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Helping Parents Understand Adolescent Brain Development

December 13, 2015

Most parents would love to know why their teenagers think and behave like they do. To the rescue in helping them understand is A PARENTS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING TEENAGE BRAINS (Group Publishing, 2012) a short 69 page volume published as part of the 5 volume Parents Guide series. This easily understandable book features practical explanations using real life examples about the complexities of brain and cognitive development.

Mark’s background as both a parent, youth minister and youth ministry trainer give him a great perspective from which to share his decades long study on brain issues. Mark begins with an explanation on why parents need to be interested in recent brain research concluding with the summery statement “Their brains are not yet adult brains” (p.10). Chapter two explores the goal of parenting and how understanding adolescent brain development contributes to formulating parenting strategies. Easy to remember contrasts like “Engagement over control” and “Boundaries and Freedom” Make good jumping off points for further reflection and application. The bulk of chapter three is an excellent discussion on concrete and developing abstract thinking capabilities and suggestions for changing parenting styles as these changes are discerned. Chapter 4 focus specificity on how abstract thinking  affects things like emotions, relationships, independence and faith. Especially helpful in this section was the metaphor of teenage emotions and colors on a painters palette (p.50-52)

The last chapter focused on 3 important discoveries about brain research. from the last 15 years. These discussions on the frontal lobes, temporal lobes and neurons are nothing short of fascinating. This is not a general book on parenting adolescence and thus will not supplant the host of more general classic books on the subject but it provides rich insight and practical applications to a significant subset of parenting students. Robert Epstein and Teen 2.0 is quoted (as I would have done in 2012) but the foundational premise of his work has been called in to question and answered I believe completely by Crystal Kirgiss in her recent book In Search of Adolescence. Buy and read this book it will inform and improve your parenting perspective and skill.

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