Parents always seem to be confident that if they lecture their teens enough on the risks of illicit behavior early on, that will automatically mean they can save their children from the fate of the majority of their peers before who have experimented with alcohol, drugs, and sex. This is a point of view shared by most governments around the world that spend billions of dollars annually to warn teenagers of the dangers of such habits. But all of that has been to no avail, and the problem persisted and even increased during the last few decades.
Teenagers today are still guilty of the same infractions that their parents and grandparents were known to indulge in. Perhaps the only notable decline is in teenage smoking, but several behaviorists claim it’s the relatively high prices of cigarettes that caused this decrease rather than the campaigns that have been done over the years. It surprises parents that their bright and reasonable teenagers still fall prey to such temptations. Most teenagers have excellent reasoning skills and are smart enough to recognize the dangers of such acts; however, they still engage in them. So what’s the missing loop here?
The answer lies in the biology of our evolution. The mind and body of a teenager are pumped full of hormones that make it almost inevitable to conduct in a highly risky fashion. It is the source of this rebellion that has come to mark the adolescent years regardless of gender or background. No matter how many times the danger of such acts are shown and no matter how numerous the evidence to support the claims of the parents is, teenagers will still see it fit to engage in these high-risk situations and practices. They simply do not have the power for self-control and self-regulation adults have.
Perhaps as parents, we are too hard on our children. When one asks their teenage daughter or son about the reasons, the answer is most often along the lines of “I do not know” or “I was just caught up in the moment”. Contrary to what parents might think, these are not their way of brushing thing aside, but it’s a fair interpretation of how they feel. The cognitive reasoning takes a backseat, and they are swept along with the mob mentality. And before we start getting judgmental, adults are just as susceptible. How many times have we been pressured into doing something that went against our reasoning, if not our morals, for the sake of fitting in with those around us? In fact, most parents have remained a victim of this mob mentality well into early adulthood, yet they still expect their teenage children to know better. It’s a bit irrational to have such high expectations, so what can be done?
Fighting one’s own biological making is futile, therefore the wisest course of action is to minimize the opportunities that teenagers are subject to and allow the freedom of their own judgment. For example, do not expect that having two or three friends spending extended unsupervised hours together without them falling into some kind of mischief. Peer pressure and hierarchy within the group will constantly push teenagers to try to be perceived as superior and trendsetting. Most of these actions take place after school hours when teenagers are huddled together in groups or cooped up in their bedrooms on their phones. The seeds of misconduct are planted and fortified. In fact, doing these irresponsible acts seems to solidify the bonds of friendship and they start feeding off of each other’s energy. Many studies have shown that teenagers are most likely to misbehave when in a group than when alone. But regardless, parents still go into a fit and question how their children could be so reckless.
The last thing a wise parent would do is make their teenage ticking bomb feel cornered. It’s impractical to keep them away from their friends and their interests because that is basically asking for rebellion. Trying to force them into an activity they hate is also a recipe for trouble. What they can do is make sure the teenagers have something constructive to do. It can be sports or something artistic like music or painting. It can even be getting a job and earning extra money. There are many activities within the community that can keep teenagers busy within adult supervision without feeling oppressed. It will also serve as an outlet for all that spirit and spunk they have. It keeps them out of the trouble and it might also help them explore untapped skills that could help them in the future.
Any parent knows there is no guaranteed fix for teenage rebellion and drama. There are virtually no young adolescents that will not get into more than the one scrape or another. They won’t immediately turn into well-behaved saints that would never embarrass or worry their parents. What is suggested here will hopefully minimize the opportunities available for them to go off the rails, and that is the best any long-suffering parent can hope for.