Ep. 57: Your Teen on Power

Ep. 57: Your Teen on Power

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Episode Summary

Erin Clabough joins us for a discussion on the importance of giving teens the right amount of power…and making sure they know how to use it! Instilling a value of empathy is key to making sure teens wield power fairly. And how do you do that? Erin says bribing is an option!

Full Show Notes

Have you ever had to look on as your teen, on a power trip, becomes a complete jerk?? Maybe you’ve even seen your teen become a tyrant after being given even the smallest bit of social  power, like being in charge of dropping a sibling(s) off at school. Suddenly they fly into a rage if said sibling is even a minute late walking out the door, even though your teen was ten minutes late last week when you took them to school.

This week I spoke with Erin Clabough, PhD, neuroscientist and author of Second Nature: How Parents Can Use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control, about teens, power, and empathy. It’s true that people on power trips are bad at empathizing. And while it might seem like the solution is to just completely strip your teen of their social power, Erin suggests this is unwise.

In fact a study looking at groups of monkeys found that the animals with the lowest social status – the least amount of power – were the most likely ones to voluntarily pick up a drug habit.  Having social power and being the “one in charge” gives a person a dopamine rush – it feels good to be respected and listened too! For the monkeys that were low on the totem pole the alternative was to get a dopamine rush from readily available cocaine.

So the solution, according to Erin, lies in helping kids have values like empathy and kindness, in addition to having self-control!

And how can you do that? Surprisingly, bribing makes the list. As a neuroscientist, Erin intimately understands how to effectively use bribing to get your teen to start doing the right thing(s). In addition to unlocking how to properly bribe a teen, you will discover:

  • How to intervene when you see an imbalance of power
  • The two criteria for rules that teens follow
  • The importance of giving your teen social power
  • What cognitive empathy is and how to use it
  • Erin’s “OUT” Method for conflict resolution

And that’s not all! Have a listen to this week’s episode featuring Erin Clabough for more insights on managing teens on power!

The 25-minute public version is free to listen to, and the 49-minute extended version, packed with extra goodies, is reserved for site members. Log in or start a free trial to access everything our site has to offer!


Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1. Effectively Bribe Your Teen:

As author and neuroscientist Erin Clabough discussed with me, bribes and bribing can be an incredibly effective way to influence and change a teen’s behavior – it just has to be done right. The best way to do this is actually by consulting with your teen on what the bribe should be.

First, identify and jot down three the behaviors you would either like to see decreased or increased. Perhaps you’d like you teen to spend less time on Netflix and do one nice thing a week for each of their siblings. Next, speak with your teen about what sorts of rewards would motivate them. The example Erin provided was a father who gave his teen daughter $1000 if she didn’t drink until age 21.

Once your teen has come up with what would motivate them, put in place a “rewards system,” aka a systematic bribe, for your teen to work within.

For instance if you want your teen to stop watching so much Netflix, and your teen says they want a car, decide on the exact reward system together: 0 hours of Netflix for a week = +$100 toward a car, only 2 hours of Netflix for a week = +$50 toward a car. As other interviewers suggest, work on one behavior change for a few weeks before incorporating the next.

2.  Identify When Your Teen Can’t Handle the Power & Mediate It:

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3. Create Experiential Learning Opportunities:

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About Erin Clabough

Erin Clabough is one smart lady: she received her PhD from the University of Virginia, specializing in molecular genetics of neurodegeneration and now runs a research lab while also maintaining an assistant professor position. In addition to being an author, Erin currently writes for Psychology Today, mindbodygreen, TODAY Parenting, to name a few, and if that weren’t enough, she is also a mother of four.

Want More Erin Clabough?

You can find Erin through her website as well as on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.