: Understanding the Teenage Brain by @markosbeard


Some books leave you wanting more and this one is in that category. As a former youth pastor (and someone who still dabbles in youth ministry) and now as a parent of a teenager, I found that this book was extremely useful and practical in helping to understand a little more the complexities that a teenager faces in growing up.

Marko is great at drawing you in to his thoughts and helping (with practical illustration) to demonstrate that this is not just theory but also been proven through experience. He uses his own family as a guide and this helps to ‘earth’ his thinking.

The book sets out to achieve its goal of a ‘veneer’ of understanding which will require you to explore the ‘biological’ developments of the brain in greater detail. However, it is frustrating as it sets you on a journey, walks the first mile with you and then allows you to complete it alone…after a few days of frustration, you realise its brilliance, this is not a ‘how to’ manual but a thought provoker.

This book has to be recommended – it is superb. The title is misleading, it is not just for parents, it is also helpful for anyone with an interest in teenagers. Top marks from me.

As Marko says “Parenting teenagers is tough work, to be sure. But it’s also one of the greatest privileges we’ll ever have. Now, go shape that brain!”

the lies that motivate to destroy

We are selling lies! We are destroying lives!

We are peddling myths to the society in which we live with a sound-byte culture of hope and promise that gets knocked down and destroyed with ease and regularity.  For so long we have promised people, especially our younger generations, that we will “unlock their potential” or help them “realise their potential” and when they do…….it is not good enough, we knock them down and kick them too!

Not everyone can be the winner – in sport there is just the one gold medal, the one trophy, the one championship leader, yet many more will take part. Does this mean that the person in 3rd place is a loser? What if they ‘maximised their potential’?  If they achieved their potential and finished in 4th place, is this success?

If we are to be genuine, we must learn to celebrate when people realise their potential, even if they do not take top spot.  When England reach the Quarter finals and lose, we should be happy if they have performed their best.  This mentality should be spread to all things and all people.  Our maxim should revolve around people giving it their best, doing their utmost and wherever they land, being satisfied in a job well done.

We do not all have the same opportunities but we all have one ability open to us – to give our best to the task at hand.  We must refrain from false promises of motivation and be more realistic.  Let us stop peddling lies to motivate individuals and then destroying them when they do not become ‘top dog’!

Hood Rat – Britain’s Lost Generation (Review)

This book is written in three specific parts with time spent on stories from London, Manchester and Glasgow.  It pulls no punches as it shares of life from the inner city gang cultures that we so often hear about in news items.  The book is easy to read and follow and engages the reader by working through examples in the lives of specific individuals.

At times you are left questioning and wondering if there is any hope – this is wonderfully dispelled in the stories of Glasgow.  There is hope, there are ways ahead and there are people who want to help bring change.  The later edition has a short response from Gavin Knight to the riots of 2011 – this alone was challenging and worth the book price as it challenges some of the popular notions of who engaged in the riots and why.

A good, solid read – if you are involved in the inner city with young people then it will be worth spending some time with it.

There is comfortable, middle-class economy.  Then there’s the inner cities.” Gavin Knight


One of the barriers we present to young people is that of age, usually linked with experience. We, that are older, often assume that our life experience gives us a head start. This is not necessarily accurate. 
If Getty is right, experience counts less and less as change happens more rapidly. This has consequences for how we work with our younger generations as the playing field is flattened.
Don’t assume that you ate immune from this, it is an historical problem. Someone rather famous once spoke to a young man called Timothy (2000yrs back) and said “dont let anyone look down on you because you are young…..”

a youth work break

This Sunday sees my last youth meeting for a while.  It has been a tough decision but one that will hopefully benefit the young people, the church and, of course, me!  My daily work for which I am salaried will remain unaffected, so there will be a small element of engagement with the youth work world, but face to face meetings will be rare.

How long?  I am not sure – definitely a term (I am working with a team of youngsters in summer) maybe longer.  My heart is already torn but it is the correct call.  Sometimes the tough calls are important, this is one of those times.

what are you thinking?

You know you will be ok, look he is wearing a hoodie so he is cool and so the group will be fine.

This statement was made in front of me and I was not sure whether to be happy or upset that such a comment was made. Initially, I was quite pleased that a parent was encouraging their child to the youth group that I lead on a voluntary basis, but as the statement sunk in, I realised how poor a statement that it was.

1) wearing a hoodie does not determine the value of anything.  All it says is that the individual is wearing a hoodie.

2) being ‘cool’ was an expression from the 80’s, I am in my 40s’, being ‘cool’ is not even close.  Makes me want to puke!

3) the value of the group is nothing to do with the clothing choices of the members/leaders – it is based on the quality of the relationships that the group develops

The list could go on – the utterances of this parent make me shudder – the good news is that the member settled in well, contributes to the group and has strong relationships with others.  On the other hand, my hoodie tops do not get worn as often!