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Trusted Tips & Resources

Trusted Saskatoon educators discuss how criticism affects teens

Here they share their first tip on Criticism Causes Teen Brains to (Literally) Shut Down:


Communication can be tricky business between parents and teens and new research may have a suggestion as to why.

According to an article on, neuroscientists from several leading universities in the United States have conducted a study mapping brain activity in a group of pre-teens and teens as they listened to clips of their own mothers criticizing them (sound harsh?) and found that areas of their brains actually shut down. Teens hear a lot of ‘feedback’ from parents, and apparently when it comes to nagging or criticizing, the study shows that teens’ brains actually shut off in key areas when they hear it.

“When listening to Moms’ criticism, and for a period afterwards, the teens’ brains showed more activity in areas involved in negative emotions (no surprise there), but they actually showed reduced activity in regions involved in emotional control and in taking other people’s point of view.”

So what’s it mean?

“Youth shut down social processing [and] possibly do not think about their parents’ mental states.” When parents criticize, “adolescents may experience strong negative emotional reaction, may have difficulty cognitively controlling this emotion and may also find it challenging to understand the parent’s perspective or mental state.”

Many of us may have guessed that nagging and criticizing isn’t a productive way to get teens to change their behaviour, but now there is a neuroscience study to prove it. Parents, better brush up on your positive reinforcement and communication skills if you want that room cleaned and homework completed.


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