How to understand your teenager better

Human behaviour expert Dr John Demartini explains how you can have a better relationship with your children through understanding how they work.

What do you value most in life? Perhaps it’s your health, education, relationships, cleanliness – or all of the above!

Now, what is it your kids, even your grandkids, value? They might’ve told you, but more often than not it’s just assumed we know. Human behaviour expert Dr John Demartini wants to put an end to those assumptions.

He says knowing what your kids’ values are, respecting them and not pushing your own on to them is what will truly bond the relationship.

You might not even realise you’re forcing your values on to them – whether you’re telling them to do better at school, begging them to help keep the house tidy… the list goes on.

Although it’s fair to want those things for and from your teen, it also needs to be on their terms as much as your own for them to be compliant, respectful and easy to get along with.

So how can you understand and accept their values when they might be different to your own? Dr Demartini explains …

Ditch the ‘lazy’ label

If our kids spend a lot of time in their bedrooms, or sitting on the couch, we’re quick to label them as lazy and unmotivated. But what Dr Demartini wants us to realise is that they’re motivated, but in regards to their own values.

It’s all about tying in what you want your teen to do with their value system. If they don’t want to go to school and play sports instead, explain how crucial knowing maths is to keeping score.

If they want to travel overseas, then explain the importance of learning a language or languages, and that will show them that they need school to fulfil their dreams and desires.

“The second you get self-righteous and project, you suppress them,” says Dr Demartini. “And the more you suppress your child, the more they feel unfulfilled, and the more you breed the behaviour you don’t want from them.”


To get a little scientific, Dr Demartini explains that when a child doesn’t feel that they’re having their values met and fulfilled, blood-glucose and oxygen goes to their amygdala – the inner-region of the brain – which is associated with fight or flight and avoidance of predators.

“They then look for immediate gratification, and demonstrate compulsive and even addictive behaviours and they want to over-consume, spend money and escape,” he says.

This helps to explain that when youth have addiction problems – whether it’s gaming, alcohol or drugs – it’s partly due to a lack of fulfilment.

“They’ve had events in their life that they feel interfered with their dreams and they don’t see how they can get them,” says Dr Demartini.

“If you work out what those dreams and values are, and how to fulfil them, they’ll reactivate a very executive brain function and do amazing things.”

Valuing their ideals

While we’re only doing it because we think it’s what’s best, pushing values on to a child is not the answer and can in fact drive a serious wedge between them and the parent involved.

“Every individual, regardless of age, has a set of priorities and values,” explains Dr Demartini. “Teenagers are no different. So, based on what’s highest on their list of values – like socialisation, appearance and fitting in – that’s what they’re inspired to act upon. Whatever’s low on their list of values, like chores, for example, they’ll procrastinate and almost need an extrinsic motivation to do it.”

That’s not to say your child doesn’t need to help around the house just because it’s not on their list of values – they don’t get off that easily!

“If you communicate what you want as a parent for the child in terms of their values and in a way they can relate to and see how they’re going to ‘win’, they become very compliant, open and receptive, and will include your suggestions in their life.”

For example, if your child is an avid gamer, Dr Demartini suggests approaching them with a statement like: “If you finish tidying your room, keep it clean and help around the house, every time you master a game, I will pay for your next game and we can see if you can master that one too.”

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