In Part 1 of 3 episodes on The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, Billy and Brian discuss why Brian's three little boys tear his house apart, why Brian still loves them anyway, and why teenage boys act like such savages (good luck with that, Brian!).
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Billy: How much drywall have you replaced in your home?
Brian: Well, my middle kid put his head through the drywall one time.
Billy: That's the story I was thinking about.
Brian: Yeah, I was walking through the hallway, and I see a softball-sized divot. I'm like, "What the hell?" I'm like, "Charlie, come here." Sure enough, I put him right next to the divot, and it's right where his head hit the wall.
Billy: So, what did he do?
Brian: He just smashed his head into the wall to make a hole. I don't know, man.
Billy: Oh my god. That's so amazing.
Brian: That's what the little kids do. He's just bunked. Alright, how hard can I do this? What's going to break, my head or the wall? It cracked. Then the wall breaks.
Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches, as we share our life experiences — both the good and the bad — in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy. And as always, I'm joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how are you doing today?
Brian: I'm exceptional. Thank you.
Billy: Fantastic. Brian, we don't have a lot of time for idle chitchat today.
Brian: We got to get down to business.
Billy: We do go to get down to business. Because it sounds like one of your kids took the power strip for your computer.
Brian: Two nights ago, after we — of course, in preparation for our normal Friday get together, I like to gather all my stuff up. We have various pieces of equipment — microphones and the audio interface and the computer. You got to get all this stuff together. I put it in a pile. I put it in bags and strapped it all together. Then I set it in a group.
Well, I didn't check it before I left the house. Because when I wake up in the morning, I like to just take my shower, I put my clothes on, I grab my stuff, and I go. I don't like to have to do a lot of things in the morning. You know what I mean? Like, look around for stuff. I failed the check the pile. Someone — from the time I'd packed it up until the time I took it — had decided to remove my power supply from my bag. I know just the one who did it.
Billy: Well, I think that's a perfect intro to today's episode, because we're doing a three-part series on the book, The Male Brain, by Louann Brizendine. Today is part one of all that. We're going to talk about the little boy brain, the teenage boy brain, and the daddy brain.
Brian, you are our resident, little boy brain expert because you have not one, not two, but three little boys.
Brian: That's correct.
Billy: Which would then, of course, make you a dad. So, let's start off by asking you, how old were you when you first became a father?
Brian: It was 11 years ago, so I was 36.
Billy: 36. So, the first thing that that they talked about in this book when you first become a father, you find out that you're going to be a father, is that there is a feeling of distress about becoming a father that appears within the first four to six weeks. So, I'm wondering, do you remember feeling any sense of distress when you realized, holy shit, I just created a human being?
Brian: I wouldn't say it was distress. It was more you were you. You look at the state of the world and you're like, "Oh my gosh. How am I going to raise a child in all of this?" But yeah, there are those feelings that come and go, I would say. I don't know. Would you consider that distress, I guess?
Billy: Yeah, just maybe emotional. Just things are dysregulated, I guess, in some way.
Brian: Oh, yeah, there's a depth of emotion you feel after you find that out, that I personally had never felt previous.
Billy: So, it's interesting that you bring that up. Because in this book, The Male Brain, they talk about that men have physical, mental, and hormonal shifts once they find out that they're going to be a father. So, your testosterone — which is just flooded when you're going through puberty — that actually goes down the prolactin. There's going to be a lot of technical, medical terms that are going to be used here. I'm going to mess them all up. And so, I apologize in advance to those of you who are way smarter than I am.
Prolactin is what activates maternal brain circuits. So, those go up when you find out that you're going to be a father. You may actually be responding to the pheromones that your partner is giving off during that time. Now, don't worry, that doesn't mean that you're becoming emasculated by it. It just means that your levels will eventually return to normal around six weeks.
Brian: So, that goes right along with what I felt, actually, at the time. Because it was, like I said, it wasn't distressed, but it was a very emotional thing. You feel more deeply than personally in a way that I've ever felt before. Yes, I'm going to create another life and have to nurture this child. Wow. It's overwhelming. It really is.
Billy: So, when your first son was born, it says here that a baby's face activates the parental instinct area of the brain. Do you remember what you were thinking, or what were your emotions were the first time you saw your firstborn son?
Brian: Oh, yeah, I remember that distinctly like it was yesterday. Absolutely. I was in the room for the birth. So, I played catch there. I cut the cord. I was right there. So, I saw him being born. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life.
Billy: Is it all that blood and mucus?
Brian: It is, man. It is. But that stuff doesn't bother me. You know what I mean? I don't get grossed out by all that. So, it really was amazing, just the whole process. I have a new level of respect for my wife after that, and what she went through to create this human life. Not only did she live with this thing inside of her for nine months, but just going through the birth process, holy cow.
