Teen Boys and Teen Girls And What Makes Their Brains So Very Different

The challenge of parenting teenagers

Parenting teenagers can be challenging, and unfortunately, there’s not a quick, fix-all formula for parenting your unique teen the “right way”. The physical differences between men and women are pretty obvious, but the differences in emotional development during puberty, often referred to as “the awkward stage,” stand in stark contrast. When I look at gender differences in the brain during teen years, I can’t help but say, “really God, what are you thinking?!

Teen boys: how much testosterone can they take?

When testosterone is being released into a teenage boy, his body is altering and expanding structurally. This tsunami of testosterone is coursing through his body stretching vocal cords, enlarging the testicles, thickening and lengthening the penis, increasing hair follicle growth in new places, activating muscle and bone growth, and causing the sexual-pursuit circuits to become twice as large as a girl’s. That’s a massive amount of restructuring!

Louanne Brizendine, M.D. puts it this way:

“If testosterone were beer, a nine-year-old boy would get the equivalent of about one cup a day…by age fifteen, it would be equal to two gallons a day.”

A 15-year-old boy is daily “intoxicated” by the amount of testosterone his body is producing—no wonder our teenage boys need so much sleep! Their bodies are working hard to receive the changes coursing through them.

Teen girls: why do they have so many words?

Like testosterone changes a boy’s body, estrogen changes the structure of a teenage girl’s body. At the core, this influx of estrogen is an unfolding of the ancient biological manual embedded in every woman to become sexually desirable. This rewiring is why humankind has continued to create and the continuation of life is hinged upon this process.

As estrogen makes its way through a teenage girl’s body, breasts begin to appear, emotions are heightened, awareness of the perception of others is increased, pubic hair begins to grow, and a monthly surge of estrogen-progesterone causes menstrual bleeding to begin.

Teen girls often have a lot of words and the amazing ability to talk all day (and sometimes all night) with close friends. As a girl develops, language and speech often activate the pleasure centers in their brain. This is different from a boy’s brain, where language and speech do not produce the same effects. During teen years, a girl’s language area of her brain can be twice as large as a teen boy’s.

What can these differences teach us about God?

While the knowledge of these differences is important, I believe we still need to address important questions like: how do we view differences? Do we value these things as good and designed by our Creator with love?

As a mother who has successfully made it to the other end of those parenting-teen years, I know the teenage years can be filled with many frustrations. However, I believe these years are vital in exploring the mystery of man, the mystery of woman, and the mystery of God.

When we make space to allow these male and female differences in our teens to show us the creative hand of God, we are given the chance to marvel at the depth of what we have yet to discover.

~ becky

Different is not bad, it’s just different

Different is just different

I’ve got some news for you. Women are quite different from the men. And you know what else? Men are quite different from women.

    • Science reveals it.
    • Scripture confirms it.

Some of these differences are noticeable and others are more subtle, yet each difference has something to teach us about the other. And guess what, each of these differences also has something to teach us about who we are.

In my few short years of life (smile), I have come to believe that how I hold, name and value these differences is THE most important element in relationships.

Let’s explore some examples.

 

MY HUSBAND: in pain

One morning, I wake to find him moaning, sweating profusely and bent over in pain.

Bad food, appendicitis, kidney stones, he feels like he is dying.

I want to comfort him, so I go near him, but he pushes me away.

I Google away on my computer and come up with a diagnosis for what is happening – kidney stones.

Driving him to the hospital is seen as a possibility rather than a need – but I drive him there anyway.

His pain reveals a frightening level of vulnerability and how hard it is for him to ask for help.

Am I willing to see him in his pain and meet him there?

 

MY FRIEND: less words

This friend and I have known each other for most our lives. I know his silence is not a wall between us, but instead I know it as a place of perfect space to see him as he is.

My many words dwarf his few.

My joy in seeing him is met with a quiet hug and kiss on the cheek.

He values me not through language and many words, but instead he values me more through the consistency of showing up and being available.

Am I willing to trust the depth of a friendship over my desire for words to be exchanged?

 

MY WORK: logic vs. emotion

One of my colleagues, we speak together often, teaching on a topic that it is as wide as it is deep. You guessed it: sexuality and spirituality.

He appeals to the logic and reason of our audience.

