Ever wonder why teenagers might be better than us in video games, but seemingly inept at simple decision making and reasoning?
If only we could take a peek inside the teenage brain.
Well… they have!
Parade magazine featured an excellent article yesterday about the teenage brain. I’ve written on the teenage brain before— especially the fact that teenagers lack the neural circuitry in the frontal lobe necessary for decision making. Teenage brains are a “work in progress” until they are in their 20’s. (That explains a lot, huh?)
This new Parade article encored that research, and also shared a few other interesting tidbits:
- The skills you practice as a child and pre-teen become much sharper in the teenage years; and those practiced reluctantly, if at all, will diminish on your brain’s hard-disk drive. “The brain is very efficient, allowing you to become more adept at the life skills you’re going to use — which is why these are the years to set good work habits in place,” notes Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.
- The frontal lobes, and particularly the prefrontal cortex, are one of the last areas of the brain to develop. Researchers now believe that the prefrontal cortex — responsible for things like organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, and controlling impulses — is not fully developed until the late 20s. (The article I wrote above cited research that said “early” twenties. Interesting that it’s now the “late 20s.)
- Beginning in puberty and continuing into the early 20s, adolescents need from 8.4 to 9.2 hours of sleep on average a night.
- Teens and adults used different areas of the brain to process what they were feeling. Teens rely much more on the amygdala, a small almond-shaped region in the medial and temporal lobes that processes memory and emotions, while adults rely more on the frontal cortex, which governs reason and forethought.
Lori and I talked about this article quite a bit when we read it. I was encouraged by a few things:
– Sometimes I second-guess myself when I’m not only teaching, but enforcing good work habits in our home. I wonder, “Am I being too strict?” It’s good to hear that this window of time sets these good work habits in place for the rest of their life. I even asked my son Alec (17) his thoughts on the issue. He said, “Looking back, I’m glad you made me get off my butt and do some of this, because I probably never would have done it myself.”
– Lori and I make our kids go to bed at 9PM. They always complain, “9PM!!! None of our friends have to go to bed at 9PM!” But when their alarm goes off early, they’re always grateful!
– It also seems interesting that research keeps showing “full maturity” to be later and later. Early twenties, now late twenties. I can’t help but wonder if we’re pampering this generation too much, helping them not grow up. I’ve always experienced great results when I “raised the bar” just a bit with my kids, both in ministry and in parenting.