As somebody who had never experienced — well, I had grown up on a farm. So, I'd seen births plenty of times, which, again, why probably it didn't bother me as much. Because I've seen cows and sheep and horses and every living thing get born. But when it's a human baby, it's a lot different, man. It's crazy.
Billy: I grew up on a farm, as well. But I was busy playing sports and I paid no attention to what the animals were doing. My sisters will verify that story, and they still actually hold grudges against me because I did absolutely nothing in the farm.
Brian: So, you never had to stick your whole hand in a cow's behind?
Billy: No, not until I was at a bar in Mexico.
Billy: Yeah, but that's a different story to tell. Whenever people say no — keep in mind I'm the resident non-dad here. So, whenever I think of someone giving birth to a child, I just envision Freddy Krueger coming out of a woman's vagina. I'm like, that doesn't sound beautiful to me. But everyone says that, oh, it's so magical. You're right. Whatever, dude.
Brian: It really is, man. You get beyond that pretty quick when you realize the gravity of what you're involved in.
Billy: I can imagine because I had a dog. I loved that dog. Dogs and children are the same.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Billy: So, I always love throwing that in there, like, "No, I understand I have a dog." I like throwing that in there to my parent friends. They're like, no. So, I was like, I know. I know it's not, but you're taking yourself very seriously as a parent. I understand. You have to because you're raising a little human. You're raising a little human, and you want them to be a productive member of society. You just want them to be a nice person. So, are you a hands-on dad? Would you describe yourself as a hands-on dad?
Brian: Absolutely, I am.
Billy: So, it says here that dads who spend more time holding their children activate their prefrontal cortex for paternal behavior. So, I'm guessing that it activates the dad's prefrontal cortex. If you remember, when we talked to Sarah Rudell Beach, the prefrontal cortex usually is what regulates our emotion. We're going to talk a lot about the prefrontal cortex, but we're going to talk a lot about the amygdala, which activates your fight, flight and fright response.
Holding your child actually makes you a little bit more mellow. It makes you a bit more emotionally aware. It says here, the more a man holds and cares for his child, the more he develops his paternal behavior. And so, daddy play is more physical and boisterous, and therefore, more stimulating. So, I'm curious. Do you roughhouse with the boys?
Brian: Most definitely. But they grow out of it pretty quick. You know what I mean? It's around age five or six, that behavior starts to taper off like my eleven-year-old and my nine-year-old. Especially my 11-year-old, it's definitely more mental stimulation now. He wants to know how things work. What do you know about this computer? What do you know about how this car works? That sort of stuff. My nine-year-old is strictly, "I want video games." Then my four-year-old is the one who will, as soon as I get home, "Dad, do you want to play." That means tickle me.
Billy: Okay, interesting. Do you get a lot of the why questions from the eleven- and nine-year-old?
Brian: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Billy: Do you tell them shut up and eat your fries?
Brian: No, I tried to give them as much as I know. But I always qualify. Those people know more about this than me. But here you go, here's what I know about it.
Billy: Do your own research.
Brian: Yeah, exactly. Helping children find out or figure out how to find answers is another important thing, I believe.
Billy: I would agree. As an educator, I would agree that we need to be able to teach our children how to seek out answers, rather than just downloading whatever we know. Because in the day and age of social media, what we “know" is often distorted.
Brian: Most of the time.
Billy: Yeah, it's not fact-checked. We'll put it that way. People are getting their news from memes, and they shouldn't be.
Billy: Are you someone who likes to change the lyrics to songs?
Brian: Oh, yeah, for sure.
Billy: Yeah, it says here that dads will do that, too. That's just part of their play when they're engaged with their sons. It says here that boys love teasing games and will go to the father with playful insults. Do you guys have that going on in the house?
Brian: 100%. Of course, I came up with a little game for the boys. I say, whatever you do, just don't nanny nanny boo boo at me. Don't be like nanny nanny boo boo. Because I knew this. So, they know now. They'll tease a little bit. But when the nanny nanny boo boo comes out, then you know it's on. Then I'll go after him. You know what I mean? That's their trigger word to get tickled essentially, the little ones.
Billy: Oh, that's funny. That's funny. Among your dad friends, is Na Na Na Boo Boo, is that still—
Brian: No, it's just something. I was like, give me the simplest, stupidest thing that's not F you.
Billy: Because I remember that. I mean, that’s also growing up right there. You said nana nana boo boo. You smell like doo doo. It's something like that.
Brian: Of course, I do it in a stern but playful way. I'll be like, "Don't nana boo boo with me now. Just don't do it." Then, of course, that goads them into doing it even more. Then I just take them apart.
Billy: Yeah. Give an inch, take a mile.
Brian: Right. Fantastic. Because every second, these kids are testing.
