Transcriber: Capa GirlReviewer: Tatjana Jevdjic Hi. So everything that I know aboutwhat it means to be a grown-up, I've learned from teenagers. I'm a psychologistwho works with teenagers and doing this work has taught meso much about growing up. And when I say growing up.I don't just mean aging into adulthood, lots of people do that.I mean maturing into a real grown-up. Now, all of usare connected to teenagers whether it's our teenageror somebody else's. .
So I'm gonna share what I've learnedabout the differences between people who are merely adultsand people who are really grown-ups, and I'm gonna do this to clarifyhow all of us fit in to the process of helpingyoung people grow up. Now I will tell some storiesfrom my work with teenagers, and I won't share the detailsof any one person's life, but I'll share what are really amalgamsof many moments I've spent with teenagersover the years. Alright, so let's get down to business. .
So the first difference that I've observed between people who are adults, so not really grown up, and people who have really grown up has to do with risk assessment. So, what I mean is,how do we decide what chances to take? The way I see it, is that peoplewho are merely adults, who haven't really grown up,assess risk in terms of the chances of getting caught engagingin risky behavior. (Laughter) In contrast, people who are really grown up assess risk in terms of the chances .
In term of the actual consequences of the behaviors that they're considering. So using this as an example we see signs like this all the time. So people who are not grown-up see a sign like this and think, “Yeah. But what are the chances there's a cop around the corner. People who are grown-ups see signs like this and think, “Well, of course you have toslow down to take a curve. .
You can't safely takea curve going full speed.” Now the issue of risk assessment is especiallycritical when we talk about teenagers. If we look at data like this about risk taking over the life span, you see this big peak in adolescence. The fact of the matter is – teenagerstake more chances than they should. And as a result, they do have higher accident rates than almost any other age group. So, here's a story from my work that really clarified for me this whole issue about risk assessment. So, it's a Thursday afternoon and a 17-year-old girl comes into my office .
And she's in a great mood and she says, “Oh gosh! I can't wait to tell you aboutmy plans for the weekend.” So the plans for the weekend are that she's going to have a sleepoveron a friend's boat. And she's going to have this sleepoverwith a boy who she does not know well. And – the kicker, right? She's going to do all of this withouther mother knowing where she is. (Laughter) So she's telling me the story,but she says, .
“It's okay. I've thought it all through.I've thought it all through.” And she goes on to describe what she's thought through and all that she has thought through is how she's not gonna get caughtby her mother, right? So she's telling me this and of course it involves she's telling her mom she'll be at a sleepoverat a friend's house, and that friend knows to call my client,should the mother call that house. And I'm listening to this, right, I'm supposed to be coming up with something useful to say, But I'm listening and all I am thinking is, .
“I'm gonna call your mom, right?” (Laughter) “You walk out that door, I'm on the phone with your mother, right?” But, okay. So here's the problem. So tattling on teenagers to their parentsis not my job, right? Actually, protecting their confidentiality and helping them turn into grown-ups is my job. So, I pull myself together and I say the word, “OK, look. You and I both know that you getting caught by your mom is the least dangerous thing that could possibly happen to you this weekend. And I don't know that she knew it, .
But I always give benefit of the doubtand it worked. It got our conversation going in the right direction. And we started talking about the actual risks that she would be facing with this incredibly dangerous plan. And luckily,she just decided to cancel the plans. So, now if you're a parentand you're thinking, “OK, well, how do I get my teenager to do this? How do I get my young person to start to think in more mature ways?” I think you've got some say. .
So if your teenagersays things to you like, “Hey, what would you do if you caught me texting while driving?” I think we should resist our first impulse to say things like, “I would ground you until you were 45!I would take away your phone.” And I think instead,we could say things like, “I would be so glad I caught you, before you hurt or killed yourselfor somebody else.” So in another words, when we frame the consequences in terms of getting caught I think we actually give teenagersthe wrong message. .
When we framethe consequences in terms of the actual dangersthey would be facing. I think we start to help them to move towards being grown-ups. OK, here's my second one. Crazy Spots. This is what I call crazy spots at any rate. So I kind of have bad newsfor everybody on this one. We all have crazy spots. And what I mean, when I saycrazy spots, is that we all have aspects of our personalitythat are totally irrational. .
And that the people around us – the people around us should nottake it personally. OK? So now what does this have to dowith adults and grown-ups? Well, people who are really grown-upshave actually learned and accepted that their parentshave crazy spots, OK? Som in other words,they've learned and accepted that their parents have aspectsof their personalities that are not well suited to parenting. And that do notneed to be taken personally. .
