One: Making Sense of Adolescence Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.Socrates, Fifth Century BC Probably the best way to describe adolescence is to say that it begins at puberty and ends...sometime. That may sound silly and unscientific, but it's the most accurate description of adolescence that I've come across. It is vague precisely because adolescence is an in-between stage determined not so much by what it is but by what it is not. Adolescence is not childhood, and it is not adulthood; it is the period in between those two stages. And because today's kids get through childhood faster than kids did in the past, their transition to adulthood now seems to be taking longer than ever before.The gap between teens and adults seems to be growing too. Three teenagers I spoke with not long ago told me that adults move away from them on the bus when they get on. "Why do you think they do that?" I asked."Because they're afraid of us," offered one boy.His friend disagreed. "I think it's because they don't like us."The proverbial generation gap is fast becoming a chasm. It's not easy being an adolescent. Just consider some of the things they face. They have to handle sexually maturing bodies that give rise to strong urges. They have to try to figure out and manage volatile and powerful emotions. They have to fit into a complex social network. They have to deal with immense peer pressure. They have to deal with wildly changing moods. They have to decide how they are going to respond to the temptation of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. They have to figure out what their values are going to be. They have to renegotiate relationships with their parents. They have to get through school. They have to figure out how to get enough sleep. They have to begin to plan their future. This list can get a lot longer. Any way you look at it, adolescents have a lot of balls in the air, and because they can't always handle their juggling acts with the utmost grace, the people around them -- especially their parents -- bear the brunt of teens' frustration. Over the years I've come to understand that the adolescent years are the most difficult for parents and their teens.Two years ago I received a call from a friend. "Do you have time for a cup of coffee?" he asked."Sure, when would you like to get together?""Right now?" was his instant reply.Thirty minutes later we were sitting down in a neighborhood coffee shop. With tears in his eyes Steve unloaded the worry, sadness, and anger he was feeling about his fourteen-year-old son, Kevin. A particularly nasty argument over a curfew had erupted earlier in the evening, capping several days of simmering conflict. "I called you because I'm at my wits' end. I don't understand what's happening, and I don't know if we'll be able to get through whatever comes next."I have known Kevin since he was born. He grew up a bright, energetic, happy kid who loved doing things with his mom and dad. He was friendly, cooperative, talkative, and always game for some adventure. As I drank my coffee, Steve described Kevin's personality transformation. Almost overnight, Steve explained, Kevin had gone from happy to sullen, from talkative to quiet, from easygoing to hostile."Now it seems like everything turns into an argument. The chip on his shoulder is huge."His eyes dropped to his coffee cup, where he was fiddling with a spoon. Finally he said, in a shaky voice, "This is so hard. I don't know what to do."Adults from Socrates to my friend Steve have been perplexed and challenged by adoleWalsh, David is the author of 'Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen', published 2004 under ISBN 9780743260718 and ISBN 0743260716.