Billy: Absolutely. It's interesting how they're going to talk about the teen brain, how it's almost programmed to do that.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Billy: I'm in the middle of the book, The Female Brain. I'm just kidding. I'm not in the middle. I'm in the first chapter. Here's a funny story. This is no lie. If you take a look at The Female Brain book and The Male Brain book, they're both around 250 pages.
Brian: That surprises me.
Billy: Oh, just wait. The Male Brain text is like 75 font. The Female Brain font is 3. So, I'm having a hard time laboring through The Female Brain book because I'm an incredibly slow reader for an English teacher. I'm an incredibly slow reader because I like to read each and every single word and theatrically perform it in my head.
Brian: Understand it, yeah. Because you're a visual learner.
Billy: Yes, exactly. So, I'm just struggling to get through it. It's not because it's not interesting. It is. It's very interesting. It's just a little bit hard to read for a guy who — there are so many words on the page, and it distracts me.
Brian: Billy, I'm just going to get this out there right now. This is where I stand on the whole men versus women thing. Guys, suck it up. Women are smarter than us. I'm just going to get it out there. Know what you're getting into. If you think you're smarter than women, you are not. So, I'm just getting that out there. Women are much smarter and much more complex than men are.
Billy: It says here that mothers are emotionally intuitive. To your point, this is not us kissing any woman's ass. Maybe me, because I'm not married, or I'm single, that kind of thing. But Brian doesn't have to schmooze anybody. He's got a lovely wife. They love each other very much.
So, it says here that mothers are emotionally intuitive. In my opinion, when people who are emotionally intuitive — that's the reason why we have this show. It's because we're trying to help particularly dudes our age become more emotionally aware, become more emotionally intuitive.
It says here that, on the contrary, dads are more direct, which connects to real-world conversation. It sounds like when you have those why conversations with your boys, that's what you're doing. You're making those connections to the real world.
Brian: Most definitely, yeah.
Billy: So, I'm curious about your parenting styles. You can compare and contrast yours and Leanne's when it comes to discipline and consequences.
Brian: Oh, yeah. We're pretty much on the same page with that. We both realize there's a need to discipline, and you have to stick to any discipline you do, that sort of stuff. You have to follow through with it. You have to follow up. Talk to them about it and help them understand it. We're both very similar.
Billy: Do they do the old, "Mom said no. So, I'll ask dad," or, "Dad said no, and I'll ask mom?"
Brian: I think that's universal, of course. Of course, they'll go to the person that they think they have the best chance of success.
Billy: Has there ever been a situation where mom shut him down, but dad gave the okay or vice versa?
Brian: Oh, yeah. But ultimately, what mom says goes. I'm just going to tell you that right now. The ‘but’ stops at that. That's fine with me, because she has skills that I don't have when it comes to parenting. Really, I appreciate her so very much because she knows so much more about this than I do.
Billy: She spends more time with them because she's at home with them. Correct?
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Billy: So, I imagine she knows when they are either (a) trying to be manipulative and ask you or (b) she knows when it's like, "No, you've had enough of that," or "No, you haven't earned that." You get it's a no, for sure.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely.
Billy: It says here active disciplinarians have students who have a better grades and fewer behavioral problems, and daughters who have fewer emotional problems. Now, I'm not exactly sure what that term active disciplinarian means.
Brian: I was just going to say I think that may mean more. Being a disciplinarian can cross over into the same as having a structure for the children.
Billy: Got it.
Brian: You know what I mean? Especially school activities, all that sort of stuff, she is very regimented about it. You start here. You're preparing for school. You get your stuff together. You do this. She's got a schedule for them, especially during this distance learning portion. She had a very rigid schedule that they stick to. So, not necessarily discipline, but it is if you're using discipline in the traditional sense, that you're sticking to a plan.
Billy: I like that. I like that clarification. I have mentioned I work as a dean, so I have a hard time saying that we're disciplining students. I use the word consequences because you can choose your behaviors, and you can't choose your consequences. I just tell them, "Listen, you behaved in this way. So, this is the consequence that goes along with it." I don't know. Maybe that's me flowering up that language. But, to me, I think that's a way that we need to see the consequences of our actions, that sort of thing.
Brian: In relating the two, I believe that discipline structure leads to better behavior regularly rather than active disciplinarians implies consequence. As you were saying, I think discipline can also be structure and sticking to a schedule or a structure, which really helps kids. That's one thing I've learned from my wife. You get less behavioral problems if there's a more rigid structure you adhere to.
Billy: Were your parents disciplinarians? Did you get the spanking and that sort of thing?
Brian: Yeah, but it only had to happen once. Then I was like, I don't want that again.
Billy: I don't remember getting a lot of spankings. When I was a kid, I remember I got them. I definitely got them. But I usually got them from my mom. They usually came from my mom, I think, anyway. I don't remember. I know I got spanking from my dad.
