What Is The Single Most Important Tip In Parenting A Teenager?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Being a teenager is one of the hardest and most difficult times in a person’s life. In fact, it’s almost as difficult as being the parent of one. In the first episode of a series on teenagers and parenting, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen share stories of their own younger years and give their golden rule when it comes to parenting teenagers.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Welcome back, brain warriors. Today we are talking about teen week. We're going to discuss everything teen-related. We've done a lot on parenting, which tends to sort of go towards younger kids, but let's talk about teens this week.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh my goodness. One of the hardest times of my life was being a teenager.
Tana Amen: Yeah, me too.
Dr Daniel Amen: I am grateful that my parents did not kill me.
Tana Amen: It's funny. My mom always talks about me being a great teenager, and yet I remember it as being a very hard time in my life.
Dr Daniel Amen: Before we get to that, let's read one of the podcast reviews. We'd love it if you would leave a review and tell us what you like, tell us what you don't like, because we're always trying to make this better, and we're sort of in it for the long run, I think. You know, we're 350 podcasts with 3.5 million downloads, which we're really excited. Thank you so much. This is from Jim on Tana's YouTube channel. Dear Tana, you and your husband, Dr. Daniel Amen, that's me, have helped me in weight loss and mind balance by keeping a peace of mind.
Tana Amen: Love that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Your words are gold. Thank you so much.
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr Daniel Amen: What we wanted to do in teen week is if you're going to parent teens, one of the most important things you need to do is remember what it was like for you when you were a teenager.
Tana Amen: Hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: When your brain was not fully formed, right? The prefrontal cortex doesn't fully develop until you're in your mid to late 20s, and your psychological task ... You have all of this biology happening, hormones raging, new relationships, and you're going through the psychological tasks of independence and identity.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: I want to be in charge of my life, even though my brain isn't developed ...
Tana Amen: Right, and who am I?
Dr Daniel Amen: ... which can lead to some wacko decisions and who am I, separate from you?
Tana Amen: From you.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's hard. That actually will begin to lead to some very painful moments ...
Tana Amen: No.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... for the child and for the parents.
Tana Amen: No, for the parent.
Dr Daniel Amen: I worked, I know you did, as a teenager and I went to school, although I wasn't very serious about the whole thing. I was much more serious about work and girls.
Tana Amen: You were more serious about working girls, or working the girls?
Dr Daniel Amen: Sort of both. You know, I think ...
Tana Amen: Let's not say you were serious about working girls. That just did not sound at all ...
Dr Daniel Amen: I was serious about work. I worked in my dad's grocery store, and I spent a lot of time doing that and I was good at it. I liked girls way more than chemistry or geometry.
Tana Amen: Right, so you were a normal boy.
Dr Daniel Amen: I was a normal boy and I also loved football, which actually did not love me back. I think of the times I got whacked. It was hard. My dad sold his business. He had a chain of grocery stores, S&A Foods, and he's a very successful business person, and then Mayfair, which was a big food company, bought his stores. My dad is very independent, right? Growing up his favorite words that I remember were bullshit and no. He found quickly that he could not work for someone else.
Tana Amen: That sounds like my mom. They have a lot of similarities.
Dr Daniel Amen: There was a lot of bullshit and no in my house, and I'm a teenager at the time. He is stressed. My mom is always stressed because she has five daughters and two sons, and so I felt sort of invisible.
Tana Amen: Lost.
Dr Daniel Amen: Not connected to either of my parents, but especially not my dad. We ended up butting heads a lot, and it was not a great time because I think there was sort of a lack of connection. It culminated when I turned 18. There was still a draft going on and I had to go sign up for the draft and I had a low draft number, which meant I was probably going to be drafted. I decided to join and he told me I couldn't do it because there was a war going on.
Tana Amen: Which meant you were absolutely going to do it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because we didn't have a relationship, because he said I couldn't do it, that meant, well I absolutely had to do it. Three weeks later I have my head shaved at Fort Ord in Northern California with people screaming at me that I was a maggot. How did I go from a job, car, girls, to being a maggot?
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: It was sort of a series of decisions which actually turned out to be really good for me, because I say the army is the ultimate good mother because when you do the right things they reward you, they promote you, they give you more money, and when you do the wrong things they thump you.
Tana Amen: They whack you, right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Consistently, unemotionally, every time.
Tana Amen: Right. Discipline is consistent.
Dr Daniel Amen: I ended up coming out of the army way more grown up. If I were to start college when I was 18, I would not have gone to medical school because I would not have done as well. In the army I got really a sense of purpose, discipline, and I had three more years of brain development so that when I went to college I was a star because I could apply myself better. So many kids, when they go to college just straight out of high school, they don't do nearly as well because their brain is not as finished, if you will. That's a little bit about my journey. What about yours?
Tana Amen: Mine was very different, and yet we have some parallels. Most of our listeners know I grew up with a lot of trauma, drama, chaos, whatever, single mom, single working mom, but who actually had a couple of marriages. I had two step dads. One was a really bad guy and the other one was an interesting guy. I'll leave it at that. It had a big influence on my life, but in a really weird way. The first 12 years of my life, she was a single mom, and she did not have a lot of education, but she's whip smart with ADD from hell and she's a very strong person. Our relationship was interesting. My mom was one of those moms where we there was not a lot of education, there was a lack of finances, and there was a lot of chaos, and yet I could talk to my mom about anything when she was there. Let me clarify, when she was there. She was very open. She did defend me, and so I think that is why I turned out okay.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now is she a good listener, because many ADD males or females, they're terrible listeners, because they always have to say that thing on their mind rather than really ...
