Understanding what goes on in the brain of a rebellious teenager
Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) is the last part of the brain to mature, typically around the 24 years old. The delay in maturation contributes to the comparatively immature behavior observed in younger individuals.
Located in the frontal lobe, DLPFC strongly influences motivation, mood regulation, and overall emotions in adolescence that include depressive episodes. The pruning (refining neural connections) is necessary to improve decision-making and cognitive control of the brain.
This process explains what happens in the brain of a teenager, underscoring the need for patience and understanding. However, it should not justify bad behavior such as disrespectful attitude, disobedience, and laziness.
The “upstairs brain” and the “downstairs brain”
Teenagers’ brains have an “upstairs” (prefrontal cortex) and “downstairs” (limbic system). The upstairs brain controls focus, balanced emotions, compassion, and calmness.
When the “upstairs brain” is in control, the child has the ability to listen and heed instructions. However, the “downstairs brain” does the opposite (impulsive actions).
At times, the “downstairs” dominates the “upstairs,” like letting go of a cliff’s edge that results in unbalanced emotion.
According to psychologist Jordan Peterson, teenagers should channel their rebellion into something heroic and productive, bringing things into balance.
For example, they can engage in community service, set meaningful goals, and cultivate skills with the ultimate goal of self-reliance and personal responsibility.
Connecting with your child through the left and right brain
To help a struggling teen, emotional connection must be established by using empathic words and physical comfort such as a hug. The act activates the teen’s right hemisphere responsible for emotions.
After connecting, parents can later engage in problem-solving, that activates the left brain (logic), aligning both hemispheres.
If the teen expresses anger, parents should remain open and acknowledge their emotions by refrain from giving a solution, even if it’s obvious. All these should be tied together in the words of Apostle Paul: “Pray at all times.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Loving the unlovable
At times, a child may have symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (wrath), or extreme rebellion. No matter how science justifies it as a genetic or developmental brain issue, these are sinful nature that can progress into adulthood.
The enemy sows unforgiveness, rebellion, and pride into the hearts of children. When a person refuses God, dark forces can easily generate discord, hatred, and wrath from within, along with doubts and lies (Genesis 3).
The issues that surround us today may be explained by science, but the spiritual realm will always be at play. After all, Satan is the ruler of this world—but the good news is Jesus who alone can renew and transform the mind into submission. [Metanoia]
The parent’s most critical role is not to give solution or reprimand a child, but to listen with unconditional love. God will take care of the rest.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.