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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2006 / 19 Tishrei, 5767

Research proves it: Teens don't use brains

By Marybeth Hicks

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There is something parents of teenagers sometimes say when faced with the reckless, thoughtless and self-absorbed behavior of our offspring.

It's perhaps not the kindest thing we could say, but it turns out it's entirely true.

What we say is: "For crying out loud, why don't you use your brain?"

We pose this rhetorical question when our teens drive cars that have illuminated low-fuel warnings until the engine dies on the roadside or when they leave expensive miniature electronic devices in the pockets of bluejeans headed for the washer.

We ask this question when our teens succumb to peer pressure, or lead a group of friends into a dangerous situation. We always ask it when the police are involved.

And of course, it's the only thing to say when teens open their mouths and utter the unkind, insensitive yet routine comments for which adolescents are well known, such as, "You're such a jerk," "You're a moron," and "I hate you" (a comment made all the more hurtful by the sound of a slamming door).

Well, it turns out "Why don't you use your brain?" isn't just a belittling, sarcastic, frustrated expression of parental indignation.

Separate studies by researchers at both the National Institutes for Health and the University College of London prove what parents have known for generations. Teens don't use their brains.

Apparently, the part of the brain that inhibits risky behavior may not be fully developed until age 25. This explains the price of auto insurance.

In addition to lacking the brainpower to assess risk and act accordingly, the region of the brain associated with higher-level thinking — empathy, guilt and understanding the motivations of others — is underused by teenagers. Instead, teens rely on the posterior area of the brain — the part involved with perceiving and imagining actions.

So there it is. All this time we've been asking our teens "Why don't you use your brain?" and the answer they've been giving us — "Um... I don't know" — turns out to be true.

Research is good, and I want to be an enlightened parent, so I'm glad to know what I reasonably should expect from my children in each developmental stage. In fact, this has been my M.O. in parenting — finding out what's considered "normal" (give or take) and then setting my expectations accordingly.

I learned this strategy early in my parenting career. Katie, my oldest, was about two years old when my aunt came for a visit. Being a social worker and a mother of four, she was one of my role models and mentors in parenting. I was always eager to hear Aunt Mary's advice.

She watched Katie wandering around our back yard, eating dirt and sticking mulch in her ears (OK, I'm exaggerating about the mulch), and she said something I never forgot: "A two year old should behave a lot like a well-trained Golden Retriever. She should feed herself, nap frequently and come when she's called."

Katie didn't come when she was called, so my aunt's insight gave me something to work on.

The point is, understanding what you can reasonably expect from a child is a good way to set your standards for appropriate behavior.

But this leaves me with a bit of a dilemma.

On the one hand, current research shows adolescents aren't intentionally cruel to each other, rude to their parents and unable to control their impulsive (read: stupid) urges, but instead haven't developed the gray matter to think of more acceptable forms of communication and behavior.

On the other hand, am I the only one who thinks this might be a bit of a cop out?

It seems brain research may turn out to be the perfect excuse when teens insult and exclude each other, or when they deface school property or respond disrespectfully to teachers and other adults.

As the findings of this research are applied, will a lack of brain maturity become the all-purpose excuse that permits bullying and vandalism? Will this discovery keep teens out of detention hall, or worse, prohibit school administrators from applying discipline to enforce standards of conduct?

Can't you just hear some high school senior's attorney arguing in court, "But your Honor, my client must be permitted to graduate with his class. He simply has not developed the brain capacity to understand it is inappropriate to shout obscenities at his Chemistry teacher while using a blowtorch to discover the combustive properties of nitroglycerin."

If you think this isn't coming, you don't read the paper much.

Neuroscience or not, I still think the age of reason comes at about seven. This is the age when I expect my children to understand that it's rude to be rude, it's unkind to be unkind, and it's dangerous to be dangerous.

I have to admit, however, that learning about the developing brain of teenagers does give me hope. (This is probably why the parents of young adults keep reassuring me that things get better).

In the meantime, I'm going to keep requiring that the teens around my house use what brain they have — or expect to answer that ridiculous question we parents can't help but ask.

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JWR contributor Marybeth Hicks, a wife of 19 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide. To comment, please click here.


© 2006, Marybeth Hicks