When Did My Teen Become a Risk Taker?

6:10 am:

“I’ll just tell Lindsay you’ve shattered my dreams again!”

And with that, Daughter #1 stomps off to her room.

Let me rewind how my morning started.

6:05 am: One single sip of coffee down.

Me: Any thoughts on breakfast?

Daughter #1: No, I’m not hungry right now.

Me: OK. You don’t have to eat now, you can eat later.

D1: No, I don’t have enough time to eat later! I’m hungry!

Lord, help me.

6:08 am. We’ve run through all possible breakfast options in the house. She wrinkles her nose at every single one of them. She finally settles for EM+PB+A. (English muffin with peanut butter and sliced apple on top. It’s delicious.) Side note: this child has refused to eat peanut butter for the past 2 years.

6:10 a.m.

D1: Lindsay says I can get a job pulling weeds.

Me: Oh?

D1 is soon to be 15 and hell-bent on getting a summer job.

D1: You spend all day pulling weeds and they pay you $50 for the day!

Me, in my head in a snarky voice: $50 for a day’s work, ho-kaaaay.

Me, out loud: Where is this?

D1: Somewhere out by Lindsay’s.

Note: Lindsay lives 35 minutes away. In the middle of NOWHERE. This is already a non-starter.

D1: But they bus you to the place to work.


Me: Sorry, honey. That’s not happening. It’s not safe to have teens bussed someplace to work.

D1: What’s wrong with it?

Me, not sugar-coating anything: There are some human trafficking operations that use set-ups like this to entice teens.And we live in a state with the nation’s 2nd highest incidents of human trafficking. It’s just not safe.

Cue the “shattering” of her dreams and the stomping feet.

Eventually, when she’ll calm down, she’ll realize I’m right. I’m protecting her, playing the parent card.  But what is turning my risk-averse teen, the one who has to comment on every child riding a bike without a helmet, to be willing to throw caution out the window over this?

Turns out it’s peer influence and biology.

According to Nina S. Mounts, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “So we have changes in the brain during early adolescence that make teens more focused on the rewards of peers and being included in peer activities. This increased focus on peers occurs during a time when the PFC (prefrontal cortex) is not yet ready to assist in mature self-regulation. These factors provide a “perfect storm” of opportunities for risky behavior.” This is why car accidents have remained the leading cause of teenage death for years.

Our teens are naturally disposed to take risks.  Some risks you stop dead in their tracks, like this one. Others, you can facilitate in safer, sensation-seeking environments, like zip line or rock climbing. Still others- like whether or not she should text that cute boy in math class-you let them take, and be there to pick up any shattered pieces that may fall.

Footnote: Turns out this job is legit. It’s a farmer friend of Lindsay’s parents. But it’s still a “no” for Daughter #1.  Two hours a day driving her to and from a job when there’s plenty of work here at home, if she really wants to earn some cash?  Yeah, you know how that goes.