Here's a story from my dad. This is one of my dad's favorite stories to tell. I guess I was being unruly in church one time. I guess I was five or something like that. Because I don't remember this at all, but my dad loves to tell the story. Apparently, I was being unruly in church. So, my dad took me out to the car. It must have been like a 90-degree day or something like that. He rolled the windows up, and would not let me roll the windows down. We just sat in that sweltering car while church continued on. We waited for my mom and my sisters to come out.
One of the nuns — I went to a K-6 Catholic school. Like I said, my dad is Rodney Dangerfield. He knows everybody in town. One of the nuns, sister Suzanne, comes up to my dad and says, "Oh, what do you guys doing in here?" She appears and she sees me. I'm just drenched in sweat. She goes, "Uh-oh, was someone naughty?" Apparently, I just started bawling my eyes out because someone found out that I had been a bad child. I don't remember, I know I got spanked, but I didn't get a lot of them. So, I'm just curious how that works out in the way that you parent your children.
So, it says here, crying babies hit parents in the same part of the brain. It just hits them much faster in women. And so, it hits their amygdala and the NCC. That's what lights up in both parents. But women respond to it faster. I remember you were talking, in one of the first episodes, you had mentioned that if the kids are crying or something like that, you don't immediately rush to it. So, I'm curious. When you hear it, do you tune it out a little bit? Or is it, like, here we go. Is that something serious? Does Leanne, when she hears that she's like, huh, or are you both trained now?
Brian: Now, yes, we're both about the same. Just because we know our children, we're in tune with what's normal and what's not. But I would say at first, yeah, as far as the baby crying goes. Yeah, when they're newborns, that's another thing that just amazed me. It's how intensely they must be cared for that first couple of months. They're getting fed every three hours, dude. So, she's up. If that baby's crying, she's there finding out what it needs. I don't think I have the facilities to be able to do what she did with all three of our children. I mean, it's just amazing to me.
Billy: That's why when I got a dog — I got a five-and-a-half-year-old dog instead of a puppy. Because, again, babies and puppies are the same. The care of them is all the same. I actually hope we get hate mail. Bring it on. I hope we get hate mail because of that.
Okay. It says here within weeks, babies know which parent is the mom and which is the dad. That's really interesting to me. Within weeks, they already know who mom is and who dad is. It says that the biological bond between baby and mom is stronger due to breastfeeding. So, maybe Freud is right after all?
Billy: Maybe there is an oedipal complex that goes along with it. So, with that in mind, how do you think you'd parent differently if you had three daughters?
Brian: Well, I get my hair and nails done more often, I think.
Billy: Not more tea parties?
Brian: In all seriousness, though, of course, it would be different. Because boys are different than girls. I've heard boys are really tough when they're young, which is true. Because my boys are destroying the domiciles we live in. It's crazy. It's insane. Little girls don't behave that way. They're more in tune with feelings and people, I think, than little boys are.
Billy: Do you remember that Louis CK bit about the difference between boys and girls? Because Louis CK has girls. So, he talks about boys fuck things up, and girls are fucked up. Because a boy will shatter your entire house and will rip your arm out of the socket.
Brian: Yeah, they do all that stuff.
Billy: But they will leave the rest of you intact. Girls will just shit down your soul. He uses the example of how the younger daughter — no, the oldest daughter. Her toy broke or something like that. So, she made her dad break the younger daughter's toy, and he did. That's his joke, is that he did. He just talks about the emotional psychology in the difference amongst it. Boys break shit, but girls will just manipulate and ruin your lives. I thought that was really, really funny. Now we're coming off. Not only have I said that puppies and babies are the same, but now I sound like a raging misogynist.
Brian: It's alright. That hate mail is on the way now.
Billy: Exactly. Absolutely.
Brian: Okay. So, whether they be boys or girls though, I really think this really sums up how strong the bond between parents and children are. I want you to picture this. Anybody else, besides a child that you're raising, comes into your house, eats all your food, shits on your floor. You kill that motherfu**er. You know what I mean? But you don't with children. It's like, "Oh, they pooped on the floor. That's so ha, ha, ha. Let's take a picture."
Billy: And post it on social media and blackmail them forever.
Brian: Right. So, that right there tells you how strong the bond between a parent and a child is. Because they just get away with stuff, and nobody else could.
Billy: That's beautiful. It says here that fathers feel closer to daughters when they feel they can do something for them. I imagine, fathers feel closer to their sons when they can do something with them. It says and goes along with this. Dads feel compelled to show their sons what it means to be men. So, I guess, what are you teaching your boys about what it means to be a man? Is that even a conversation that pops up in your house?
Brian: It's a little early. I guess, the tradition — I don't like the traditional here's a manly man stuff either. I'm more take their lead. What they show interest in, I try to nurture. If they have questions, I explain to them what I think. I don't necessarily say, "Okay. Kids, we're going to go kill something today because that's what men do. Let's go get the food." That sort of stuff. I'm more follow their lead as to what they're interested in, and try to nurture their interests. Explain in any way any questions they have.
