Middle Schoolers Don't Have the Maturity to Know They Crossed the Line
I've been pulling-my-hair-out with an eight-year-old charge that is suddenly giving me back-talk. His once respectful tone has been replaced with rude comebacks, eye-rolling, sarcasm, and bitter refusal to follow through with even the simplest of my requests.
I've been wondering what is wrong with him? What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? And most painful of all, why does he suddenly hate me?
So, I am thrilled that I stumbled across a book that explains that his sudden sense of entitlement probably isn't about me at all. He's simply trying out his pre-teen mojo. He's seeing what he can get away with.
According to Lauri Berkenkamp and Steven C. Atkins, co-authors of Because I Said So!: Family Squabbles & How to Handle Them (Go Parents! Guide) the problem is, middle schoolers (starting as early as eight-years-old until they are 14-years-old) don't have the maturity to know when they've crossed the line. The pre-frontal cortex -- the area in the brain that affects reasoning, impulse control, and the ability to recognize the consequences of their actions -- isn't fully formed until the late teens or early 20s. Instead, it's overshadowed by the highly reactive amygdala, which triggers the brains' automatic fight-or-flight reflex.
"When this area fires up, a child may instantaneously interpret just about anything you do or say as hostile -- and react accordingly," say the authors.
"Plus, kids witness the cynical, taunting comments of classmates at school [and older siblings]. In the guise of being 'cool,' a child may adapt the tone of voice or verbal bullying of peers in order to fit in," explains Berkenkamp and Atkins. "His friends get away with it, so he figures, why not try it out?"
This knowledge is liberating! I can stop over-analyzing everything I say and worrying about his hating me (since all kids this age just hate their nannies! Just kidding). He's simply wired to react aggressively at this stage. But, that doesn't mean I should just sit back and ignore when he makes rude comments or behaves inappropriately. Tomorrow, we will learn how to cope with a bad tween attitude.
Tomorrow: How to Cope with a Bad Tween Attitude