And this is tough,because I think even though we all can kind of know that parents are just people who had kids, right? And even thoughwe can all kind of know – We all kind of know that all parentscome with limitations. We know this and yet we kind of wishthat's just gonna be true for everybody else's parents,right? Not for my parents. And when we come up againstours parents' limitations, I think we take it personally. So a huge step in growing upis to stop taking personally .
Everything your parents do. So when teenagers come into my work,and we're doing our work together and they complain to me about their parents which, not surprisingly, is some of what we spend time talking about. I never question their complaints, I never ask themabout the details of it. Instead, I say things like,”OK, now I hear that this bugs you about your mom, but what do you thinkthis is all about for her? I try to get them to see itfrom a new perspective. .
I try to get them to move from the kind of egocentricchildlike view of the world that they start with to a view where they can see their parentas having a free-standing personality. A personality that was in place long beforethat child was born and a personality that's gonna be in placelong after that child has moved out. Now, the capacity to do this, the capacity to think in these ways doesn't even become availableuntil adolescence. So 70 years ago, Jean Piagetthe developmental psychologist talked about the emergence of what he called “formal operations”, which is the ability to do abstract reasoning,to think about thinking. .
What's amazing is that modern neurosciencehas actually supported all of what he described in this area. We used to think the brain stopped developingby age age 10 or 11, but what we know now isthat there's incredible development in the brain all t
he way throughadolescence. And you see it especially appearin the area that's in a red, which is the frontal lobe,which is where all of the very sophisticated thinking goes on. So, this sophisticated thinking makes for amazing things that can happen. .
So here, I think about a 15-year-old girl I worked with who really struggled with her dad around money. She would complain to methat he would do things like require her to use her own moneyto buy school clothes, and he would say to her,”I don't have the money for it.” And then a couple of days laterhe would drive home with some really nice new car. So she was hurt by this,she was confused by this. It bothered her a lot. .
She didn't understand, “Why can he be generouswith himself, but not with me?” And then, about a week after Thanksgivingshe comes into my office and she says –she tells this amazing story. I love the way teenagers talk. She says,”So, Oh my god! So, you know – My grandma came for Thanksgiving. My dad's mom comes for Thanksgiving. And while she was at our house,I could overhear her talking to my dad. And it was clear from the conversation .
That she had promised to give hima check for his birthday, but that she was changing her mind and that she was gonna keep the money. And I could hearmy dad talking to her, and it was clearthat he really wanted the money, but he didn't want have to beg his mother for the money. And I'm thinking, Oh my god! That's why dad's so weird about money! Because grandma is so weird about money. (Laughter) Alright?So, I love them. I love them. And here's what's amazing. .
When a teenager makes this step,two incredible things happen. First, all this energy is freed up. All of the energy that this young womanhad been expending on fighting with her dad,trying to change her dad, feeling hurt by her dad,trying to make sense of him she could let it all goin some much more profitable direction. The other thing, and this is the partI love the most, actually. They become more tendertowards their parents, and they become more tenderin the exact same domain .
Where they had previously beenso annoyed with the parent. So, this girl still did feel hurt by her dadat times about money, but she could also at the same timefeel some sympathy for him because she knew that for him this was actuallyan area where he really struggled. So, I wanna put a little couple of caveats in here. One is, when it comes to coming to termswith parents' crazy spots, I think for most of usthis starts in adolescence, but continues for many many years after that. (Laughter) I think the other,and this is very much, you know – .
I think all people who know peoplewould agree is that – if the parents' limitations are extensive, if the parent haslots and lots and lots of crazy spots coming to terms with themis not so easy. So, this is a bit of a plug for psychology and psychotherapy. (Laughter) OK, so, you may be listeningto this and thinking, “Hmm. This is pretty interesting,but how does it fit in for parents?” So, here's how I want you to think about it. If you're a parent and you want to try to promotethis growth in your child, .
You could own your crazy spots, right? I know this is a very tall order. But if you're the father I just described,you might say something like, “Hey, I got bad newsand good news for you. The bad news is:I do not handle money well. This is not an areathat is very comfortable for me. The good news is:this is my issue not yours. This is not somethingyou need to be taking personally. You have to work with it, you have to work around it, .
But you don't need to take it personally. Now if you're thinking,”Oh! That's so funny, you know? I really don't have any crazy spots.(Laughter) I'm thinking about it, and I just don't.(Laughter) OK, well I got bad news and good newsfor you, right? So the bad news is:you do have crazy spots. Everybody has crazy spots. The good news is: if you want to knowwhat they are, just ask the people who love you, right?(Laughter) .