Billy: I love that. You get to know your kids and let them carve their own path, rather than you shaping it for them.
Brian: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that would be overbearing. There's a lot of people I see that live through their children. You see all these, especially on social media. When I say this, everybody who's listening is going to go, "Oh, yeah."
You see those parents that are into something. Say, beauty contests or whatever. All of a sudden, their daughter has got to be in the beauty contest. She's got to be the biggest beauty queen in the world. There's a lot of projection that happens. I don't want to do that, man. Even football sport is another thing. I see that happen all the time. People were involved in sports, and they didn't accomplish what they wanted to in their life. They think, "Okay. I'm going to do it now but with my kid."
Billy: I've got a great story for that. My dad wrestled in high school. When I was in first grade, I wrestled. I was pretty good for a first grader, so I ended up going to state. I was sick. In hindsight, I think. Maybe it was just nerves. I didn't want to go and I didn't like wrestling. I guess, I didn't like it. But I was good at it.
As my dad wrestled and he was coaching, it was important to him that I do it. Whenever he tells the story, he can never get through it without crying. My dad is a manly man, but he's a very sensitive guy. Anytime that you do something nice on TV or anything like that, my dad will tear up. So, he's not afraid to show his emotions. When he tells a story, he talks about how I said to him, "Dad, do I have to wrestle just because you wrestled?" He said, "From that point, I never made you wrestle again."
Brian: See, that was good. He realized that that projection was going on, right? I think a lot of people do that. I'm very conscious of that, so I don't imprint my personality onto my offspring. I let them take the lead, and then I nurture their interests.
Billy: I think that's an amazing parenting approach. So, let's take a little break. When we come back, we're going to talk more about the male brain. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. So, we're going to talk a little bit more about how the male brain develops, especially at the younger age. At eight weeks old — actually, in eight weeks in pregnancy, the testes are already producing testosterone. The male brain produces testosterone, vasopressin, and something called the Mullerian-inhibiting substance. If you are a brain expert, and you want to come on and talk about the Mullerian-inhibiting substance, please do. If you're Louann Brizendine, come on and talk about the Mullerian-inhibiting substance.
Brian: That sounds like something that come out of Star Trek.
Billy: Yeah, or actually kind of sounds like a sweet band name.
Brian: The Mullerian-inhibiting substance.
Billy: I'd maybe listen to that.
Brian: Yeah, it would be like techno but like a dark techno.
Billy: Yeah, I like that. That sounds like a project. That sounds like our next project.
Brian: All right.
Billy: Essentially, the boy brain is programmed to move, make things move, and watch things move. Brian, you're shaking your head vigorously. It says here, this force is more compelling than the warnings of danger from parents.
Brian: Oh, yes. I mean, that's always. It's do, do, do. I'm moving this here. I'm taking this. I'm holding this. Boys, I totally see that.
Billy: In the book, they talk about how the compulsion to make something move is so much more powerful. They tune out their parents. Because that warning or the threat of you're going to get in trouble is nothing compared to the joy and stimulation that they get from making something move or watching something move. Because the boys like to push their physical limits. Boys express themselves much more physically, it says here, up to six times more than girls.
What's interesting is that boys solve conceptual math problems faster through their compulsion for movement. So, they actually use a movement to solve math problems, whereas girls are more inclined to use their words to explain how they solve the math problems. Boys will use movements and gestures. So, how did you solve for X, little boy? They will explain it through movements and gestures. Girls will use words. Do you have a lot of farting and belching in your house?
Brian: Haha, we've cornered the market. At any given time, Billy, you can just sit stationary for a few moments in here farting and belching. Okay, I'm going to sit for a minute.
Billy: How many sharts have there been because they like to push their limit?
Brian: Oh, yeah. Of course, it happens.
Billy: It says here that the excitement is worth the risk. So, if you're going to lean over, press one out or push one out, and a little doo doo comes out, it's totally worth the risk.
It says here that the fight, flight, and freight instinct is what leads boys to turn everything into a weapon during playtime. Even if the boy is stereotypically for girls. That's why if you are in a house and whether it's a boy and a girl, that's maybe why if the girl has — I'm thinking when I was younger, we will play with Barbie’s. But you would use Barbies as a weapon of some sort. You turn Barbie into a weapon. Do you have a lot of weapons in your house?
Brian: Oh, yeah, Nerf guns, swords out of cardboard, anything that can be a weapon. Yes, they love it.
Billy: How much drywall have you replaced in your home?
Brian: Well, my middle kid put his head through the drywall one time.
Billy: That's the story I was thinking about.
Brian: Yeah, I was walking through the hallway, and I see a softball-sized divot. I'm like, "What the hell?" I'm like, "Charlie, come here." Sure enough, I put him right next to the divot, and it's right where his head hit the wall.
Billy: So, what did he do?
