Category Archives: Youth

Wonder of Girls

WonderOfGirlsWell, I just finished reading a most wonderful book:

The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters, by Michael Gurian

This book really gets into what makes teenage girls tick.  Two main themes stick in my mind:

  1. There are solid scientific reasons why girls act the way they do, based on hormones and other things that affect the way they think, feel, and do what they do.
  2. Society has let feminism go a little too far in some ways, telling girls that they should not only be as good as boys, but be like boys, damaging girls’ nature of who they truly are.

Many elements covered in this book help me better understand my daughter and other youth women. I highly recommend it!

Get Out of My Life…

GetOutOfMyLifeI just finished reading my latest youth development book, called “Get Out of My Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?”  It’s subtitled “A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager” and is written by a psychologist that’s worked with adolescents for over 30 years.

First, I have to say that the book is very frank.  The author goes through several interesting points, each with facts, figures and evidence of experience to back it up.  He covers many key points, including independence, communication, control, and conflict.

With that said, I struggle to say that I like the book.  My summary would be something like, “Most teenagers are miserable monsters, and there is nothing you can do about it, so here are some coping strategies to get you though it.”  I’ve met some parents that pretty much feel that way, and they should relate quite well to this book.  I suppose I just have a better experience with most teenagers, so that seems a bit harsh to me.

In any case, whether you are a parent or other adult that works with youth, I think you’ll find this book a valuable read.
Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, Revised and Updated

What Youth Want

T8HeartMy eldest son is months away from being an adult.  I recently logged my 9,400th hour volunteering with youth through Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and our church youth groups.  So, one might think I have some idea what youth want these days.  However, the last few weeks have proved that wrong, as some youth, including my own children, surprised me a little.  Here is what they reminded me:

Youth want a deep experience.  You might think they come to church just to hang out with their friends.  Or, you might think they want to read the Bible quickly to check it off and move on.  I asked my children what they would like to see in our youth group and Bible studies at home.  They said they would like to us to go deeper!  They’ve read and heard the same stories over and over.  They want to know more, learn something different.  Our church is already working on things in this area.  Now, as the spiritual leader of our family, I need to figure out how to do this at home.

Youth want to be productive.  Our Boy Scout troop developed a pattern for meetings.  We spend the first and third week working on advancement.  We spend the second week practicing basic Scout skills.  We spend the fourth week having pure fun, playing games.  The boy leaders in the troop just held their annual planning meeting to decide what to do different next year.  Top on the list was to replace the pure fun meeting with something more productive!  They still want to have fun, but they want it to have a purpose.  So, our fourth week will now be competitions to reinforce what they practiced in the second week.

Youth want to serve their community.  Our family waited too long to sign up for Metropolitan Ministries this year.  So, the only opportunity left was to hang out for an hour, just kind of guiding people around.  All three of my children were bummed, asking, “Why can’t we go for half the day and really do something, like we did last year?”  I didn’t realize they were so dedicated to serving.  We’ll have to remember to sign up earlier next year.

Youth want to help other youth.  Our Girl Scout troop had to pick a service project for their Journey program.  They could have picked anything.  They could have made it easy.  However, they chose to put something together to really make a difference and help other youth transition into middle school!  They originally challenged themselves to develop an elaborate program in our public schools.  We had to scale that down a bit and change to more of a seminar setting.  Nonetheless, they’re really onto something, as the girls they spoke to said it was quite helpful.

Youth want to be sincere and reverent.  For Christmas, our family had to choose between a high-energy, contemporary worship service and a calmer, more traditional communion service.  We chose the first, thinking our children would enjoy it more.  The service opened with music that felt like our own Tran-Siberian Orchestra and just got better from there.  My eldest and I thought it might be the best service we have ever seen.  My two middle schoolers agreed that they “liked” it, but they quickly followed up by saying it didn’t feel right.  They thought it would be more appropriate to celebrate the birth of our Savior with more sincerity and reverence.  So, it sounds like we’ll be attending the traditional communion service next year.

Youth want to give.  Early in the shopping season, my wife and I pondered giving each of our children a donation to a global charity.  However, funds were tight this year, and we decided to move forward with the usual gifts.  On Christmas day, long after the presents were open, I half-joked with them, “Yeah, we almost got you each a donation to a global charity instead of one of your regular gifts.  What would you have thought of that?”  I expected them to half-heartedly say that could be nice.  But, all three of them, in unison, said, “Now, that would have been awesome!”  Rest assured we noted that for next year.

Of course, I actually knew some of these things to some degree, just not to the extent that I have seen over the last few weeks.  Even then, if I looked beyond my children and scout troops, maybe I could have seen these points.  Many youth at our church sign up for service retreats, probably for these same reasons.  So, I suppose these are just a few more examples that help me, and maybe a few others, keep in mind what youth want.

 

An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars

McKennaShootsfortheStarsLooking for a good movie on how to handle friendships, embarrassment, and general challenges in life?  We watched “An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars” together as a family and really enjoyed it.  Like most American Girl movies, it’s just as good for boys as for girls.  Also, as usual, the main characters are in elementary school, but they still struggle with the same basic challenges that we all do.

McKenna: Shoots For The Stars [Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy] American Girl
McKenna: Shoots For The Stars [DVD] American Girl

An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong

ChrissaStandsStrongParents and youth – are you looking for a good movie about how to handle bullying?  We watched “An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong” together as a family and really enjoyed it.  Even though it’s An American Girl, the movie is good for boys, too.  The only thing to consider is that the main characters are fourth graders.  So, middle school youth might struggle with relating to the characters and particular situations.  However, the basic challenges of bullying are still there and make it worth watching.

