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It's in the hormones



Published: Wed, February 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Dallas Morning News: Men are from Mars.

Women are from Venus.

Is it any wonder that teenagers are from Pluto?

Parents know the signs: melodramatic, Oscar-worthy performances reminiscent of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" unleashed at tornado force and suddenness. If there's much sound and more fury, signifying nothing, it must be the 13th birthday.

Moms and dads aren't imagining these things. There are physiological reasons for teen weirdness.

Author and psychologist David Walsh says it's because a teenager's prefrontal cortex -- the brain's control room for moderation, impulse control and assessing consequences -- is still developing.

Different point of view

Not so of their hormones, says Dr. Walsh, the founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family in Minneapolis. Those hormones are revving higher than a Formula One racer. Then consider that the teenage brain interprets body language and conversation differently than grown-ups do, and what we have is a failure to communicate.

So, what's a distressed parent to do?

First, resist the temptation to move to the Oregon wilderness without leaving a forwarding address. Then remind yourself that the teen years aren't eternal.

Then, says Dr. Walsh, comes the challenge called parenting. A child's bad behavior may be explainable, but it isn't excusable. It's up to parents to calmly and maturely enforce consequences for outlandish behavior in a teaching and loving way.

The lessons you teach about emotional control will be an important lesson in your teenager's life. Moreover, you just might retain your own sanity.




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