August 31, 2008

When Did You Become a "Man?"

In my research, I came across a surprising number of men who never felt they had crossed any clear line marking their entry into manhood. If you look very closely, you can find some rites of passage in modern culture. They are built into the structures of many youth serving organizations, and others are found in some religious communities. Nevertheless, for so many men, nothing major ever happened to mark this important crossing, and as a result, questions about their core manhood are left unanswered late into life.

Hard questions I ask of men in my workshops are:

What was THE moment in your life when you knew, for sure, that you had become a "man"? Who was there? What was done? What event, action, or ceremony took place so that you knew a line had been crossed and you were now a "man" (or at least more man than boy)?

If you can't remember any defining moment, how do you feel about it now? How do you know if you are a "man" today?

You can read men’s responses to these questions on the Man-Making website at this link:

I challenge you to take just a moment to think about this part of your journey to manhood. How would you answer those questions? How has your notion of being a man been shaped by the rites of passage that did or did not happen?

Some tribal cultures have learned the importance of drawing a hard and deep line for boys to cross. Sometimes that line is marked in a young male's flesh. Here is a website that claims to show The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World, and another that has to be among the most painful at this link.

While most of these are very hard to watch, I wonder if a painful crossing into a certain manhood isn’t better than none at all.

What do you think?

August 14, 2008

Getting Boys to Read – Gore and Farting?

In an August 8th Wall Street Journal article, the author, John Hechinger, claims that really gross books may be part of the answer! He the article explores the challenge of getting boys to read and what publishers are doing to reach out to them. Hechinger discovered that, Publishers are hawking more gory and gross books to appeal to an elusive market: boys -- many of whom would rather go to the dentist than crack open “Little House on the Prairie.”

The article explains that, Prof. Wilhelm tracked boys' reading habits for five years ending in 2005 and found that schools failed to meet their "motivational needs." Prof. Wilhelm discovered that Teachers assigned novels about relationships, such as marriage, that appealed to girls but bored boys. His survey of academic research found boys more likely to read nonfiction, especially about sports and other activities they enjoy, as well as funny, edgy fiction.

If you have a boy in your life you may want to read the whole article at this link. You may also want to pick up a copy of Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger by Kevin Bolger, and do your own research.

August 8, 2008

That Frustrating Teen Brain

While you may have heard about some of the research regarding the development of the adolescent brain, the folks at the MIT Young Adult Development Project are collecting the research data in one place for us.

On their website you can learn about how the adolescent brain develops from back to front. That means that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, managing emotions, and complex thinking, doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties.

As the MIT-YADP people describe it, young adults have “. . . a kind of mental "visor" that screens out some kinds of phenomena while letting in others for consideration. As development unfolds, one can "see" and think about more and more complex phenomena such as abstractions, relationships, and moral problems, and offering more and more powerful thinking tools.”

As a number of researchers have suggested, the insurance and rental car companies have it right. The teen brain isn't fully mature at 16, when they are allowed to drive, or at 18, when they are allowed to vote, or at 21, when they are allowed to drink. In fact, it's not fully wired until they are closer to 25, when they are allowed to rent a car and their insurance rates begin to get reasonable.

Visit the MIT Young Adult Development Project website for a great short-course on the young male brain. It will explain a lot about teen behavior and maybe replace some frustration at their choices with understanding and even compassion.

August 3, 2008

A Boy's Natural Life Stages

On of the contributors to this blog, Peter Young, suggests the book Natural Learning Rhythms: Discovering How and When Your Child Learns by Josette Luvmour. It’s one of a number of books about the Natural Learning Rhythms philosophy. In the book there is a section that covers Ritual Rites of Passage, which Peter says describes developmentally appropriate ways of celebrating a number of landmark points in time for both boys and girls.

The NLR philosophy is based on over 20 years of research and fieldwork, and the author claims that it, “. . . enables parents to understand the psychological, emotional and physical components of optimal well-being in children.”

The EnCompass Institute, started by the author, offers programs based on Natural Learning Rhythms concepts. At the Institute’s website you can find an interesting description of their, “. . . four primary life stages in childhood.” They describe their model this way:

  • The first starts at conception and continues to approximately 8 1⁄2 years old. We coined the term BodyBeing.
  • The second is from 8 1⁄2 to 12 1⁄2 years old. We call this stage FeelingBeing.
  • The third stage goes from the ages of 12 1⁄2 to 17 1⁄2. This stage is called IdealBeing.
  • The last stage starts around 17 1⁄2 or so and ends around 23 years of age. We call this stage, ReasonableBeing.

If you’re interested in EnCompass Institute's description of these stages of child development, read the brief description of their “Central Tenants ” on their website.

Whether you agree with the NLR model or not, it’s another approach that reminds us of how critically important certain influences are at just the right time in a young person’s life.