Book Review: The Teenage Brain (Frances E. Jensen)
*This review contains affiliate links
If you are a bit of a brain geek (like me) and a parent of teenagers (or nearly-teens) then this is the ideal book for you. It charts the changes that take place inside teenagers’ brains and how the differences between teenagers’ and adults’ brains can explain typical teenage behaviour (such as impulsivity, risk-taking, mood swings, lack of insight, forgetfulness, and poor judgement).
For a parent of teenagers, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults is both an enlightening and a frightening read. It will help you understand why your teenagers behave the way they do (and why they can’t control it) but also just how dangerous that teen thinking and risk-taking could be. A teenager’s brain is basically a recipe for disaster: a hormone flooded, jacked up, stimulus-seeking explosion incapable of weighing up risks or making mature decisions. It’s amazing any of them survive at all….
Jensen (the author) is a neuroscientist so there is quite a lot of technical detail in this book. But if brain science is not your thing then it is possible to skip through some of the stodgier descriptions of how neurons work and still get the gist of how brain development impacts on teenage thinking and behaviour.
In essence, the executive functions (which control impulsivity and enable planning and task-focus) are located in the front part of the brain which is still underdeveloped in teenagers. Which explains why teens are liable to forget from one minute to the next the one thing that they were definitely supposed to remember to do. At the same time, the teenage brain is in rapid learning mode and firing much too quickly, meaning that teens get a huge neurological pay-off when things feel good and tend to repeat that behaviour again and again despite the consequences. It’s this reward-seeking impulse without ability to control or delay that drives teenagers’ repetitive or risky behaviour.
Knowing why teenagers behave the way they do definitely won’t answer all your questions about how you should parent teenagers – this isn’t a magic bullet. But understanding the neurological drivers of the more frustrating aspects of teenage behaviour might help you to cope with some of the tribulations of trying to parent one. They really aren’t doing it deliberately…..
*This is not a sponsored post. I put this book on my Christmas list and received it as a gift from a member of my family who knows what I like! However, this post does contain affiliate links which means that if you click through from this post and buy the book I will receive a small fee. For more details, see my Disclosure Notice.