Why did you do that? I don’t know.

I could not begin to guess how many times I’ve asked one of my children or grandchildren “Why did you do that?” And the usual answer is “I don’t know.” While that may push one of my buttons, it is likely a truthful answer.

I learned a new phrase when listening to the podcast – executive functioning. That is the part of the brain last to develop and it has to do with reasoning, decision making, and assessing risks. Executive functioning is not well developed in preteens and teens. Well, that may not be “new” news to you but now you know the” why” behind some of your child’s behavior.

Don’t we all remember some of the stupid and dangerous things we did as preteens and teens? And do you cringe to think your child might be making some of the same choices? As parents we don’t have to just wait it out with fingers crossed until the teens grow up and the brains are more fully developed.

The experts in the podcast have two suggestions on how we can be engaged parents and help our children.

  1. If you are present and involved prior to your child making a decision, you can help her stop and think through the consequences. What will happen if I do this? What will happen if I do that?
  2. If you become involved after the fact, there is still an opportunity for learning. Talk with your child about the consequences of his action and why this perhaps wasn’t the best decision.

In simple words – we have multiple teaching and learning opportunities.  Do you have examples to share from your youth or with your child that show undeveloped executive functioning? How did you help turn it into a learning situation?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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