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Adolescence is the period of life that requires freedom, and at the same time, it calls for risky decisions. Teens are supposed to make better decisions about their lives and also accept the consequences. However, most teens can’t do that.
There is a conflicted relationship between freedom and making choices. When you start making choices, it reduces your freedom to an extent. And for the young kids who want to increase their freedom, this decision making thing is hard to swallow.
As Carl E Pickhardt in his article at psychologytoday explained that this confusion makes most of the kids, dreamers than doers. They tend to keep their options open and don’t confine themselves to one decision. They want to feel that there is still freedom for them, and they can choose whatever they want. They change their minds, thus not sustaining any decisions for long.
Except for longing for endless freedom, many other factors play an influential role in shaping the decision-making power of a teen. Since adolescence is the period when the young ones are most affected by their surroundings, these surroundings play a significant role in making them being able to make the right choices.
This is the question that most of the parents ask their kids because they expect them to make perfect decisions. Well, truth be told, decision making is actually not easy for the kids. We, being the adults, expect them to think like us. But they can’t.
Research done in the American Academy Of Child $ Adolescent Psychiatry has shown that the brains of adults and adolescents are different. Their brain works differently when they are about to make a decision. Teens’ actions are mostly guided by reactive and emotional AMYGDALA (a specific region of the brain that accounts for sudden reaction due to emotional changes) and are less guided by FRONTAL CORTEX that accounts for reasoning and thoughtful actions. Research has also shown that substance abuse in adolescence can delay these developments.
When these changes were being studied, it was seen that adolescents are more likely to:
What they are unable to do is:
With this being said, it is obvious that decision making is hard for them as they tend to follow their emotions. They want everything just like they would prefer. Due to this and many other reasons, they don’t like to make big decisions as they fear they will lose the autonomy of their lives.
Moreover, if the adolescent makes decisions at this point, parents and adults are often against them because their decisions don’t make sense. This makes them deny the power of decision making.
Where on one hand, decision making is hard for adolescents due to their reasons. On the other hand, some factors play a significant role in shaping the way they make decisions. When it is about development, adolescents don’t have the ultimate senses to make the right decision but they learn it as they become adults.
But when it is about societal issues and pressure, what they learn will be with them forever. These factors never cease to influence them for the rest of their lives. Peer, parents, and society help in shaping the personality of a teen, and thus they tend to interfere with their decision making power too.
Peers have an impact on all the aspects of adolescent lives, from simpler ones such as clothing and music to serious ones such as substance abuse or engaging in any other dangerous activities.
Adolescence is the time of physical and mental growth. At this time, most of the teens need social acceptance and appreciation. To achieve this, they tend to do whatever their peers want them to do. This includes the bad decisions they make under the peer and society influence.
The riskier choices adolescents make under the influence of their friends and society carry life-long consequences and bring a significant cost to their families. Teenagers are very poor decision-makers when they are feeling stressed out, pressurized, or seeking attention from their peers.
As mentioned in an article by theconversation.com, there is a big difference between what teenagers do and what they know. Studies have shown that two situations influence the decision-making ability of teens. “Hot” and “Cold” situations.
Cold situations are the times of low emotional arousal. During this time, teens tend to think rationally with patience. But in Hot situations such as with peers, they are mostly driven by their emotions such as excitement, stress, or anxiety. Thus, they make poor decisions.
Adolescents are often seen making bad decisions to make their place in society. They want to be liked by the people around. Unfortunately, during this period, they are closer to and are greatly impressed by their peers. So, at this point, they want to do things to impress them and be like them.
Also, they get this idea that being cool will make them noticeable and appreciable. For that purpose, they do stupid things that smoking, substance abuse, and sexual activities. They think that these activities will make them look like an adult and thus they will get the attention they seek. It is further explained in an article, which is part of the research done on Neuro-cognition.
The most important aspect of a teenager’s life is and should be parents. The adolescence is not only a difficult period for children but also, it is difficult for the parents. They seem to be distant and left out of their kid’s life. Also, they expect things from their children that makes their children more distant.
Just like a kid of age 16 shared his story with Carole, where he expressed his anger towards his parents. He shared that his parents decide what time should he get online, when should he get up in the morning, or when should he go to clubs, etc. He complains that he doesn’t get to decide anything about his life. Also, he shared that his mother seems to think that she has the right to criticize him for what he wears or whatever he does.
Because of this and many other reasons, he hates his parents and wants to get away from them as far as possible. He says, he feels like a prisoner and has never felt any good emotions about them.
This is every other kid out there whose parents feel that he can’t make any decision. This is a major blockage in developing the decision-making power of teens. Parents feel protective and obsessive about their kids, thus suffocating them.
When teens face such an environment, they fail to make their decisions in the future as well. They always seem unsure and confused about their decisions and this makes them afraid of making any decisions. This is when parents make their kids dependent on them. And later on, these parents expect these kids to make every important decision of their life alone.
When teens are given autonomy in gradual stages, and they practice independent decision making now and then, they become better confident adults with good emotional and logical sense. Although being a parent is also not easy.
You want to make them autonomous, yet you are afraid they might make poor choices and put themselves in danger. You want to protect them and at the same time, let them make the right decision.
Here is what Amy Morin from verywellfamily.com explained about developing the decision-making power of an adolescent:
Your child will learn from experience. Do not expect them to be adults at once. Be with them as they are just teenagers. Encourage them and teach them the processes that you went through. Decision-making power is such an essential part of life and parents are responsible for most of it.