You can ask your children,you can ask your partner, you can ask your friends,they'll let you know. OK. So finally, another differencebetween people who are adults, merely adults,and people who are really grown-ups has to do with what I call goal orientation. We all know people who don't have goal orientation. They kind of drift from one thing to the next. They may even make a plan, but as soon as something comes up, or gets in the way, they give it up. .
In contrast, people who are grown-ups make and pursue meaningful goals. They set aside short term gratifications, they can deal with obstacles in order to get some bigger payoff down the line. Now, we think about it,”OK, that sounds great. This is what we want for teenagers.How do we get them there?” This is an area where teenagersbenefit tremendously from advice and guidancefrom grown-ups around them. I think about a young manI worked with .
Who was actually reallygetting himself into trouble. He was messing around with drugs, he had started skipping classesin high school. He was really at risk of not making it out of high school. Somehow, in the midst of this,he got himself a job as a busboy at a small restaurant and the owner of the restaurantliked him, the owner of the restaurantmade a connection with him. And when a spot opened up in the kitchenhe offered it to the guy. .
The young manstarted working in the kitchen and he just fell in love with cooking. And it was clear fromwhat I was hearing of the story, that the owner of the restaurant was definitely cultivating the romance betweenthis young man and cooking. And the young man decided he wanted to go to culinary school. At which point,he started going to class because he knew he couldn't go to culinary schoolwithout a high school diploma. So in the end,he actually did become a chef. .
But even if he hadn't, even if he had changed his mind, he would've changed his mind with a diploma in hand, which makes all the difference. So, now you may be a parentlistening to this, thinking, “Yeah, that sounds great. I would love to give advice and guidance to my teenager. She won't do anything I say, right?”And this is true. There's something about being a teenager, something during puberty,that seems to happen .
Where teenagers get this reflexinstalled in them that if their parents suggests it, it is completely off the table. You know, and we think about – we all have seen this happening like the teenage boy who was walking towardsthe coat closet on a cold day, but if his mom says,”You should probably bundle up!” He will turn around and leave the houseon purpose without his coat on. Now, evolutionary psychologists saythis is a good thing. They say this is good because for children to reject the advice .
Of their parents has probably contributedto all of this innovation in the culture over the years. I know this is a cold comfort for parents, but at the same timeif we think about it like, “OK, who discovered fire, right? I am so sure it was a cave teenagermessing around. (Laughter) So where does this leave us? Well, luckily teenagers don't reject advice from everybody, mostly just from their parents. .
In fact, every teenager I know wants to be taken seriously, wants to be treated like somebody who's going somewhere. And I think we can all think of somebodywho did this for us, right? Somebody who looked past our youth and maybe our goofiness and communicated in one way or another, “I see that you have a contribution to make, I see that you are headed somewhere.” So what this means is that we absolutelymust surround teenagers with devoted teachers,and coaches, and bosses, .
And family friends, and aunts and uncles. We need more – fewer people who say, “Ugh. Teenagers.” And more people who understandthat it is the work of the entire community to help young people grow up. So I'll leave you with this. Working with teenagerscan actually be prett
y stressful. And I think largely it's because being a teenagercan be very very stressful. I do know some teenagers who basically,function like grown-ups, .
But most teenagersare still making their way. Because there is so much at stakein this point in development. We really have so much of a better handleif we do more understanding and less handwringing about teenagers. I think that my hope is that in stepping back from the swirl of adolescent development and breaking down the exact kind of growthwe do want to see in these years. My hope is thatit has helped to orient all of us to how we fit in to this process of helping .
Young people grow up and not just age into adulthood. Thank you. (Applause)——————————————-Dr. Lisa Damour directs the Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School, maintains a private psychotherapy practice, consults to schools nationally, is a clinical instructor at Case Western Reserve University, and serves on the board of the Eating Disorders Network. Dr. Damour is the author of numerous academic papers, chapters, editorials, and books related to education and child development. She is co-author with Dr. James Hansell of Abnormal Psychology, a widely-used college textbook and co-author with Dr. Anne Curzan of First Day to Final Grade, a handbook introducing college instructors to the art and craft of teaching. She has worked for the Yale Child Study Center and held fellowships from the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Bush Center for Child Development and Social Policy, and the Sadye Harwick Power Foundation. Dr. Damour received her B.A. from Yale University and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)