Brian: He just smashed his head in the wall to make a hole. I don't know, man.
Billy: Oh my god. That's so amazing.
Brian: That's what the little kids do. He's just bunked. Alright, how hard can I do this? What's going to break, my head or the wall? It cracked. Then the wall breaks. He's like, "Whoops."
Billy: Oh, man. That's amazing. You are living Lord of the Flies.
Brian: Yeah, pretty much. Fortunately, I hold the conch most of the time.
Billy: It talks about how boys are far more primitive. You're just living it. We actually used to do a writing assignment, where change Lord of the Flies to if it was all girls. I actually think that would be a very interesting twist to that book.
Brian: I bet it'd be a lot more pleasant, to tell you the truth.
Billy: I'm curious. As I'm reading through The Female Brain book, it talks about how girls will use their words. Does that mean that they will use their words in a way to get their way, where boys will use force, and girls will use their words to get their way? So, is there a level of manipulation that girls master because they are more emotionally in tune, not only to themselves but to others, and they're able to use their words? That's what I'm picking up so far in that book as I'm reading through it.
So, it says here that turning things into a weapon is a simple pleasure. It's almost as compelling of a simple pleasure as touching their little penis. Do you see the boys rubbing up against stuff?
Brian: Oh my gosh. There are times where we're like, "Be careful. You're going to pull it off." I mean, they just go to town, man. Just relax with all that, especially when they're little, man. It happens all right.
Billy: Oh my god. This has been my favorite episode so far. This is so great.
Brian: Well, this book is very accurate. I'm telling you this right now. Because all of this stuff, I'm like, yep. Check, check, check.
Billy: Oh, man. It also says that boy brains are fuzzier and take longer to calm down than girl brains?
Brian: Most definitely.
Billy: I think it's part of that movement. It's that movement. So, they first have to settle down the movement. Then once they settled on the movement, then they have to settle down their brain.
Brian: We have to transition. We call it transitioning. There's physical play, and then there's play where you're a little more stationary. We have to do transitions between the two. Because you can't just be like, "Okay. Sit down and do nothing after you've been wrestling." It just doesn't work. You have to segue somehow and capture their attention with something else.
It happens every day, man. Before bed, especially. You're having fun. You're having physical play. You're wrestling, you're doing all that stuff. It's like, okay. Let's start calming down. But you still play a little bit more. Okay. Now we're going to calm down a little bit more. It's getting close to quiet time. So, you have to set those boundaries as you calm down. It's okay to play like that, but you can't play like that all the time. Let's transition now. We do that with the children. We tell them that.
Billy: I love that. Man, you're a good dad.
Brian: I try to be, man.
Billy: Leanne, you're a good mom.
Brian: Leanne? This is where I get it all from. I give all the credits to her, man. I don't know any of this stuff.
Billy: You guys are doing things. Well, I would be proud to have your boys in my classroom. As long as they're not putting anything through on any of the walls or head butting anybody in the classroom. I thought that would be mad.
It says here by age four, boys already reject girl toys and colors. So, they know what a girl toy is or what a girl color is. They actually feel the insult of being called a girl or to play with things that girls play with. So, I'm curious. Did you see this with your boys? Are you currently seeing this with your four-year-old?
Brian: Not really, no. They'll play with things. Well, of course, we don't have a lot of girl toys. I guess, maybe because their cousins are girls. So, when we go over there, they tend to stick to more blocks rather than princess castles. Yeah, there's a little truth to that.
Billy: Do they let the girl’s lead game time or play time?
Brian: Sure, yeah.
Billy: I'm just curious. Are their cousins older? About the same age?
Brian: About the same age.
Billy: Okay. Interesting. And they play well just fine when they're—
Brian: They do. Very well.
Billy: Do they play separately?
Billy: Okay, I'm just — again, all things that I don't know, as I learn more about how little kids develop and play. That sort of thing. I don't remember what it was like, really, to be a kid outside of just playing sports. I didn't play Legos, but there was a block set that I used to play with. But I just made the same house over and over and over again with that blocks that I never—
Brian: I guess, that's what everybody does.
Billy: Yeah, it never expanded beyond that. Alpha males — I'm going to tell you that I'm a beta male. We're going to talk about that at some time. Brian, I think of you as an alpha male. You're like a traditional male dude. Because you like to shoot guns. You're very handy, because you're working on the bus. I shot guns when I was younger, but I have no interest in them now. I can barely — when you open the hood of a car, I'm like, I just don't know what any of it does. I just know when it works. It gets me from point A to point B, much faster than if I was walking.
So, alpha males, they already begin to develop their traits at a very young age. Alpha males are not always the biggest boys in the group, but they're the ones who will not back down from conflict. And so, you already see that developing in kids when they're 6, 7, 8, 9 years old. So, you can tell who the alpha males are as they develop. It's because they have more testosterone. So, when they got hit with that or as they're aging, that testosterone is building up and building up.
