Though I have 6 younger brothers and 2 decades of experience teaching boys, I hesitated to teach a Boys Health Class.
It would be better, I thought, to have a male teacher - a young, cool, relatable, inspiring guy. I was unsure I could make it as exciting as it "ought" to be. Would they want to chat or just listen?
But as with so many things, I was letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It was clear they should get key information on nutrition, focus, discipline, muscle building, sleep, and recovery. The 4-class series builds on the foundation your family already provides, and encourages them to examine their current habits and set compelling long-term goals.
For the first class on nutrit
ion, we use the free account on Cronometer.com to add up the calories, protein, carbs, fat, and nutrients in a typical day's food. One student said, "Now I know why I'm always hungry!" It's easy for teenage boys to spend their days hungry and distracted if they are busy, picky, or simply unaware of how much they need to eat.
For Hydration, we discuss how to use water and different types of beverages with various amounts of sugar and electrolytes, depending on heat, exertion, and the type of pace they need to keep with their sport or activity. Many of the boys have already had a time when they had "hit the wall" and run out of ready energy in the middle of a bike ride or swim, so they are happy to learn techniques for fueling and re-fueling.
Sleep is key if they want to grow to their full height, focus easily, make good decisions, and remember what they learn. As with the Girls Health Classes, we cover what happens to the brain during sleep, why teens need extra sleep, how it affects impulse control, mood, and learning, and how to sleep well if they aren't currently.
In the bigger picture, we talk about setting goals and developing skills in the next year or two and beyond. One discussion comes from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (or Tom Sawyer) about imagining your own funeral. Most of them know that eulogies tend to focus on the good points and gloss over the bad. So I asked what they would want people to say at their funeral - that would be both true and reflect the life they had led. Not everyone can have all the virtues, so what talents will they use for your family and work? What are they uniquely equipped to do? What will people remember about them?
One young man made my day by saying that the main 3 items in his eulogy would be "Positive, a leader, and rich"! He already knew that his attitude was a key asset in his job; he planned to run a large business that would offer fun for the families in his area; he understood that creating value would probably lead to a good income. Those teens who already had paid jobs or completed lots of house projects knew what they liked and didn't about various kinds of work. Even for those who haven't worked outside the home, hearing others reflect on their experience gets them thinking about it for later.
Time management - choosing the right task for the amount of focus, and streamlining routines - is another topic we dwell on. Most of them want more free time and are happy to get ideas to finish school quickly and then work on cars, cook something interesting, or take a long run. Being realistic about goals for a new hobby or sport, and recognizing how much improvement can happen with 20 or 30 focused hours, is another way to help them stick with something long enough to achieve some satisfaction, even if it's not mastery. Then they can decide whether to pursue it further.
Do we talk about girls and relationships? A little, because the moms in the summer session said "go for it". I told them a funny story about how I didn't believe my mom when she told me that boys would do goofy things like trip over their own feet on purpose to get a girl to look their way. Surely my mom was wrong! And then the first guy I dated told me exactly that. When I told my own daughters, they were willing to believe me but said, "then when he finally gets the nerve to talk to a girl, she'll think "Oh here's that boy who's so clumsy!" At some point, you might talk to the girl, and maybe you don't want her to think you're uncoordinated before you ever have a conversation. It's hard sometimes to just talk, but easier if there's something to do like a board game, project, or sport.
Here's a list of the topics by week, with some variation depending on the questions they ask:
Week 1 - Exercise, Muscle Growth, and Recovery
Muscle challenge and growth, bone growth, Mitochondria, carb loading and glycogen storage, lactate threshold and exercise zones, recovery through hydration, minerals, etc,..
Week 2 - Nutrition and Hydration
Protein quality and amounts needed for growth and repair, how to make a nutrition plan for meals and snacks to fuel various activities, carb/protein/fat ratios for different types of metabolisms and sports
Week 3 - Focus, Discipline, and Goals
Choosing priorities and removing distractions for extended focus
Keeping goals in mind through words and pictures
When to stick with a project, sport, or hobby, or move on
Why discipline is a skill or muscle and how to strengthen it
Week 4 - Sleep, Memory, and Learning
Timing and length of sleep, circadian rhythm, energy and focus through the day. How to find good times for different tasks like memorizing, exercising, and more or less challenging tasks.
All classes are recorded and saved in a google drive folder so they can be reviewed at any time.
Mondays 5:30 - 6:30 pm PT/ 8:30 - 9:30 pm ET November 21st - December 12th Tuesdays 8 - 9 am PT/ 11 am - 12 pm ET January 10th - January 31st Thursdays 11 am -12 pm PT/ 2 - 3 pm ET January 19th - February 9th
Good luck to all of you with teens, both girls and boys!