can do.”

Prof Luna said her research has shown that the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain controlling adult-like reason and planning – is active in adolescents, but it is trumped by the hormone dopamine which triggers feelings of happiness when taking risks.

“I really want to dispel this idea that adolescents are unable to use their pre-frontal cortex for planning and reasoning. They really have the capability,” she said.

“Sometimes adolescents act just like an adult so you get confused when they do stupid things. But they need that variability of experience and to be able to do things.

“It’s not that they are not listening but what they do is determined by the increase in motivational processes in the brain that is meant to encourage them to venture outside of the nest.”

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