The Teen Brain and Other Musings...

I had the best day today. 

I did a 6 hour training today with middle and high school teachers.

It was so cool. 

I was nervous, when this opportunity came up  three months ago, really nervous.  I even attempted to talk my way out of it a couple of weeks ago.  BUT, it turns out, its ok that I didn’t teach at the secondary level, and that I don’t have a teenager yet, because I know this work, and I LOVE to share it.  I love it.  It is so powerful to give people tools for social and emotional growth....  and talk about it......   and read about it all the time.  Because it inspires me to continue to grow as well.

To ready myself for this opportunity, I began readying How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough, and watched some videos online about how the brain develops through childhood.  I spent some time with the Positive Discipline for Teens, as well as familiarized myself with stories from middle and high school teachers documented in Positive Discipline in the Classroom.

I’m pretty excited about the teen brain right now.

Do you want to know what I learned?

Well, a while back, it was widely believed that the most brain growth happened in the first three years of life.  There IS a lot of brain growth in those years, no doubt about it, and what scientists are finding is that there is also a HUGE period of time where the brain is doing nothing but changing and growing.

And guess when this occurs?

Yup, adolescents.  Crazytown. 

One thing that I read in How Children Succeed that totally fascinates me is two particular systems that develop over time in the brain.  The first is called the Incentive Processing System and makes teens "more sensation seeking, emotionally reactive, attentive to social behavior.".

This system begins to develop in the early adolescents.  Those kids doing crazy things at the skate park, without worrying they are going to wreck themselves?  The ones NOT WEARING HELMETS?  This is whats going on for them.

The other system, the one designed to work as the great voice of reason, is the Cognitive Control System.  This system is designed to help us regulate all of those urges.

Guess when this system is fully developed???  In our early TWENTIES!!! 

That is why we can find ourselves in what feels like our own private freakshow.  

The good news is there is a logical explanation for what is happening in there.  I don’t know about you all, but that makes me feel as though I may be able to take things a little less personally when my kids become teens….  Although, adolescents IS defined (according to Wikipedia) as the time of puberty through the “age of maturity” – and puberty is knocking at the door at my house….

And so back to brain growth…  The first three years are huge for brain growth and then in adolescence, the brain drops any unused pathways,– as if it is pruning itself – the human brain again become a place ripe for discovery and mastery, and developing skills

That’s why today was so fun.

It is a blessing to provide opportunities to educators, where we spend time recognizing, or remembering, why they must really see their students.  To remind them, or teach them, how to build strong relationships…  That all the power they possess as educators lives in the relationships they create with the children in their lives.  They are always so excited to revisit why they chose to teach.  I always feel so honored to be there.

And today I taught secondary teachers for the first time.  



Videos to watch: 

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore TED talk on Teen Brain

Frontline Special on the Teen Brain

Dan Seigel's  Brain in the Hand Demonstration  

Books to read:

How Children Succeed  by Paul Tough 

Positive Discipline for Teens  by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott

Positive Discipline in the Classroom  by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott

Parenting From the Inside Out by Dan Siegel