18 June 2018

Student Wellbeing

Managing your Daredevil Teenager

Risk-taking behaviour is quite normal for teenagers. It is the way they learn about themselves. Boys don't want to be seen amongst their peers as being foolish. They tend to look at each other and do what the group does… and this may mean taking risks and pushing boundaries to prove that they are a worthy member of the group.

But there is a whole spectrum of risks… from learning new tricks on a skateboard to binge drinking to train surfing. What can you do as a parent?

Setting appropriate ground rules and keeping lines of communication open is a good start as a parent. It can also help to understand boy's brains:

  • The part of the brain responsible for impulse control isn't fully mature until about the age of 25
  • The amygdala (commonly known as the reptilian brain, responsible for fostering curiosity and entertaining aggression) is 16% bigger in boys than in girls

Adolescent boys, then, are particularly vulnerable to making 'poor choices'.

Andrew Fuller, author of 'Tricky Kids' writes that "once a tricky kid gets an adrenaline rush, trying to change his behaviour is a complete waste of time". Stress from family life, school or peers can increase another hormone, cortisol, so it is important for families to provide low levels of stimulation and develop routines to lessen the strain and make their children feel safe from violence, ridicule or humiliation.

Michael Grose from parentingideas provides tips for managing your daredevil teenager:

  • Involve teenagers in repetitive movements like table tennis or swimming to naturally increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin
  • To avoid heated arguments and theatrical displays of teenagers storming out of the room, give kids some space and talk to them when sitting down shoulder-to-shoulder in a car, rather than face-to-face to remove some of the pressure
  • Redirect your teenager's built up desire for experimentation by involving them in adrenalin-charged sports like rock climbing, martial arts or mountain biking to release pent up energy
  • Develop the art of forward planning - an important skill that daredevils and teenagers in general lack, by participating in games that require the formation of plans and strategies - like cards or board games
  • Encouraging real life social situations and promoting them as being more valuable could help reduce the risks teenagers take through social media. For example, volunteering at community events, taking classes or enrolling in competitions where they can display their talent are all good alternatives to excessive social media usage.

Ms Shauna Lipscombe

Senior School Psychologist