5 Reasons Teens drive their Parents Crazy

What’s really going on “under the hood” of a teenager?

Posted Jun 30, 2016

Teens experience a ridiculous amount of cognitive and emotional variance and development between ages 11 and 26. Generations ago, the early teen years used to herald an adolescent’s passage into adulthood and adult responsibilities. Today, modern neuroscience tells us that brains keep cooking until our adolescent is in her mid-twenties. That suggests that cognitive development cannot be hurried and that hanging out waiting for our teens to act like adults may require a lot more patience than many of us would like.

Understanding the Inner Workings of an Adolescent’s Frame of Mind

Adolescence is a treacherous period – there are seismic changes in the emotional and social topography and climate of an adolescent. This translates into significant and signifying physical changes as bodies develop at highly varying speeds from child to adult. Rushing hormones contribute to sizable changes in temperament and emotional climate. This metamorphosis can be unevenly experienced and hulking full-grown male bodies may be acting under the direction of still immature and insecure brains. It’s the same for young women whose bodies move into maturity before some are psychologically prepared for the physiological transformation. In addition to these physical changes, a teenager’s mind and personal perspective undergo significant transformations, as well.

5 Adolescent Beliefs that Drive Adults Crazy

  1. The Imaginary Audience: Many of us can remember the awkwardness of our teen years. Do you remember ever feeling like everyone was looking at you and judging you? Many of us have gone through that period in which we are humiliated by hugs from our parents. We hate when our family waves at us from an audience. We feel personally insulted by their poor fashion choices. This is the sense of The Imaginary Audience at play. Teens feel as if everyone is watching and judging; unfortunately, this may be truer of their peers than one would like and this can lead to bullying and relentless teasing. In generations past, teenagers seem to have spent more time staring in a mirror than actually staring at their friends. Social media, however, has changed this balance as it appears that the once “imaginary audience” is now all too real.

  2. The Personal Fable: Standing alone on that imaginary stage, a teen may believe that she is acting out her own Personal Fable. This is the narrative that shapes a teen’s behavior and on which she shapes her own personal account of her experiences and place in life. The personal fable is the backdrop against which she shapes her identity and three specific qualities color this burgeoning identity.

  3. Unwavering Belief in Personal Immortality and Invulnerability: Teens are able to acknowledge the risks in a behavior, but unable to cognitively intuit that the risk may result in personal harm to themselves. This means that driving a car around a sharp curve at 90 mph isn’t “scary” or “risky for them;” it’s just a way to have some fun. Think “Jackass,” the show and movie. This sense of invulnerability is a great feeling and carries many teens into situations that take great courage or chutzpa; however, on the down side, it creates situations in which false beliefs cost kids their future – whether it’s the drug that “I won’t OD on” or the girl who knows “I won’t get pregnant” or the kid who believes “I won’t get caught.”

  4. Extreme Feelings of Uniqueness: This is that almost “endearing” quality that motivates virtually every teenager to scream at or whine to adults, “This is my life – you wouldn’t understand!” Teens are often incapable of recognizing that every adult has experienced similar feelings that a contemporary teen is currently experiencing. Although circumstances and times change, adolescent feelings seem to endure through every generation.

  5. Sense of Omnipotence:  This is a teen’s belief in her power to accomplish whatever she sets out to do. It’s a wonderfully positive quality that can lead to great achievements, for sure; yet it also can create an impossibly arrogant attitude in which teens assume that their own will is more powerful than that of anyone around them. This can lead an adolescent to believe that he is absolute best at something or to the belief that he is the absolute worst at something. A teen can roll out of bed feeling on top of the world that he is going to get the girl, score the winning point, or ace an exam. By the end of a long, disappointing day, he may lay down on his bed telling himself that no one is as moronic as him, hopeless as him, or ugly as he feels himself to be.

While these qualities are relatively omnipresent among teens and relatively intractable, perhaps being more aware of the frame-of-mind of an adolescent and the normalcy of their bold risk-taking can help parents accept what they cannot change, although setting rules and boundaries is necessary to help protect teens from themselves. Remember, adolescents are biologically driven to take risks and try on new behaviors as they prepare for the ultimate leap from child to partner to parent, themselves.