I'm doing research on the teenage brain for my book coming out in early January A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled.
Raising a teenager makes the terrible twos seem like a holiday in the Maldives. But his erratic behaviour isn't something he's doing on purpose to torture you it's because his brain is going through a biological brain transformation which causes confusion, disgust of you and an appetite for risk taking. (You might explain to them that there are downsides to risk taking like crashing the car into someone's living room and getting pregnant without being able to remember with whom). The important thing is to not just throw up your hands, roll your eyes and declare to the world that your kid is a lazy sea slug. (If you recall you were once one too and your parent's rolled their eyes.)
We all go through it; every human being on this earth is going to experience puberty and has been for thousands of generations. Pimples are universal and will sprout on a Zulu as well as a Swede. A planetary mood swing starts at 11 for girls to 18 and for boys it starts at 13 and finishes around 24 and for some of them, never.
The fact that this happens to everyone should be a great relief to parents. Understand that your teenagers are just developing normally for their age and they won't, (as my parent's thought) necessarily become serial killers.
The moment I hit puberty I went into shock. It's like my organs were just sitting around chewing gum, shooting the breeze and suddenly, BAM! A big oestrogen rush and my hormones started bubbling like Vesuvius about to blow. The harder my parents tried to discipline me the harder I rebelled. My very reason for living was to overthrow the old regime, burn down the old establishment and I never cut corners.
At 17, my friends and I hitch-hiked for 27 hours to Mexico to go to a festival of the Punta Yaya or something that we'd heard about. When we got there, an old parched taco maker offered me a ladle full of mescal, which I think is the organic version of mescaline. I swallowed a mouthful and woke up three days later, lying in the street with a hoof mark on my face... I had missed the festival. I ended up (abandoned by my friends) taking a bus filled with peyote-crazed locals into the jungle on the southern tip of Mexico.
I had heard there was a community of hippies living there and wanted to find them. After four days travelling on a three-wheeled bus with a chicken on my head I found them. I stayed a month; meanwhile my parents kept phoning my roommate at university and asking where I was. For a month she said I was in the shower. They sent out a red light alert for me when they finally sussed that no one can get that clean and on my return had me arrested.
When my kids were teens I didn't really know what advice to give as I was a professional anarchist. I was cautious though not to do what my mother did to me; punish and threaten. I thought I'm not going hand down that grenade to blow up later in their lives. As I said, for my chapter on teen brains in my book, I'm doing research on more helpful teen rearing methods. I know it's a cliché but I wish I knew then what I know now.