Impulsive Behavior in Teens

The teenage years are characterized by intense hormonal changes that lead to equally intense behavioral changes. Parents of teens, upon witnessing these behavioral changes, often become increasingly concerned about their teens’ impulsive behaviors and the possible consequences of such behaviors. Luckily, parents have a major role in controlling their children's impulses.

The Teenage Brain

As developmental psychologists mention in the 2006 publication “Development of the Adolescent Brain: Implications for Executive Function and Social Cognition” in the scholarly journal “Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,” the teenage brain is not fully developed and is specifically weak in controlling the impulses brought on by strong hormonal changes 1. In this respect, it is illogical to blame your children for acting impulsively; only evolution should take the blame. Moms and dads should understand this fact before engaging in measures to control their teens.

Parents as Role Models

Researcher and author of “The Development of Risk-Taking,” T.W. Boyer points out that children define acceptable behaviors through example. While less obvious in the teen years, children are still looking to their parents to understand which behaviors are okay and which are not. The implication is that parents can form strategies to influence their children’s behavior. As a child’s world view often starts from his family’s world view, your teen will learn much about how to act simply based on observing how her parents act.

The Risk of Impulses

Teens will definitely have impulses and will unlikely be able to completely control these impulses, but the situation in which the impulse becomes dangerous is as important as the impulse itself. Consider your teen being egged on by his classmates to drive faster on a busy road. Were your teen alone, he would be more likely to abide by the speed limit. However, teens are likely to easily give in to impulses, especially social influences, as peer acceptance is a major issue during the teen years.

Stopping Risky Impulsive Behavior

As a parent, you have control over many of these situations. You can set limits on who your teen can pick up in her car. Parents who set limits for and monitor their children well have children that not only engage in less risky behavior but are also stronger in academics and adapting to new situations. Allow your teen to be open with you so that you can receive open disclosure on what kind of friends she has and what activities they engage in. This knowledge is essential to knowing the kinds of risky situations in which your teen might find herself.