Written and narrated by Jacob Knowles.
Raising boys can be a puzzle for parents and teachers at the best of times. Often if feels as though we have five corner pieces and have lost the box…. so things are starting to not look quiet how we thought they would. What is important is that our boys need this developmental period. Ultimately it is this time that will make them who they are destined to become. It will form the basis of their unique identity and we are gifted this opportunity to work and guide them through their journey.
Hold strong! Remain steadfast! He will be okay and by better understanding this developmental period, we can support him in a time when he needs it the most.
Teenage Brain Development… understanding it explains a lot
The human brain undergoes many changes throughout our lifetime. By the time children are six years old their brain has already grown to about 90-95% of its adult size. It requires this growth to have the capacity for the remodeling process which occurs intensively during adolescents and continues in to our mid 20’s.
During adolescents, your sons brain ‘prunes’ away unused connections in the thinking and processing section also known as its grey matter. During this time, other connections needed for more complex tasks in adult life are strengthened to improve efficiency. This process begins at the back of the brain and will eventually make its way to the front and to the area responsible for his decision making (the prefrontal cortex). Here is the area of the brain that is meant to help him plan things out, consider consequences, solve problems and manage his impulsivity… and this is completed last and not fully until his mid 20’s.
GREAT! So what can we do to help his developing brain?
Unfortunately there is no set-plan for adolescent brain development and environmental factors tend to play a considerable part in how this will unfold. However, you will play an extremely important part in this process. As parents and teachers, we can help our boys best by providing them opportunities to experience a range of activities and experiences. The Raising Children Network suggests that the three best things we can do for our boys are:
- Encourage his positive behaviors
- Promote good thinking skills he displays
- Help him to get the sleep he needs
Practically, we can achieve these by
- Letting him take some healthy risks: boys need to be exposed to new and different experiences where they are active participants. This allows him to move towards greater independence and develop transferable skills necessary for later life.
- Encouraging him to explore new and creative outlets: Many boys will find what their passion and exist solely in it (gaming, sports, music, etc). By asking them to participate in outlets they have had limited exposure to we are broadening opportunities for their growth.
- Engage him in decision making: This doesn’t mean lecturing him when he’s not allowed to go somewhere he wants. Rather, focus on asking for his input in to decisions and whether he can think of potential consequences or benefits in a variety of situations.
- Build Routines: Structure is so important for boys (and men more broadly). You will need to accept that his interests around activities might have changed and that things like Friday night Family Movie time or doing title pages is less appealing. Discuss updating rituals to suit all those involved and look to come to a place where everyone feels heard, valued and is in agreement.
- Set CLEAR and CONSITENT Boundaries: It is vital for boy to have boundaries both at school and at home. These should be discussed, decided upon and then followed through with. Involving boys in the development of boundaries helps them to see where the ‘line in the sand’ is and removes a lot of scope for complaints later on.
- Praise Him: He needs to hear this a lot and it needs to be specific. Boys need to know they have done something to make us proud and that we appreciate and value their contribution. It is equally important to communicate our disappointment in their decisions when things haven’t gone well however focusing on their positives aims to lessen these instances.
Most importantly we need to remember that we are the adult in our boy’s lives. We are there to be a role model for them and they will learn far more from what we do then what we say. Boys will make mistakes along their journey, particularly during adolescents. We are gifted this small window of time to have an immense impact on who they will become.
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