I tell a story to bring it to life.

He seeks to provide a conclusion.

I linger in the unanswered questions.

Our common ground is sharing a heart for the people and a love for the Word.

Am I able to value the diversity and variance with which we approach teaching? 

 

LET’S BEGIN NOTICING: men and women are different

The differences between men and women are meant to be a place of expanding our views in this world, not an opportunity to label and categorize one another. 

As a woman, each difference I experience with the men who make up my world is offering me an opportunity to see, learn and notice more.

It’s the simplicity and complexity of the men in my life that continues to reveal I have much to learn. I admit that the arena of honoring and valuing these differences is often exhausting; yet I pray that I can make space for these God-given designs of men to continue to tutor me as a woman who also bears the Designer’s imprint.

 
Friends, both men & women, I invite you this week, as you go about your life, to stop and notice some of these everyday differences between men and women. As always, I love to hear from you either in the comments below or feel free to shoot me an email.

Here’s to noticing!

~ becky

 
Photo credit.

An Everyday Story of Interconnectedness

There is a window in my house that must be replaced. It must because between the woodpeckers repeatedly digging their beaks into random sections and the rain pouring between the frame and the house, the window is now foggy. You can’t see through it. Nope not one bit.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized I couldn’t ignore the hazy window anymore. So I shopped…

  • chose a window…
  • the contractor came to measure…
  • a credit card was swiped to purchase the window…

Then the installer came with the window only to inform me that the frame will need to be custom-made. And that’s just great, because the contractor had assured me this was not going to be necessary.

My window was installed a few weeks back on a hot day when sweat ran like a stream down the installer’s back. And now? You’ve been outside lately, haven’t you? It’s fall now with night temperatures hovering around freezing. Yet, still there is no frame encircling my window.

I am waiting…

There are some words spoken by Desmond Tutu when he addressed the University of Toronto awhile back that have challenged me to notice an opportunity for growth in the midst of these window repair shenanigans:

“We are caught up in a delicate network of interconnectedness. I have gifts that you don’t, and you have gifts I don’t–voila! We are made different so that we may know our need of one another.”

I will never be able to understand the logistics of curved window frames, but I do have the capacity to see and value those who are involved. I value people, who they are and the process that is transforming us by being in relationship together.

The weeks have passed and my installer has been to my house six different times. I have now…

  • met and chatted with his fiancé…
  • shared a glass of iced tea while hearing about his dreams….
  • born witness to the frustrations of his profession…

I must admit, at times I am frustrated and think it would be much easier to resort to “claiming my rights” and “demanding that things be fixed” on my timeframe. But when I pause to notice, I can see  how his craftsman gift is meeting my relational gift and together we are experiencing being interconnected.

He is teaching me something and maybe he is learning from me…

What is coming to life by the delicate network of recognizing interconnectedness? How are you learning to honor differences in your life that reveal unexpected opportunities?

~ becky

PS I still don’t have a finished window. So there might be a bit more for me to learn…(??)

Panel Discussion: Marriage, Sexuality and Human Relationships

So a couple days ago I participated in a dialogue panel discussion put on by the fabulous folks at Transform MN. For more than two hours we discussed questions on how relevant the church is and is not in teaching the topics of Marriage, Sexuality and Human Relationship.

The line-up of pastoral clout and Doctoral expertise sitting on either side of me, left me feeling just the slightest bit intimidated.

But, regardless of titles and certificates, our shared commonalities soon became evident. We all had a passion to discuss these topics. With our varying background, experience and research the pastors, professor and I tackled questions like:

  • How can we connect sexuality and spirituality and will it affect relationships?
  • Among young adults, what are the most common relationship challenges you see?
  • How do we help people have healthier relationships between men and women?
  • Does marriage affect the development of children?
  • What is the impact of divorce/separation, cohabiting or non-marriage on society?

Each person held a unique wisdom. Each voice stretched the audience in unique directions. Each moment was pregnant with tension and anticipation.

I think I could have kept going for another two hours, but our experienced moderator, Carl kept us from getting too carried away.

I am one who loves questions and what they reveal. I work ferociously to create space for people to ask questions. I see engaging with questions as an invitation to learn.

On this day I was asked to be on the answer side to the questions, which was different for me and I came to the table feeling both honored and humbled.

