Leading on from our explanation of the Teenage Brain– The part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is the last to fully develop and is responsible for critical thinking and behaviour control. From young, we learn there are consequences and learn how to make decisions. However, under the age of 13, children do not have abstract thinking skills. At that age, they are operational in their thinking. This means they understand only what is tangible and in their own environment- these are things they can see, smell, taste, hear touch etc. Conceptual thinking only starts in the teen years when they start to understand grey areas of decisions or theory. Understanding an action has consequences demands that the person understands all aspects of a decision before making that informed choice.
Therefore we as House Parents need to adjust our expectations to suit the age of development they are at. Consequences should never be given to punish a decision. We need to first help a student problem solve an alternative solution, instead of paying for their behaviour with a punishment.
Ultimately we know students will at times make the wrong decisions. However, we need them to understand these decisions, not just in relation to breaking a rule, but rather the harm they can cause to themselves, others, relationships, the community, their reputation etc.
We would much rather they take Active Responsibility for their actions.
Passive responsibility is when you do not break any rules for the fear of being held accountable by teachers or house parents, and consequently being punished.
Active responsibility is when you follow the rules because you understand that boundaries are a form of self-care and rules are there to protect you and to ensure a safe and healthy school (and house) environment for all of us!
The question for any parents is how do you get a teen to that stage. Can they learn this through education or through experiencing only the negative consequences of their actions?