An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong

Random Road Trip

RoadTripOur family had fun tonight going on a “Random Road Trip”.

 

We got the basic idea from a magazine, and then we added our own flair to it:

 

 

  1. Gather the family in your vehicle.
  2. Agree on how much time to spend driving.
  3. Start driving.  Yep, just start driving!
  4. Have everyone take turns deciding which way to go.
  5. Keep going until you have driven the agreed amount of time.  Then, continue toward the next major intersection.
  6. Visit a place nearby that you have never been to before.  It could be a restaurant, store, park, or whatever.
  7. Find your way back home, and enjoy the memory.

For our first trip, we agreed to spend 30 minutes driving to our random destination.  That went by quickly, but it was good for a first trip.

For deciding which way to go, the first person decides which way to turn out of the neighborhood.  The next person decides whether to go straight, turn left, or turn right at the next major intersection, as indicated by a traffic light or stop sign.  Skip any intersections that just have entrances to subdivisions  or shopping centers.

For a place to visit, try a local place (like “Gigi’s Pizza”) rather than a chain (like “Pizza Hut”) to keep things interesting.  While there, do something different.  Share a special meal or snack, get a little memento, or take a picture to remember your trip.

For more fun, perhaps bring some friends along.

For a bonus, take the opportunity to conduct a random act of kindness.  For our first trip, our waitress seemed new and stressed, so we tipped her an extra few dollars.

Consider using Foursquare or another GPS-based service to find a place near your random destination.  Or, maybe find a geocache in the area.  There is plenty of room for variations, depending on what your family enjoys.  Have fun!

Fun with Duct Tape

ductroseEveryone likes duct tape, especially to use for just about anything except its original purpose.  Students, in particular, like to make things out of duct tape.  You might surpised by just how many things you can make out of duct tape and a few other supplies.

 

 

Some of the smaller, simpler things I found are:

  • Book cover (just need a book to cover)
  • Bookmark
  • Bracelet – regular, braid or chain
  • Drink koozie (see instructions, need a drink can)
  • Flower (see instructions, good to have a pencil or pen as a base)
  • Hair bow (see instructions, need a hair band or clip)
  • Lanyard
  • Megaphone
  • Necktie
  • Picture frame
  • Placemat
  • Sandals or Slippers (need cardboard)
  • Wallet (see instructions)

You can find instructions for these and many more things at Duck Tape Club Ducktivities (Duck Tape is a brand of duct tape).

Be sure to get your duct tape in a few different bright colors to make things more fun and interesting!

 

Fun with Magnets

magnetMy youth group students said they wanted to experiment with magnets, so I wondered what to do and came up with this plan:

 

 

 

 

Materials

  • Magnets (1-2 per student)
  • Paper mazes (1 per student)
  • Paper clips (3 per student)
  • Miscellaneous coins
  • Cereal high in iron
  • Needles (1 per student)
  • Corks or fishing bobbers (1 per student)
  • Plastic cups (1 per student)

Steps – have each student:

  • Navigate the maze with a paperclip using a magnet on the other side of the paper
  • Use the magnet to pick up a paperclip, and have that paperclip pick up another, and so on, to make a chain of paperclips
  • Try to use the magnet to pick up the coins – this should not work
    • This may surprise them, as most people think all magnets pick up all metal objects
  • Try to use the magnet to pick up crushed piles of the cereal high in iron – this should work
    • This may surprise them, as most people don’t think a magnet would pick up cereal
  • Make a compass
    • Stroke a needle with a magnet about 100 times
    • Stick the needle in the cork or fishing bobber
    • You may need to stick a paperclip into the bottom of the cork or fishing bobber to weight it down
    • Put the needle contraption into a cup of water and watch it point north!

 

Choices for Dinner

tacosWell, it’s Tuesday, so we experienced Taco Tuesday for dinner this evening.  We do something a little different, in that we offer choices for dinner.  For example, for Taco Tuesday, we have BOTH hard taco shells AND soft tortillas, and we have BOTH ground beef AND chicken strips.  And, then we have all of the fixins laid out, including lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream and taco sauce.  It’s basically a self-serve taco bar.  Some family members only like certain things, and others have a couple different things because they like variety.

We do something similar when we have pasta for dinner.  We only have one type of pasta.  However, we have BOTH marinara AND Alfredo sauces, and we have BOTH powdered Parmesan AND shredded cheddar cheeses.  Sometimes we have meatballs, onions, or mushrooms on the side for anyone that wants them.  So, it’s like a self-serve pasta bar.  Again, some family members pick very specific things, and others have half a plate of one variation and half a plate of another.

I sometimes wonder, is this normal or unusual, good or bad?  It’s definitely good for getting the children to eat, as each one chooses what he or she wants.  But, is it bad to allow them to be picky by having choices for dinner?

 

Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest

PopsicleBridgeAre you looking for a fun, competitive activity for a youth group or Scout meeting?  At today’s middle school youth group, we had a popsicle stick bridge building contest!  Students paired up and received popsicle sticks, clay, clothespins, and rubber bands.  They had about 15 minutes to build their bridges.  When done, the students had to be able to put at least one book underneath each of their bridges.  Then, we tested each bridge to see which could hold the most books on top.  Of course, you could change many aspects of this activity, like the size of the groups, materials used, time allowed, and so on.  The students that built the strongest bridge won a prize, but they all had a good time!