People really want to learn on these topics. And you know what’s fascinating? When marriages and relationships are in trouble, research continues to show that people trust the church first.

As I left the stage questions began to rise up inside:  Are we willing to continue to engage with this topic? Can we learn a language that is relevant to the culture? And how might it impact future generations?

A feeling of hopefulness seems to have ignited within me that day and this same feeling continues to linger even now. These conversations are happening. And I so very hopeful  that there will be more.

Thank you Transform MN, I feel quite grateful to have had the chance to add my voice to this important conversation…

Would you consider adding your voice to the conversation? If you have a thoughts on how the church could address the topics of Marriage, Sexuality and Human Relationships, either write a comment or drop me an email. I am listening…

~ becky

PS Transform Minnesota often puts their discussions up online for the public to listen to. I’ll let you know if they do this event too!

Bringing Life, Together

THE MAN SEES

She is sweating…

The pain is rising…

She squeezes my hand…

Looks deep in my eyes…

I hear the swish of a heartbeat, though I am not sure if it is mine, hers or this new life she is releasing from her body. Everything within me wants to take this pain away, release her from having to do this very physical element…birthing life.

She cries out with a sound that I have never heard uttered from her lips. It rips through me revealing how helpless I am to do anything that would relieve her. I feel alone and yet we are together.

She pants….

She utters words that make no sense…

Water, she wants water…

I bring ice chips hoping that they will give her some relief, hoping she can see how much I want to help, but instead the clinched teeth, the intense eyes, the irregular breath she pushes in and out of her lungs greet me.

How can this thing we call making love produce this kind of intensity in pain that is mixed with expectant joy?

What part do I play when I cannot rescue?

How do I love her now?

THE WOMAN SEES

He stands beside me…

He holds my hand…

He brings me ice cubes and rubs my back…

The contraction begins to build and my body clenches and wants to run. The nurse coaches me to not fight this pain, but rather to ride with it, let it teach me how my breath can find the ancient rhythm that women have shared for thousands of years.

I connect with the women of my past–mother, grandmother, great-grandmother… to the ancient days of women assisting women in childbirth. My body knows how to do this.

At this moment I feel stronger than I have ever felt, alive within the pain, listening to the life that is seeking to be born and asking my body to yield to this rhythm. Do not separate me from this pain, I am invited to go through it.

Can I join my life with the women who have carved the path before me?

I close my eyes…

I open my heart….

I breath with him next to me….

The cry of life being brought forth calls me forward, it tucks my pain into a place that is both ancient and near, but it asks me nothing more than to nurture this little life that together we created in love and together we will care for.

I feel alive….

I feel strong…

WE SEE

Childbirth has taught us both that we cannot do for another what we are called to do ourselves. We each held unique portions of this birthing process and we are different. In an effort to honor and respect these differences we need to acknowledge them and nurture them.

What if God designed this whole experience of birth to bond us rather than separate us?

Could the life of another have something to teach us about our own life?

Are we willing to see differences and the value they have to tutor us?

~ b

Teen Girls Changing Body: It Means Life

After my last post on Sunday about teenage girls, I have been feeling like there is a bit more to say, a bit more to wonder about. So pardon me as I dwell for just a little longer on the complexity and design of how women (and that one special thing that happens monthly) were created…

This mysterious monthly cycle that ushers young girls into womanhood is often mislabeled and misunderstood. My own story of getting my period during third hour science class could be any girl’s story of her first encounter with her period. What’s so unfortunate is that we’ve been taught to see the inconvenience and messiness of this monthly event while failing to see the beauty that is resting beneath.

Ok so yes… this cycle is often like a roller coaster…. yes, emotions can often seem like tsunamis that sweep over us… and yes it often includes messy moments of gushes and leaking… (sorry about the visual there).

But at the very core of what is happening…there is something else. There is a miracle happening each month mysteriously hidden—but very real.

Pubescent girls receive a dose of hormones that structurally alters their physical bodies with noticeable changes—sculpting curves, breasts that fill out and growth of pubic hair. Yet, deep inside, hidden away from view, something more is being carved out and molded in preparation to carry life.

Do we want to even admit that our daughters, these sweet young things, will possibly some day be mothers themselves?