Tana Amen: When she knew something was critical she was. You had to be able to get her to listen, and she had to know it was really important. Because she was so focused on her problems it was often hard to do that, and I was a quiet kid.
Dr Daniel Amen: You, really?
Tana Amen: I was really quiet. I was really timid. Until I had been through a couple of really hard times, like being molested. We're talking about teenage years, so being molested and then being attacked on the street walking to high school when I was 15, those two events brought me out of my shell and really solidified in my mind that I had to learn how to fight. I had to learn how to speak up and fight and be assertive.
Dr Daniel Amen: I don't think I've ever seen you go and be shy.
Tana Amen: Yeah, and you won't. You won't. You probably never will again. I really learned how to be assertive after that. Initially I became angry, and then I learned how to become assertive. I didn't speak up very easily when I was young, and so there was this ... I didn't know that I was actually kind of down as a teenager. I was actually probably down a lot. I still functioned, I went to school. I didn't know what depression was.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, maybe looking back on it you got depressed, and one of the reasons you got depressed is you were very popular at the high school.
Tana Amen: As a cheerleader, right.
Dr Daniel Amen: You were connected to a good group, and then when your mom moved, and many people with ADD move, they move like four times more than other people.
Tana Amen: Just before my junior year.
Dr Daniel Amen: If you move then, it's the worst time to move. You were unplugged.
Tana Amen: Right, and it was really hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: Given how pretty you were, and how well developed you are, which most people don't know. Everybody goes, oh, well that's really a great thing.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's a nightmare.
Tana Amen: It's a really hard thing.
Dr Daniel Amen: For girls because they become objectified.
Tana Amen: It was way too much attention too young. It was way too much attention way too young and I didn't know how to handle it. There's that. That was little bit about my youth. You can sort of see that. That was a big part of sort of the issues with the step dads and just issues that I dealt with in school and some of that. I became introverted, yet if you pushed me ... I sort of developed this attitude. You push me against a wall, I'm going to knock your teeth in. It was like I'll stay out of your way, you stay out of mine, but if you push me against a wall, I'm going to metaphorically knock your teeth in. There was this ...
Dr Daniel Amen: Well now with a second degree black belt, there's no metaphorically about it.
Tana Amen: Yeah, that's true.
Dr Daniel Amen: For the people listening, what's really important, and I have a question for you, what's really important is you remember, if you're raising teenagers, you need to spend some time and reflect on what it was like for you as a teenager. What happens is whenever you have a child, whatever age that child is, unconsciously you actually go back to that period of time in your mind and you're reliving those years in your own head.
Tana Amen: Oh, that's so interesting.
Dr Daniel Amen: Sometimes your reactions are not of a 45 year old mom or a 55 year old dad. You're reacting as if you're 15.
Tana Amen: I just had a huge light bulb moment. That's so funny that you just said that. Huge light bulb moment.
Dr Daniel Amen: Would you like to share?
Tana Amen: Yeah. We have this 15 and a half year old teenager who, by any standard, is just freaking amazing. She's 4.0, she's on student leadership at church, she's doing community service. Most people would just like die to have a kid that's this easy, but she's 15 and so she's developing her ... Here's the grind, here's the rub. I, we, raised her to be very strong, very independent, to think for herself, but now she's actually doing it. That's not easy. Suddenly she's doing it.
The last three years she's basically spent almost all of her time connected to me and she's listened to almost everything I say because she's just not one to sort of reject what I have to say just because through her teen years. She's always sought my advice, and now all of a sudden she's like I sought your advice, now I'm going to make my own decisions. I'm like, whoa. No, stop. I'm not ready for you to do this, even though her decisions aren't bad decisions. It's just all of a sudden it's freaking me out, and I don't know why it's freaking me out. You just sort of, I had that light bulb moment when you said that. It's because at that age, that was the hardest time in my life, and I wish I could go back sometimes and do it differently. That was just a massive light bulb moment for me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because you wish you could back and do it differently ...
Tana Amen: I'm so scared she's going to do ...
Dr Daniel Amen: ... are you putting more pressure on her to do it differently for you, as opposed to ...
Tana Amen: I might be. I didn't think I was, but I might be.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's not conscious. What a lot of people don't know is half of their behavior is either automatic or fueled from the past.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I even think to myself, why am I frustrated right now? She's doing what she's supposed to do. I know logically she's doing what she is supposed to do.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, before we have to stop this session, and maybe this is a question for the next session. How much of your adolescence should you tell her?
Tana Amen: Oh, well I probably don't follow the rules on this.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hang on. So many parents lie to their children.
Tana Amen: I don't.
Dr Daniel Amen: They make it seem like they were perfect human teenagers.
Tana Amen: I do not do that.
Dr Daniel Amen: When in fact they were not so perfect human teenagers.
Tana Amen: I don't do that intentionally. I don't do it intentionally.
Dr Daniel Amen: How much do you tell them about the sex, do you tell them about the alcohol, do you tell them about the pot, or do you lie to them because you want them to be perfect like you were not perfect?
Tana Amen: Do you want me to actually answer this, or do we go on to the next podcast?
Dr Daniel Amen: Stay with us. When we come back we're going to talk about how much to share and how much should you not over share?