Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 7 "The Science of Teen Rebellion"

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise. The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep. The third week we talked about talking about race with your kids. The fourth week we talked about why kids lie and how we're inadvertently promoting that. The fifth week we talked about intelligence testing for preschoolers for school placement purposes. Last week we talked about how having siblings socializes children. This week we're talking about why teens lie to their parents and engage in risky behavior.

This chapter, entitled "The Science of Teen Rebellion" wasn't as thrilling to me as previous chapters, undoubtedly because I don't have teenagers yet. But I also thought the structure and writing in this chapter is weaker than in the others we've read so far. The first section (a terrifying expose of one teenager in Florida that I didn't think was actually necessary) and the last section (I'm not really sure what to make of it) aside, here are the main points of this chapter:

  • Teenagers lie to their parents. A lot.
  • The main reason they lie to their parents is to avoid arguments about things they're doing or want to do.
  • The parents to whom teens lied the least were parents who enforced the few rules they had. Parents with tons of rules and parents who were very permissive were lied to the most.
  • Kids who argued with their parents saw the arguing as good for the relationship when they felt their parents had understood their side of things and had compromised with them.
  • Parents, on the other hand, saw arguing as destructive to the relationship and didn't notice the compromise as a bonding factor. The inference here is that you might think your relationship with your teen is in the crapper, while your teen could think things are great because you give them your full attention and concede to them sometimes in arguments.
  • There was some program trying to teach kids not to be bored that didn't work, and I really didn't get how it related to the rest of the chapter.
  • Teens' brains are physically not able to experience pleasure except at extremes of experience, compared to children and adults.
  • Teens also are unable to make fast decisions about risk and reasonable behavior.
  • No wonder they do really stupid things.
  • All that research in the '50s and '60s showing that teen rebellion and anger is normal was done on kids in treatment centers for behavioral problems. Turns out that when you study a wide group of teens in schools, 75% have good relationships with parents, and the 25% who don't had trouble before becoming teens.

Even though there was plenty in this chapter that seemed not to connect to the main points, I did think this chapter was going to be the easiest to turn into real-life behavior for parents: The example of a parent who was lied to the least and had the most harmonious relationship with their teen was a parent who had consistent rules but was flexible in allowing the teen to collaborate on occasions in which the rule was changed. Seems pretty straight-forward, and goes along with the parenting by principles, not strictly by rules, approach that we've talked about before.

Thoughts? Reflections on your own teen years? Any really notorious lies you told your parents? Ready to just give up? (My dad always threatened me with "You know, there's a Lutheran convent in Iowa that takes girls when they're 14...")