On a monthly basis a woman’s womb is intricately being readied to the possibility, the anticipation of being the dwelling place for a child. Each month the inner womb of a woman sloughs off the lining of the uterus and the result is a time of bleeding. Jewish tradition calls this the womb weeping for life. God entrusted women to bring forth life by having our bodies be the very vessel though which life emerges forth.

Maybe teenage girls need to be celebrated and invited to embark on their life as a women, by women who have gone before them and know what it means to hold the beauty and the mess of bleeding—yet value both.

What would it look like to paint a picture of value for this monthly cycle, respecting the hidden parts of a woman’s body? Honoring the creation of strong and healthy gestation stations…

I believe that how girls are invited towards this threshold and also invited to crossover is a sacred part of being a woman. Let’s face it, women we are complicated beings—mysterious and messy is not bad, but rather God even says that after all had been made, including women and our bodily functions, “…it is good, so very good.”

What might happen if we empowered young girls with a language that honors their body and the sacred ways in which it is uniquely fashioned to carry life, to hold and release life and to give birth to life?

This is a risky call, but there is no need for panic. Do we women, with daughters of our own, know how to do this?? This might mean that we have to reclaim and honor our own bodies in the process…maybe our teenage girls are giving us a gift that we are invited to return to and claim.

Interested to talk further? I’m very excited to announce a new class Truessence is premiering  starting April 15th. Come join us at Open Door in Maple Grove for a 4 week class entitled: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. Watch the Truessence Facebook page for more details!

~ b.

A Changing Body of a Teen Girl

What was that?!” I asked myself.

There I was in my third hour, middle school science class. I probably wasn’t paying that close attention because, ironically, science was never able to capture my attention very well back then.

“There it is again!”…an intense and starling pain piecing me right in the gut.

I didn’t know what else to do except run to the only safe place there is in a high school. With the hall pass firmly in my possession, I scurried down the hall to, where else but the girls bathroom.

I was lucky because the girls room this particular hour was unoccupied. Once I was concealed behind a bathroom stale’s not-so-sturdy lock, I discovered the reason for this deep-gut-pain…something was seriously wrong!

There I was, alone and scared in a scuffed and dirty, school bathroom. Completely horrified, I absolutely positive that this was it…

I was dying.

Since one can’t hide in a school bathroom for long without being discovered, the school counselor eventually entered my toilet hideout to quietly insist I follow her. Without meeting my eyes, she produced an aspirin followed by pixie cup of water. She lead me to her office where I was promptly and without question was given a phone to call home.

This normal body function amplifies the differences between boys and girls–especially during the teen years. This place of mystery often includes dramatic horror stories about a teen girl’s identity being held captive by this mysterious thing we call “our period”. Boys joke about it, older women hint at it, which often results in teen girls becoming embarrassed or ashamed. Thus the labeling of this monthly time as something ugly and dreaded begins a vicious cycle:

“My curse has arrived”, “Auntie Em is visiting”, “The rag is here”.

What did you call your monthly menstruation? I’d tell you what my gang of lady friends in middle school referred to our “time of month” as but…well…actually it’s not polite, to say. You understand.

How does our language invite young girls to view their menstrual cycle?

The truth is, women, we have a responsibility, an opportunity, dare I say it—an obligation for how we name this very natural function of the body. Whether we realize it or not, we literally lay the foundation for how young girls will view their body’s flow. Are we laying a foundation where young girls could be willing or able to see this “flow” as something good, something life giving OR have we passed on this mysterious body function as a shame-filled thing that must merely be endured each month of their life until…{gasp!}…menopause…??

What would it look like if our language invited young girls to honor their body’s rhythm?

Women, I’d love to hear from you. How was your menstruation, your “time of the month” presented to you? How would you have a desire to pass on something different to our daughters?

Different By Design

He likes blue.

I like black.

He avoids change.

I love change.

He works with numbers.

Numbers confuse me.

He shrinks my clothes in the dryer.

I throw out his old torn jeans.

Differences are good…

Really?

Okay sometimes differences are a nuisance, a bit annoying and honestly completely frustrating. Could these differences be more than just something we carefully navigate to avoid disturbances? Could they be explorations that have something to teach us?

