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Connective Parenting Responds to Claims that High School is the Worst Place for Adolescents

Peterborough, NH (PRWEB) February 06, 2013

New adolescent research shows that success in the adult world has all to do with one's personality and looks at age sixteen. "Teens often enter high school looking to their peers for recognition and acceptance while rejecting parental control, says Bonnie Harris of Connective Parenting, but with connected parenting, teens have a better shot at higher self-esteem going in."

Physical attributes and social capabilities have direct correlation with earning power, successful relationships, and self-esteem in adult life, says Jennifer Senior in the recent edition of New York Magazine, even when experiences change in college or beyond.

Many studies on the developing brain of the adolescent report that important changes in the prefrontal cortex (the section that governs reason, impulsivity, comprehension of abstractions and self-reflection) are in process during the high school years but are not complete until the mid-twenties. Thus the more emotional, fight-flight-or-freeze parts of the brain—the limbic system—continue to have more hold on the teen experience.

This is why, as B.J. Casey, neuroscientist at Cornell University explains, adolescents are notoriously bad at self-regulation. Everything the teen does and feels is more intense, whether they are associated with good or bad experiences.

Lawrence Steinberg, developmental psychologist at Temple University says that the early years are critical to understanding how children learn in school, but the clues to why people turn out the way they do are found in the adolescent years.

High-schoolers who experience depression and social rejection continue to be impaired as adults, this article claims, even if depression ends and friends are made after high school. Who we were in high school predicts who we will be as adults.

The conclusion drawn by Senior, is that if teens behave and feel more intensely in adolescence than at any other time and are working out identity for the first time while preoccupied with how they appear to others, then “most American high schools are almost sadistically unhealthy places to send adolescents…. At the time they experience the most social fear, they have the least control; at the time they are most sensitive to the impressions of others, they’re plunked into an environment where it’s treacherously easy to be labeled and stuck on a shelf.” In other words, the high school experience is a recipe for shame.

Certainly many teens sail through high school successfully and with increased self-esteem, says Bonnie Harris. Is it because they are tall, attractive, and smart? Or is it because they have developed self-regulatory skills earlier on that help them cope through these years of vulnerability. Sometimes high school provides an environment suited to a student’s need; thus the student thrives. But certainly not in all cases.

Parenting connectively from the early years, Harris says, creates a solid foundation the child can stand on throughout those vulnerable, self-doubting, adolescent years. Connective Parenting aids the development of self-regulatory skills since the child problem solves rather than is punished, threatened and told what to do. Through acceptance and support, parents are able to teach even very young children strategies for managing their feelings and reactions instead of being overrun by them. Identity is stronger when the young child’s experience is reflected back supportively rather than criticized, praised and rewarded, or denied.

With Connective Parenting, the child learns:

  •     With acknowledgment, empathy, and acceptance: My feelings and experiences are normal and are understood by the most important people in my life.
  •     With problem solving: I can figure out how to handle situations and not be dependent on someone else to tell me what to do.
  •     With conflict resolution: I can express my feelings whatever they are and hear what some else has to say about me. Without blame or punishment, we can work out a solution.

"Blame, criticism, punishments, threats, and arbitrary consequences leave a child feeling powerless, misunderstood, and not good enough," says Harris,"—shaky ground on which to embark on even shakier adolescent ground. To enter adolescence with the well established shame intrinsic in traditional reward and punishment parenting is truly throwing our children into the lion’s den."

About Connective Parenting:
Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed., parent educator for 25 years, founded Connective Parenting in 2003 with the release of her first book, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons". Connective Parenting is based on principles, found in her second book, "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You'll Love to Live With," that focus on the child's strengths rather than inadequacies while creating a balance between the child's needs and the parent's. Harris teaches parenting workshops, professional trainings and gives speaking engagements internationally. For more information, call 603 924-6639 or visit

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