Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Understanding Your Risk-Taking Teen

Teen on skateboard

​​​Is your teen a risk taker? Does he sometimes make rash decisions? Does she act impulsively, never quite thinking things through?

There's a reason for that - the adolescent brain isn't fully wired and won't be until your teen is in his or her 20s. The prefrontal cortex (sometimes referred to as the CEO of the brain) is responsible for problem solving and impulse control. Because it's not fully developed in teens, it can lead many to act like they're invincible. That's why when you tell your daughter not go out when the roads are icy, she hops in her car anyway. Or when your son blows off the approaching storm clouds and goes for a run. Teens don't always fully understand the risks they're taking.

As a parent, what can you do? Research suggests that certain parenting styles can reduce the degree to which teens engage in risky behaviors (drinking and using drugs, sexual activity and dangerous driving).

This style or approach is characterized by the following:

  • Having a relationship with your teen that is close and loving.
  • Setting clear boundaries and rules, and consistently enforcing consequences.
  • Being aware of your teen's activities and whereabouts.
  • Modeling appropriate, healthy behaviors.

In addition, it's important to know that taking risks is one way teens learn about themselves and helps them become independent adults. Here are a few quick tips that can help you discourage dangerous risk-taking while encouraging "safe" risk-taking:

  • Talk to your teen about behaviors and consequences, using examples from the news and movies. 
  • Set ground rules. Determine the consequences for ignoring weather alerts and warnings.   
  • Monitor your teen. Know who your teen is with and where they are.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Be a good role model. Don't create a double standard by behaving recklessly (speeding, drinking excessively, acting aggressively or ignoring warnings).
  • Encourage your teen to take risks that are constructive - taking up new sports or trying new creative outlets, such as acting or music.