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2009-11-19 digital edition

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2009-11-19 / Community News

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Hormonal Changes are Start of Tumultuous Teen Years

Question: Many of the struggles of the teen years are attributed to hormones. If that explanation is accurate, then what implications does it have for parents of early adolescents?

Dr. Dobson: First,understanding this glandular upheaval makes it easier to tolerate and cope with the emotional reverberations that are occurring. For several years, some kids are not entirely rational! Just as a severely menopausal woman may accuse her innocent and bewildered husband of infidelity, a hormonally depressed teenager may not interpret his world accurately either. His social judgment is impaired.

Therefore, parents shouldn’t despair when it looks like everything they have tried to teach their kid seems to have been forgotten. He is going through a metamorphosis that has turned everything upside down. But stick around. He’ll get his legs under him again!

I strongly recommend that parents of strong-willed and rebellious females, especially, quietly keep track of the particulars of their daughters’ menstrual cycles. Not only should you record when their periods begin and end each month, but also make a comment or two each day about moods. I think you will see that the emotional blowups that tear the family apart are cyclical in nature. Premenstrual tension at that age can produce a flurry of skirmishes every twenty-eight days. If you know they are coming, you can retreat to the storm cellar when the wind begins to blow. You can also use this record to teach your girls about premenstrual syndrome and how to cope with it.

Unfortunately, many parents never seem to notice the regularity and predictability of severe conflict with their daughters. Again, I recommend that you watch the calendar. It will tell you so much about your girls.

Question: How about adolescent boys? Do they have a hormonal cycle too?

Dr. Dobson: Their emotions and behavior are certainly driven by hormones. Everything from sexual passion to aggressiveness is motivated by the new chemicals that surge through their veins. There is, however, no cyclical fluctuation that parallels a menstrual calendar in girls. As a result, they can be more volatile and less predictable throughout the month than their female counterparts.

Question: Please describe the best approach to the discipline of a one-year-old child.

Dr. Dobson: Many children will begin to gently test the authority of their parents as they approach their first birthday. The confrontations will be minor and infrequent at first, yet the beginnings of future struggles can be seen.

My own daughter, for example, challenged her mother for the first time when she was nine months old. My wife was waxing the kitchen floor when Danae crawled to the edge of the linoleum. Shirley said, “No, Danae,” gesturing to the child not to enter the kitchen. Since our daughter began talking very early, she clearly understood the meaning of the word no. Nevertheless, she crawled straight onto the sticky wax. Shirley picked her up and set her down in the doorway while saying no even more strongly as she put her down. Seven times this process was repeated until Danae finally yielded and crawled away in tears. As far as we can recall, that was the first direct confrontation of wills between my daughter and my wife. Many more were to follow.

How does a parent discipline a one-year-old? Very carefully and gently! A child at this age is easy to distract and divert. Rather than jerking a wristwatch from his or her hands, show him or her a brightly colored alternative — and then be prepared to catch the watch when it falls. When unavoidable confrontations do occur, as with Danae on the waxy floor, win them by firm persistence but not by punishment. Have the courage to lead the child without being harsh or mean or gruff.

Compared to the months that are to follow, the period around one year of age is usually a tranquil, smooth-functioning time in a child’s life.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of Focus on the Family, a nonprofit company www.focusonthefamily.org.

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