Yesterday I looked out the window just as a very interesting homemade go-cart went flying down the street. Peeking over the top of the makeshift racing vehicle was the head of my oldest grandson.
He just turned 14 years old last week and measures his days by how many thrilling moments he experiences.
After I caught my breath, my only comfort was that he was wearing a helmet!
Dopamine is to blame.
This danger-seeking compulsion of boys in puberty can be attributed to changes that are happening in their brain. The major culprit is dopamine, a chemical released by cells in the brain that ramp up the thrill mechanism. Dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is associated with competitiveness and the thrill of aggressive adventures.
Dopamine is flooding your son’s brain at the same time that another part of his brain, the pre-frontal cortex, is still immature but in a state of rapid development. The prefrontal-cortex is responsible for planning, impulse control, attention and self-awareness. This scary intersection of risk taking behavior (Thanks, dopamine!) with little self-control (Hurry up, pre-frontal cortex!) can drive any parent to their knees.
It is important for boys during puberty to grow in their independence and confidence.
Although I understand it is a bit of tight rope that parents walk between encouragement and control, if we keep our eyes on the goal we can raise sons we will be proud of.
Here are some suggestions:
- Guide, but try not to dominate.
- Congratulate even the smallest accomplishments.
- Carefully weigh the impact of your words and tone so your son can “hear” the wisdom you are imparting.
- Smile as much as you can.
I raised a very active son and now I am helping as my daughter and son-in-law raise three boys!
I am here to help you too. If you have questions or just need some encouragement, please contact me through my website and I will quickly respond.
Don’t worry! You’re not alone!
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