Raising Girls: Help Girls Manage Marshmallow Brain

raising girlsIf you are raising early teens you’ll know instinctively that they are brain-challenged.

Early teen boys frequently experience scrambled-brain syndrome. They battle their physiology as their brain begins a rewiring when they move into puberty.

Girls also experience something similar, which can make them regress and act like a baby. In fact, they can be twelve years old and swing between two and twenty-two, which is disconcerting for a parent.

Your daughter, who may have been so confident and assured at eleven, is now being let down by her brain as she moves into adolescence. It seems like it’s gone to marshmallow.

Her pre-frontal cortex (the front part of her brain) is going through a complete rewiring in preparation for her adult brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning, smart decision-making and impulse control. There are now wild swings in mood, in thought patterns and in her ability to think rationally.

While her brain is changing your daughter can experience feelings of helplessness; she can suddenly become disorganised; and she may act baby-like.

Some girls retreat to the toys of childhood to find comfort. It’s reassuring to know that the girl inside is still there.

Some girls start a diary. Not only is this a solace, but also it helps them work out their thoughts. This has privacy and safety built in. Social media for some girls is like a diary as they can easily bare their souls on it for all to see!

A girl who experiences marshmallow brain benefits from parents who:

  1. Explain what’s happening to her. It’s reassuring to know to that what she is experiencing is normal.
  2. Simplify her life. She needs time to process what may be happening and this takes downtime.
  3. Allow two sides to exist. The dolls of childhood may looks strange besides those adolescent clothes she has laid out on the bed, but there’s a child and emergent teen inside.
  4. Understand her. Empathetic parents can be a young person’s best ally as they move through stage of uncertaintly.


Read more about how to help your child manage this stage as well as navigate all her life stages in Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph. It’s available now.

First published on the Parenting Ideas blog on 23rd September, 2013.


Michael Grose

Michael Grose is the current Channel 9 Today Show parenting commentator, reaching parents Australia-wide on a regular basis.He is also the author of 8 parenting books, including his latest release Thriving! and the best-selling Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It.

A popular presenter, Michael Grose speaks to parents, teachers and principals on a regular basis.Michael comes from an education background, and has conducted post-graduate research into what makes healthy families tick.He's given over 1500 parenting presentations, including the first parenting seminar in Parliament House, Canberra.Michael is married with three adult children who have all successfully flown the parent nest.

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