Advice from developmental psychologist Steinberg (Psychology/Temple Univ.; The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, 2004, etc.) on navigating and nurturing the adolescent mind.
Adolescence is the great betwixt and between, writes the author, a time when kids are both more and less mature than adults think—and we typically get both wrong—when the brain is undergoing substantial and systematic changes that will be critical in the maturation process. Steinberg takes a comprehensive approach as a researcher, parent, participant, observer and scientist. He includes both clinical reports and examples of how the indications of neuroscience play out in everyday life. The mechanics of adolescent development are fascinating enough—the plasticity of the brain; the reward, relationship and regulatory systems; the genetic and environmental influences on maturation; the tendency toward risk; the interplay between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system—but this study will be gratefully received by many for its advice on how our increasing understanding of adolescent development can be put to practical use in helping adolescents through the emotional and behavioral tumult. Steinberg stresses the importance of self-control, encompassing “the strength of the emotion and our ability to manage it” and expressed, for instance, through risk taking, the peer effect and impulse control. Parents must provide a variety of things: warmth and firmness, support and consistency, praise and the freedom to investigate, protectiveness and permission. The author provides techniques to get involved on all these levels; though not blazingly original, they merit attention: physical activities, mindfulness, identifying endocrine disruptions and high-stress situations, fashioning tools to motivate determination and tenacity. Steinberg’s audience is as broad as his approach and includes parents, educators, politicians, businesspeople and health care professionals.
A clear and canny look into the adolescent brain that will help influence adolescent lives for the better.