When problems with teenagers seem most complicated, the answers are most simple. There is one answer, in fact, when the question, "What the hell is wrong with them?" reaches a deafening pitch. Indeed, there is one word.
Oh, teenagers are tricky. They will lure you into their conversations, their problems, their worries and you will follow, because talking with them is such a rare treat. They may even ask for your advice--intoxicating! Before you know it, you take the bait and find yourself caught in their labyrinthine logic, their perceived injustices, their utterly insane value systems. When teenaged drama revs into high gear, everything seems so bloody complicated. Step back, parents. I beg you. It really is so simple.
We all know those endless, emotional conversations with our teenagers. Especially if bedtime or homework deadlines loom, those kids will talk and talk and talk. They contradict themselves with tearful passion. They make wild, painful, inaccurate claims about their lives and about us. Their ability to reason seems to have flown out the window.
And so it has. Emotional teenagers are ruled not by logic but by the unholy chemical reactions invading their brains and bodies. A brilliant middle-school teacher I know calls it "testosterone poisoning." Robert Sapolsky, in this instructive article, asks the perfect question: "Dude, Where's My Frontal Cortex?"
To KNOW, PROTECT and HONOR teenagers, we must recognize when they have stopped making sense. Be on your guard; it's alarming. One minute, your child might demonstrate mature, critical thinking; the next, she's throwing a toddler-style temper tantrum.
It's good to be the grown-ups. Step back, see your teenagers for who and what they are, and hang out with people whose grey matter is fully formed. Hug your kids; let their frantic rambling in one ear and out the other. Reassure them; feed them good food and send them to bed. They need rest. Raise your adult glass to biology's comical promise: this, too, shall pass, right along with puberty.