By age 15, they are ranked high amongst the hierarchy of their peers, which I find very interesting because this is the age group with which I work. So, we're going to take another break. Then when we come back, we're going to talk about those teenage years. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you'd like to contact us, or if you have suggestions about what you'd like us to discuss, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Instagram @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show. Oh, and don't forget to show yourself some love every now and then, too. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We've been talking about the male brain. Now we're going to talk about the teenage male brain. What was puberty like for you, Brian?
Brian: Oh, let's see. It was — I don't really remember.
Billy: Puberty was not great for me because I had cystic acne. As gross as this sounds, I had scabs — a half inch thick — all over my chest and back. So, I have scars. I'm scarred all over my chest and back from it. It was gross. It used to ooze off of me. I actually had to sleep with a shirt on. Because if I didn't, then I would stick to the mattress.
Brian: Oh, man. That's terrible.
Billy: Yeah, it was terrible. It was just like a mix of ooze and blood. I would have to peel my shirt off, which means that would pull the scabs off. That's awful.
Brian: Dude, that's a bummer man.
Billy: That's what puberty was like for me. It was no fun. I was just a scrawny kid when I was maybe 120 pounds dripping wet. My senior year, my basketball playing weight was 128 pounds. My baseball playing weight, I bulked up to 132.
Brian: Big time.
Billy: Oh, yeah. So, I was a powerhouse. It says here that when we hit puberty, there is a testosterone tsunami, which clearly has not hit me. Your testosterone actually soars 20-fold. That's what masculinizes the teen brain and the teen body.
So, the amygdala develops first. Again, that's that fight, flight, or fright response. Your prefrontal cortex doesn't mature until the early 20s. So, think about it. Your amygdala is your animal brain. So, if you're wondering why our teenage boys such savages, blame it on biology. Their prefrontal cortex, their ability to regulate emotion, it's not going to develop until their mid-20s.
Brian: Yeah, if you're relating it to Freud, that's your super ego.
Billy: That's where your psychology background comes into play. Nice work. We have to put that in the—
Brian: It is the animal brain — the amygdala.
Billy: Oh, got it.
Brian: Ego and then superego.
Billy: Excellent. I'm glad that you threw that in there right there because I don't understand those three. I don't pay attention enough, long enough to care about it. So, thank you for explaining that.
Brian: It's all right. It's an outdated concept nowadays, anyway. But nonetheless, that's what they were teaching when I got the degree, which is like a million years ago.
Billy: Again, we'll take any psychologist on this program to set us straight. Because a lot of times, we will talk out of our ass. Teen boy, prefrontal cortex, it's no match for the amygdala. It's no match. Because the amount of testosterone and vasopressin that floods the brain, it's just no match word. When you add a cortisol — which is what we feel when we feel stressed — that fight, flight or fright response is enhanced. So, the teen boy brain, they have a desire to become more independent, which is actually a primal response. We see other animals actually behave in this way when they hit puberty as well. So, it's not just teen boy brains. It's actually other animal brains as well.
Fitting in is everything to a teen boy. Fitting in is everything. When testosterone and vasopressin are combined, it makes boys territorial. I see this quite a bit in school, where you want to fit in.
Here's an example. Two boys got into a slap box fight the other day, because they were arguing over who the better basketball player is. One of them plays basketball, one of them doesn't. So, when I was talking to the kid who does play basketball, I just said, "Why didn't you point that out to him, rather than going to the bathroom and slap boxing? Why didn't you just point out that you play basketball? You went out for the team. You made the team. You are better at basketball than the other kid. That would have been the simple solution and just walk away from that." But no, that feeling of fitting in, of territoriality, where you just know this is your turf, where they're sensitive to perceived threats. Therefore, his ability to play as basketball player challenged his manhood. It was a threat. Let's go to the bathroom, and we're going to slap box.
Brian: And once again, solved it physically rather than with words. It would have been so much easier to just say, "Hey—" exactly what you said.
Billy: They didn't solve it. I asked them. I asked the kid. "So, do you know who the better basketball player is? Because you went to the bathroom and slap boxed? No, you don't. Do you? So, was that worth the consequence that you're getting? No, it wasn't."
Brian: Very good. That's a good way of handling it.
Billy: Well, my first rodeo. Most of the kids that I have in my office are teenage boys. All of these reasons right here. Because a lot of times, when I talked to parents, and parents talk about how do I deal with this and da, da, da, da, I was like "Listen, this is the stage that they're going through. We can coach them about how to navigate these situations. It's okay to make new mistakes. We want to teach them that we have to learn from those mistakes, so that we don't keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again."
