No! Of course not! Don’t give up on your child until he’s 25 at least! The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.
In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. This is why your child seems to make decisions out of impulse instead of logical thinking.
This also means it’s OK that they may not seem to be performing to their fullest potential during school or work. They are still developing in terms of their ability to make better decisions in life. By acquiring better decision-making skills over the years, your troubled teen can still do very well in their adulthood!
As parents, you will, of course, not want to let nature slowly take its course if you know that you can help train your child’s inhibitory control to encourage rational thinking. Besides sending them to executive functions courses like the ones we offer at ILLAC, your child’s executive functions can be enhanced by:
1.Having a good role model in life, YOU.
You’re the most important role model your child has. Sure, their friends are important to them, but the way you behave and fulfill your responsibilities will have a profound and long-lasting effect on your children. Being their immediate environment, your decisions (be it good or bad) will leave an impression on your child and expose them to the varying consequences.
2. Discussing the consequences of their actions.
Rather than reprimanding them for the bad decisions they’ve made, help your child link impulsive thinking with facts. This helps the brain make connections and wires it for greater efficiency in making good decisions. The more you discuss and reflect with them, the better they become.
3. Remind your teens that they are resilient and competent.
Not just some motivational rah-rah, but continuous reinforcement that they CAN DO IT! Because they’re so focused in the moment, teens might have trouble seeing that they can play a part in changing bad situations. It can help to remind them of times in the past that they thought would have devastating outcomes but turned out for the best.
4. Respect their preferences.
Respect comes with understanding and the more you understand what your teen likes, the easier it is for you to respect their preferences. Being familiar with things that are important to your teen doesn’t mean you have to like hip-hop music or BTS, but showing an interest in the things they’re involved in shows them they’re important to you and teaches them to make decisions by taking into consideration other people’s feelings.
5. Ask, before responding.
Sometimes, we just wanna rant and are not interested in advice. Our kids too. So, before you go into the nagging mode or “she-needs-my-advice mode”, please ask if they want you to respond or if they just want you to listen. Respect their preferences and stick to it! Don’t switch modes because you couldn’t resist not giving advice! Parents tend to jump in with advice to try to fix their children’s problems or place blame. But this can make teens less likely to be open with their parents in the future. You want to make it emotionally safe and easy for them to come to you so you can be part of their lives.
6. Encourage good sleeping habits.
With the rampant use of devices, it is very difficult to enforce this. However tough it may be, remember that it is all worth the trouble. Teen brains need more sleep than adults and a brain that doesn’t receive enough sleep is a poor-functioning brain. Impulse control, self-regulation, memory, and mental flexibility are all affected when the brain is deprived of sleep. Try all ways and means to drive them to bed at regular timings!
In summary, is it too late for your grown child? Of Course not! Never say never! They are never too old to change for the better as long as they are still under 25!