Parenting Teenagers – End Of Year Wrap

This is part of my monthly series on Parenting Teenagers.

2013 has provided a very big learning curve for me as a parent. I had heard that Year 9 was a challenging year for parents and our son’s school has a separate campus for Year 9 as they also know it is a unique time in a teenagers development. But it was still relieving to read this in a paper from the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. {Understanding Year 9 Students: A Theoretical Perspective PAPER NO. 8 Part A APRIL 2006}

Those involved in the education of students in the middle years and in particular Year 9 would not be surprised to read that it “is a very difficult year for teachers and students and that the traditional models of learning and teaching are not successfully engaging the majority of Year 9 students and meeting their learning needs” (Bissett, unpublished).

It has certainly been one of the toughest years of parenting I have had and I think the above also transfers to home life. It is a year where the teenager is really starting to find himself, cement relationships and form opinions. I have had to reconsider how I engage with, communicate to and disciple our eldest child.

In the paper {Understanding Year 9 Students: A Theoretical Perspective PAPER NO. 8 Part A APRIL 2006} the authors dedicate a section to Brain development and learning, citing some of the latest research on the adolescence brain. I have noted some key quotes below and what my experience has been with it.

Risk taking behaviour

Relative to individuals at other ages, adolescents as a group exhibit a disproportionate amount of reckless behaviour, sensation seeking and risk taking (Overman et al, 2004). This behaviour may have some benefits. Risk taking may allow the adolescents to explore adult behaviour and privileges, to accomplish normal developmental tasks, and to develop and express mastery of challenges associated with certain risky behaviours.

Our 15 year old has certainly pushed the boundaries this year. He hasn’t necessarily undertaken any behaviour that is dangerous, but he has made some pretty poor choices. Through out the year he has learnt from these decisions and made better ones based from these learnings (some of the time!).

I think while still having room for improvement, I have become better and how I react and handle his poor decisions. Most of the time after the fact he knows he has done the wrong thing, so I am trying to focus less on the past event and more on how he could make a better decision in the future.

Emotional response

Parents, teachers or those who are familiar with adolescent behaviour, such as being happy one moment and absolutely miserable the next, tend to associate this type of behaviour with hormonal changes as the child enters puberty. However, the discovery of brain developments in recent years suggests that the observed behaviour could be attributed to the immature frontal lobe. In addition to being responsible for cognitive flexibility such as planning behaviour or devising strategies, the frontal lobe has also been found to have a regulation function of the seat of emotion that is situated deep in the brain. Since this area is still being developed during adolescence, the regulation function is immature and it is only with age that this function improves. This finding may provide an explanation for the inclination of adolescents to respond with emotion and for why these types of behaviour tend to level out a year or two post-puberty (PBS, 2002).

The way the teenager has responded to what I see as simple requests have very often seemed so out of proportion. While I understand he may not have liked to stop what he was doing and have to tidy up his own mess in the bathroom for example, I have not been able to understand the extreme unhappiness it seems to cause him.

In some ways it reminded me of the toddler stage when one day you could do everything the exactly same way you did the day before for his lunch, but for some reason it isn’t quite right and they lose their mind!

Social interaction skills

The miscommunication between adolescents and adults could be caused by the way in which the adolescent brain is wired to respond to the outside world. Adolescents have been found to be unable to correctly read all the feelings in the adult face. For example, adolescents may see anger when there is no anger or sadness when there is no sadness (Yurgelen-Todd, 1998). Thus, when adolescents are relating to their parents, teachers or other adults, they may be misperceiving or misunderstanding some of the feelings that adults take as the norm.

I really wish I had read this at the start of the year! My teenager will say to me “why are you so angry?” when I don’t think I have expressed any anger. I can see that this represents an opportunity for me to modify my expressions so as to eliminate him thinking I am angry.

Sleep Patterns

Adolescent brain developments associated with the rise in the hormone melatonin level manifest a biological shift in sleeping patterns. As adolescents mature, the onset of melatonin secretion occurs later in the night and switches off later in the morning, thus providing explanations for adolescents’ preference for going to sleep later in the evening and waking up later. While this is happening, adolescents actually need more sleep, as much as nine and a quarter hours during this dynamic period of growth and development (Carskadon, 1999).

The teenager is always wanting to stay up later, but with a fixed rising time during school term we have stuck with his bedtime. This however doesn’t mean he will go to sleep. Quite often the reading lamp is switched on, so  as I walk past his room after 10.30pm I will have to ask him to turn it off.

In the morning this leads to him being tired. Most of the time he is still quite cheerful regardless, but towards the end of the school year he did become fairly grumpy. Over the school holidays I will try to ensure his siblings don’t disturb him too early in the morning so he is getting closer to the nine and a quarter hours that he is needing at this stage of his life.


Throughout the year though along with these learnings there have been many moments when I have been intensely proud of him and his acheivements. Being the eldest of many, he has a lovely nature with younger children and show great patience with them. He has a fantastic sense of humour and I do find him incredibly funny at times.

I love the glimpses I see of the good man he could and hopefully will turn into. My goal for 2014 with the teenager is to work on my 5:1 positive comment ratio and to build his independence skills through his contribution to the home.

What have you learnt from your parenting journey this year?


Thank you so much for reading Planning With Kids in 2013. I appreciate there is a wealth of information to read online and am always so very happy you choose to spend your time reading my blog. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!

Thanks, Nic