As a woman I have a unique perspective, one that comes from the complicated way in which my brain is wired. Yet made in the image of God, my being complicated must be part of what speaks about who God is.

Men in their own perspective, and how their brain is wired in a more direct and compartmentalized way, also bears a very unique portion of the image of God.

How is it that often we allow differences to create huge cavities that divide us rather than teaching us about the vastness of who God IS? What if we are seeking to “fit” God into our capacity of comprehension rather than experience the fullness of identity within men and women?

He rides a Harley 300 miles a day.

I make it an hour on the Hog and my bum hurts.

I love theatre, ballet and folk.

He prefers the 70’s on his iPod.

He likes Corona.

I like Guiness.

Walking with you....

Differences are characteristics that distinguish us from each other. They shape how we interact and engage making space to see one another.

My daily choice…

Will I hold these differences, without judgement?

Really depends on the day, but somehow I know that in this sacred space of truly “seeing another” the differences reflect a fuller image of God and….it is good, so very good!

I am a woman…but am I wired like a man?

Such a great question one that I hear often when the scientific element of men and women’s brain structural differences are noticed and named.

This hits me from a personal place needing to explore and understand my disordered view of gender.

Let me explain.

From an early age, I noticed and experienced the differences of how men and women engaged in relationships and made decisions. Personally, I internalized that men’s view had value and I under-valued the view of women. Common statements like:

“You are thinking too much like a woman.”

What does that mean? Is thinking like a woman somehow bad?

“Becky, take the emotion out of your decision, think logically.”

Does this mean that emotion is bad and in thinking more like a man I will not have emotion?

Is logic something that only men possess and emotions are exclusively for women? A message I learned early is that if I reduce my emotions and elevate my logic, than I could often be heard and my view valued.

To understand my own questions I had to look at some deeply embedded perceptions that I carried somewhat unknowingly:

1) Strength, logic, reason seemed to fall under the category of men.

2) Gentleness, emotion, relationship  seemed to fall under the category of women.

I valued one over the other, I saw one as strong, the other as weak. Really? I hope this makes you uncomfortable because even writing this causes me to cringe.

Let’s pretend we are sitting face-to-face, because I need to ask another question. In what way do you relate more to the description of a man’s wiring? And if it is from perception of value, might there be something more to value of being a woman? If in anyway we use a measuring system of valuing one over the other, we could have hidden complexities of gender elevation.

The simple fact is that science tells us that women’s brains are wired differently than men’s. The two side of a man’s brain are more different whereas the two sides of a woman’s brain are more the same. This is not better than or stating any value – just that women’s brain process information through more avenues, while men process information through a more central compartmentalized avenue. Thus I often use the description of a six lane highway vs. a one lane dirt road.

Both have:

emotions…

logic…

It makes no logical sense why this gentle tender flower would grow in the center of this rock, but it did it anyway…

Do we value both? Does each hold a unique purpose? AND most importantly what might they both have to teach us?

Is Foreplay Really Necessary?

Is foreplay important?

First of all, I love this question. My immediate question for you is: where are you having this discussion? As you are getting ready to have sex?

Foreplay matters

For many men, once the train has left the station, it’s hard to switch tracks. The best discussions about sexual desires and suggestions need to happen somewhere outside the bedroom.

So next time the opportunity arises to discuss the importance of foreplay, it might be helpful to use word pictures. Word pictures are a great way to communication with men. Choosing the time to have a conversation and figuring out what language partners with your husband’s interests is also helpful.

Let me show you what I mean: I live in a cold climate… a very cold climate. When the thermometer is hovering near the mark of zero degrees, I know that in order for my car to function properly I need to warm it up. The oil has to warm up, move from being heavy to thin in order to move freely and efficiently through the engine block. Sure, I can jump in and take off right away, but I also run the risk of damaging the engine.

What does foreplay have to teach us about one another?

It requires taking time, noticing each other, slowing down this very quick act of grasping pleasure, and extending an invitation for pleasure to teach us about the other.

Women on average need 20 minutes for the blood flow to reach their genitals fully, not to mention the time it takes to silence the many pathways the brain is running. The secrets of the female orgasm are vast and mysterious. Women take longer to orgasm, but wise is the one who learns that the process of foreplay is not a loss of time, but rather an addition to the gift of oneness that sex is meant to create.