Tag Archives: What's Up Wednesday

News Flash: Bieber’s Voice Changes!! (Boys Biology During Puberty)

The news that Justin Bieber’s voice is changing has girls wondering what his new, deep voice will sound like and boys hoping he’ll embarrass himself in the middle of a concert. I decided to use the news to talk a little bit about boys biology during puberty and how we can support them.

David Walsh’s book “Why Do They Act That Way?” is a great book about teen changes. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Smart kids sometimes do dumb things because the thinking, reasoning, impulse control center of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully wired until around 20 years old. Because the prefrontal cortex’s wiring is still incomplete, the adolescent PFC can’t always distinguish between a good decision and a bad one, no matter how intelligent the kid is.
  • Testosterone does good things like make boy’s bodies and muscles develop. It also has a powerful affect on the amygdala, the fight or flight center of the brain. In teenage boys, testosterone triggers surges of anger, aggression, sexual interest, dominance, and territoriality. And because testosterone is geared toward quick tension release, adolescent boys are prone to follow ANY impulse that might release stress.
  • At the same time that adolescent boys are having trouble stifling impulses, they are being barraged with an unprecedented onslaught of powerful urges, lightning quick mood changes, and confusing new feelings caused by hormones.
  • Norepinephrine is the energizer neurotransmitter. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter. Serotonin is the mood stabilizing neurotransmitter. All three of these affect hormone changes during adolescence, which creates drastic and confusing mood changes.
  • Adults and teen boys use different parts of the brain when interpreting emotions. Adults use the prefrontal cortex, which is reasoned. Teens use the amygdala, the center of fight or flight, fear or anger. Adults use reason; teens use a gut reaction, and are frequently wrong. When a seemingly normal conversation with an adolescent suddenly spins out of control, it’s not just because a kid is being difficult or having a bad attitude. The kid may really be interpreting the outside world, especially emotional messages, differently.
  • When teen boys are in love (even just shown pictures of people they have feelings for), the seat of reason in the brain is mostly inactive. The emotional and pleasure centers of the brain are very active. The brain activity is very similar to someone who is on cocaine, and it can become addicting. Falling in love can blind teens to serious problems, risks, and emotional and physical abuse.
  • Teens boys will be sensitive about their changing bodies and self-conscious about their behavior. They may hold back from doing or saying things (answering questions in class), even if they are able, because of how it will look.
  • Teen boys will have contradictory feelings at the same time along the lines of: “Mom, I want you to stop treating me like a kid, but please don’t forget to hug me at bedtime.” Or “Get out of my life, but can you give me money to go to a movie with my friends?”

This information can help us to be patient with adolescent boys and some of the crazies that come with puberty. Teen boys still need to talk and get information and support from parents about what’s going on with them. One of the best times to talk to teen boys is during a car ride. In the car, you’ve got a captive audience, you’re sitting side by side rather than facing each other across a table, and there are visual and physical distractions to break the tension. Even though it can be uncomfortable for both parents and teens, it’s important discuss the big issues (drugs, sex, peer pressure, bullying, depression etc.) regularly. Jump in boldly, even if it’s primarily a one-sided discussion. Be sure to allow for long periods of uncomfortable silence. Sometimes that’s what it takes to leave room for boys to talk.


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Book Review: Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker

Taking a family road trip to Kentucky kept me from posting for a couple weeks, but it also gave me the chance to read Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker.

Before I get started with the review, let me qualify my perspective.

  1. I DON’T believe in gender specific parenting.
  2. I DO believe in holistic, CHILD SPECIFIC parenting.
  3. A BIG part of the whole child is their gender.

Therefore, I LIKE the idea of books about boys as well as books about girls.

It’s also important to state at the beginning that I think it’s time to let go of the debate about whether boys or girls have it worst and focus on doing a good job for all children. Each sex has its own challenges and gifts. There has been gender inequity, but fighting about who has the current short end of the stick is silly. Boys benefit if we raise healthy girls. Girls benefit if we raise healthy boys. Writing a book about boys does not hurt girls and vice versa. The better we understand how to parent and teach both sexes, the better off both boys and girls will be.

I was interested in this book because:

  • I am raising boys.
  • I work with challenging boys.
  • I am writing a continuing education workshop on caring for boys.
  • It was available on i-Tunes, so I could listen to it while driving.

If I were grading Dr. Meeker’s book against other books about boys, I’d give it a  “B.” I found it useful and inspiring. It’s a good book, but I’ve got high standards. Here’s the criteria I used:

  • Boy-specific data and ideas: Much of the information could be applied to boys or girls equally. While the book expressed the ideas in a boy-centered way, the information wasn’t uniquely innovative or outstanding for boys. The “Seven Secrets” were good ideas for raising all kids.
  • Quality of parenting advice: It was good advice. Solid, but not exceptional.
  • Relevance and usefulness of stories and examples: Stories were decent examples, but not particularly inspiring or illustrative. You didn’t read them and say, “Wow, I never thought of it that way. I see this boy’s story in a whole new light.”
  • Data and information was new, innovative, or engaging: Most of the information was stuff most people had heard before. While it was good to be reminded of it, there were not revelations that would rock anyone’s world.
  • Ideas were thought provoking, applicable, and could be practically applied by busy parents: For a book to be worth most parent’s or teacher’s time, it needs to have some very useful, applicable, plug-and-play ideas that will work and change our daily practice. The book contained some very good suggestions, but it would be difficult for most people to come away with much more than a few ideas to try.
  • Reading the book inspired me to be a better parent, teacher, youth worker, etc. The last chapter was inspiring, and I did come away with a full heart wanting to be a better dad.

As far as other things that I consider important, the book was pretty weak.

  • Cultural diversity is barely mentioned.
  • Principles of adult learning hardly there.
  • The perspectives and needs of exceptional children were only briefly mentioned.
  • Best Practices for parents or professionals weren’t clearly identified but were mentioned in passing (unconsciously).
  • Other professionals were quoted a couple times. Other professional organizations that are accessible or useful to readers or participants weren’t memorably mentioned.
  • Developmental ages and stages were not discussed.
  • Parenting Styles were not discussed.
  • Learning styles were not discussed or integrated.

I don’t expect most parenting books that are published to include all of these, but I think it’s good to be aware of their importance.

If people are looking to pick it up from the library and browse through it, here’s what I’d read:

  • Chapter 4 on media that is very insightful.
  • Chapter 7 on moms.
  • Chapter 8 on dads.
  • Chapter 12 on 10 tips for making sure you get it right was encouraging and inspiring.
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Posted by on April 15, 2010 in Book Reviews


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Terrible tweens are the golden years?

For What’s Up Wednesday I want to share a great article about parenting tweens. It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t differentiate tweens from teens or elementary kids. However, it is a unique stage with it’s own gifts and challenges, which I emphasize in my class, Middle School 411.

I appreciate the positive focus and helpful suggestions in this article. Click below to go to it.


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