Sometime tonight a parent will be doing bed-time with their child. They, lovingly, tuck him in, give him the tattered, stuffed animal or “blanky” that now looks like a rag. Removing the hair from his eyes that, adoringly, look up to them as if they are the most wonderful people in the world, the parent bends over to kiss him goodnight, again, and again, and of course, one more time, as he stalls to keep them with him. “I love you THIS much,” he smiles, spreading his arms wide as he rolls over and closes his eyes. The parent, quietly, turns on the night light and shuts the door.
The next morning, the parent quietly opens the door, turns on the light, smiling and saying, “Good Morning, Sweetie, it’s time for school.” As they pull back the covers, a grunt is heard. A deep, long, nasal “Uggggggghhhh!” He pulls the pillow over his head and his normal “Good Morning, Mommy” is replaced by a gutteral, “leave me alone, I’m not going to school today!” The parent is taken aback because, as the child sits up, hair now in his eyes, the adoration usually in them now filled with anger, his mouth now a snarl (some even swear they have even seen fangs), their sweet child is now a teenager!
Obviously, this did not happen overnight but to most parents it seems as if it did. Their once sweet, precious, adoring child has turned into an Alien! They don’t know who he is (sometimes even what he is). He no longer wants to be near them, forget about the kiss good-bye when dropping him off at school. He might even make the parent drop him off a block before the school. This is when parents realize they have become an embarassment to their teen. They never knew they were funny looking. They had no clue that they didn’t know how to dress and worst of all, that they have become morons (they now know nothing)! As if, overnight, someone came in (perhaps the UFO that dropped off the Alien) and zapped the parents of any intellect, knowledge or abilities that they once had!
As the realization slowly sets in that the parents are no longer who they thought they were, it is more apparent that their child has changed even more. The ability for common sense; gone! The ability to rationalize and reason: gone! The ability to understand cause and effect: gone! Yes, it’s like having a two year-old again. A really big, sometimes pimply, usually smelly, two year-old! The reason for these behaviors is not because the child wasn’t read to enough, disciplined enough or even breast-fed! It’s due to brain development: http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/09/the-teen-brain.html or lack thereof. It has been believed for quite a long time that brain development was completed at an early age. Pivotal research has shown that brain development, mostly the frontal lobe, doesn’t complete its development until the early 20’s. As some parents might have just fainted thinking that they will have a 22 year-old rolling their eyes and saying “whatever” to them; they can be reassured that this is not the case. However, the frontal lobe, which is the last to develop, is responsible for reasoning, planning and judgement. So, parents need to understand that when they come home and see their straight A, Honor Roll student, jumping from a roof into a 5 foot pool of water and asking them, “What in the heck were you thinking??” They weren’t!!