Q. Can you help me understand something? I’m a twin. My brother, I’m a girl, and I are 14. I know we’re both in puberty, because I read a lot and because my mom teaches us stuff, which I act like I hate, but secretly I’m glad.
For about a year now, my brother gets mad so fast. It’s like he cannot handle stress without yelling or punching something. In our house, we aren’t allowed to punch people, but my mom lets him hit things that don’t break. She tells him to go to the basement and lift or go for a run.
When I get stressed, I talk with my friends. Sometimes, I cry or play music. I run too, and I like to exercise, but I don’t do it out of anger. I do it to feel better.
Is this because he’s a boy? I notice some guys at school who get more aggressive all the time. They also make fun of boys who are sensitive and listen to others. I like people who listen. Why are some boys such jerks, my brother included?
Mary Jo’s Response: I need you to be a peer educator! I love the way you notice behavior, analyze it and try to understand why people act a certain way. I’d love it if your brother became a peer educator, too.
People are all different. Often adults assume a young person’s gender makes them act more aggressively, but there are many factors that determine behavior.
First, we are all a product of nature – the way we are born – and nurture – the way we are raised. Nature is genetics – you know, the way we look like our grandparents or parents? You’ve heard people say, “That baby has his grandpa’s nose” or something similar. Personality traits can be inherited as well. These tendencies to be resilient, to be happy or sad, to be stubborn or confident, are different for each unique human.
Nurture helps us know right from wrong, grow in character, and in our reaction to life, and develop a moral compass. The argument about which is more important – our nature or the way we are nurtured – can be intense. I believe both are important to healthy growth and development.
People generalize about girls and boys; I prefer to think of each person as worthy and open to growth. If children are raised to look down on sensitive people, they will feel it’s not OK to show emotion. If children are raised to believe they are not strong enough to lead, they may avoiding taking charge.
I’m glad your mom talks with you about growing up. I’m glad you and your brother both enjoy running and exercise to help cope with stress. Anger is a typical human emotion for anyone and puberty makes many young people feel as if their emotions are on a roller coaster. Moodiness passes; it gets better. For now, listen to your brother. Try to help him express his feelings. Tell him you won’t think any less of him if he uses his words to show his anger.
It’s OK to think your brother is a jerk sometimes. I’m sure he feels the same about you. Please don’t give up on him, though. You’re both worthy.
Peer Educator Response: All kinds of people can be jerks. Behavior isn’t connected to gender. In some groups it’s tougher to be sensitive if you’re a guy, but peer educators learn how to respect others, hold space and listen. It’s easy to be one. Come to our Teen Center at 92 N. Main Street and check us out.