Saturday, December 30, 2006

Book Review – The Primal Teen

Got a chance to finish this book on vacation and I must say I enjoyed it. If you would like to see where you can get a copy just click on the books picture.
Two key thoughts that I pulled from this book are: youth brains are still developing during their whole adolescent years and that the knowledge of this should encourage all of us who have youth in our lives to maximize the relationships we have with them.
The youth’s brain is still developing during their whole adolescent years wasn’t an unknown concept to me but one that I thought was common knowledge. I found from reading that most people have thought that the youth brain has completed its development. This book argues that this isn’t true. “Giedd (a key resources for this book) has now detected continued growth in a number of key areas of a teenager’s cerebral cortex, including the parietal lobes, which are associated with logic and spatial reasoning, and the temporal areas, which are linked to language. And perhaps most important, he discovered complex, ongoing growth in the frontal lobes, the area right behind our foreheads, the brain’s so-called policeman or chief executive, that helps us plan ahead, resist impulses, in essence be grown-up. (pg. 16)” If this is true no wonder our youth act the way that they do. The book goes on later to say: “The teenage brain may, in fact, be briefly insane. But, scientists say, it is crazy by design. The teenage brain is in flux, maddening, and muddled. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. (pg. 8)” I like this idea but I believe that the teenage brain was “designed” by God to be the way that it is.
This then leads me to my other key thought – that with the knowledge that the teen mind is still growing we who work and live with teenagers should be encouraged and be there for the teens. The information in this book talks about some key people in teens lives that can and are impacting them as their brains change. “teenagers’ success, isn’t based on immutable attributes such as wealth and race, but on more mundane things like having at least one adult who cares about them and being connected to their school. (pg. 85).” This is really encouraging to me as I often think that what I do with middle school students means little sometimes. “A survey found that 75 percent of teenagers were religious and considered their parents heroes. HEROES! (pg. 86).” Now that is an awesome thing to think about especially since this book comes from a very evolutionary point of view and yet it says that parents are heroes to kids. The book encourages us adults “to function like a surrogate set of frontal lobes, an “auxiliary problem solver. (pg 35)” This idea is the biggest take away I got from this book. To be there for the teen as they change and move from adolescents to adulthood. “Adolescence as one of the most necessary and crucial steps in human development – one that should not be just endured, but indulged, even celebrated. (pg 218)”
I do caution anyone who wants to read this book to understand that Barbara Strauch is a medical science and health editor of the New York Times. A number of things said in this book I completely disagree with. It talks a lot of our “evolutionary” process throughout the book which is based on the theory of evaluation which is unfortunate but not unexpected.

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