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Understanding the brain of a rebellious teenager

Understanding what goes on in the brain of a rebellious teenager

The Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) is the last part of the brain to mature, typically around 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, including depressive episodes. 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 can 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, resulting in unbalanced emotion.

Encouraging productivity

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.

Recent observations show that school involvement, such as sports and school clubs, helps curb depression, anxiety, and rebellion.

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, which is responsible for emotions.

After connecting, parents can later engage in problem-solving, which activates the left brain (logic) and aligns both hemispheres.

If the teen expresses anger, parents should remain open and acknowledge their emotions by refraining 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, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Rebellious teenagers need a lot of time off, and the solutions can come later. What they need is a parent’s unconditional support. Remember: “Love conquers a multitude of sins.”

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 natures 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 who wants to alienate parents to encourage depressed kids—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 the 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.

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