One of the best pieces of advice that I got — I was at a conference. The presenter said this. He said, “Freshmen are always going to behave like freshmen. That individual student is going to grow and be a sophomore, a junior, and then a senior. But if you're an administrator, if you're a dean, why would you ever expect freshmen to grow up? Why would you ever expect freshmen to mature and behave differently than what their biological process has them being?”
Brian: That's very true.
Billy: And so, that really stopped me and made me think. Okay. I'm getting frustrated a lot with these behaviors from these freshmen and sophomore boys. The thing is, they're freshmen and sophomore boys. Of course, they're going to behave this way. So, yes, I'm going to get frustrated with it. But I have to take a step back and recognize that this is part of their maturation process. I can be part of that maturation process and say, "Let's talk about when we're in a situation like this again, how can we approach it differently?"
Now, that fight, flight or fright response, that's going to overtake any words that I have to say. If a parent’s words cannot keep their primal, their savage brain from acting out, then some random strange dude — who they see only when they get in trouble — may not resonate with them as well. What you just hope is that, over time, what you have to say begins to sink in a little bit more and more and more.
It's difficult when they are surrounded by their peers. When teen boys are in a group, their brains experience excitement and emotional euphoria that makes them more willing to do risky things. Their pleasure center in the teen brain, it's nearly numb. So, they have to do things that are completely outlandish in order to feel anything, which is significantly different from girls. Because girls thrive on emotional connection. They thrive on relationships. That's why teenage girls talk about relationships, and teen boys talk about games and objects.
So, I always tell teenage boys, when they get sent to my office, "Listen, one on one, you're a really nice kid. But when you're around your group of friends, your IQ drops by about 50 points. So, I need you not to get sucked in to that vortex of risk," which is really, really difficult for teenage boys to avoid. It's biologically almost impossible for them to do that.
Brian: And socially, when you have other teens hanging around them and feeling the same thing, it's almost like an echo chamber.
Billy: The teen brain is programmed to tune out unwanted sounds. It just sounds like white noise to them.
Brian: Oh, that I see. Yeah.
Billy: That is a frustrating thing for me. What if I'm 10 feet away, and I'm trying to get your attention? I know you can hear me. I know you can hear me because I'm 10 feet, and I've got a voice that projects. Then you look out, "What?" That drives me nuts.
Brian: I bet it does.
Billy: So, I'm trying. Again, that's why I'm glad that I read these books, so that I can understand a little bit more about why teenagers behave the way that they do. Another thing that I found interesting is that because of vasopressin, that is why teen boys think neutral faces are actually angry or aggressive. I walk around pretty much with a neutral face all day. I'm always on alert.
Brian: Which makes sense. You should be.
Billy: Yeah, I'm scanning around. I'm in a building with 3,700 students, 9 through 12. There's a lot of students, there's a lot of chaos. It's my job to make sure that everybody stays safe. It's my job to make sure that everybody is following the rules, that sort of thing. So, when I walk by people and I'm just stone faced, I'm stoic, they take that as an act of aggression. It would behoove me to smile more when I am at work. But man, teenage boys are just stupid sometimes.
Brian: Yeah, I just say you can take out teenage out of that.
Billy: That's very true. The last thing that we wanted to talk about is, the teenage boy pursuit for sex. So, when teenage boys start developing their brains, they become hungry for sex. Now, this here is a stat from this book that I thought was — it cracked me up. But it's probably very true.
Sexual pursuit is pushed to the forefront of the teenage boy mind. I don't think that comes as a surprise to anybody. This is the part that made me chuckle. Studies show that from puberty to the mid-20s, men need to ejaculate one to three times a day.
Brian: Wait. That's supposed to end in the mid-20s?
Billy: Brian, all I have to say is, good luck keeping any boxes of Kleenex in your home.
Brian: Oh, no. I know. It's going to happen.
Billy: If you find that you are washing socks way more often than what you used to do, you know that puberty has hit your boy.
Brian: There's going to be some guidance around this whole thing. That's not going to fly here, fellas. Here's the deal. Here's what you do. Just like if they make a mess now, they clean it up. I show them. Okay. Guys, here you go.
Billy: You're going to teach them how to do their own laundry.
Brian: You're going to be exhumed. They doing it now, man.
Billy: That's fantastic. Well, that's like — then they can cover their traces.
Brian: Exactly. We're preparing everything for this right now.
Billy: Well, I'll tell you what, this is actually a good spot for us to end this episode. Because next week, we're going to talk about that brain below the belt. Oh yes, we're going to talk about the male sex drive in our next episode of the Mindful Midlife Crisis.
For Brian, this is Billy. We made it through this episode without his computer dying. So, we're very excited about that. Thank you for listening. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care friends.
Billy: So, let's take a break. Then we come back, we're going to talk more about little boys. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. That sounded terrible.
Brian: That wasn't good. Just redo that. Just redo that. We'll save that one for the outtakes.
Billy: Oh, God. Okay. All right. Are we still recording?
Billy: Oh, okay. Here we go.
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