Self-Control Can Teens Learn It

Teens are famous for being impulsive and difficult to live with. Blame it on their raging hormones, right?

 Not totally. Their brains play a role in the behavior we label as “typical teen.”

Teens  often use the limbic system of their brain, the area responsible for in the moment survival, rather than the prefrontal cortex, the “CEO” of the brain to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t mature until the late twenties, so it’s not a conscious choice to use a less than stellar steering wheel for their lives.

One of the new buzz words from the neuroscience world is: executive functioning. It refers to the ability to order your thoughts, put things in your short term memory for future use, and to stay on task mentally, not something teens are able to do very well these days. (Many teachers are noticing that preschoolers are starting out their educational years with less executive functioning than previous students years past.) A recent New York Times article delved into a new solution for helping preschooler have more executive function and more self-control. Read the article here. That solution can help teens learn self-control as well.

The solution? Play! But not just any type of play, but rather dramatic, pretend play. Play has been stripped from our children’s lives at school and home and replaced with a heavy load of academics, organized sports and over scheduled lives. Play has gotten a bad rap as something silly, frivolous and without merit. Yet play is the womb for brain growth, happiness, innovation, stress regulation, and learning, among other wonderful things.

Teens aren’t keen to go back to playing dress-up-lets-pretend, (which is what helps little ones learn better) but they are, believe it or not, quite happy to use their imaginations and get their hands messy.  When given the chance to use their imagination to create, teens have a better chance to learn self-control.

The challenge for parents is to learn HOW to bring play back into their teens lives and how to play along with them at times. Even preschoolers need to be directed at how to play as it has been slowly removed from our culture so you can well imagine how challenging it is to bring play into the lives of our teens.

Part of the monthly subscription covers the topic of play.

As more scientists publish the positive benefits of play, and experts bemoan the loss of play in our lives, parents have the chance to learn more.

I’ll keep you posted about the latest reseach on play and how you can ues it to be a better parent, and how it can benefit your teen daughter.