A Rite of Passage for Boys

05 November, 2017
Q My youngest brother who turned 14 just recently is struggling at school - well not struggling because he doesn't even try. The thing is he's in the 8th grade, and his writing is like a 2nd grade student's. He gets really angry if any of us siblings try to talk to him about studies. he gets out of control - even with our parents and this is very disturbing. His mid-term results was real bad. He failed in 2 subjects and in the rest he got E's. All the teachers had the same comment about his grades that he's not focused. We checked his notebooks and he doesn't even do his class work, let alone his homework.He goes to school very enthusiastically, wakes up early in the morning, gets ready before time, wears the best of his uniform, but he doesn't do anything there I guess other them talking to his friends. Can it be because it's a co-ed school? Also he talks to girls not in any bad way, but I fear as he studies with these girls it might become a bad influence. I try to explain it to him, but I fear my way isn't right.My mother says it's natural, and if we push him too much he might get into it deeper. Here I must say my mother does discourage him. If I try to tell him the Islamic way he gets irritated, and asks me to shut up - I am 6 years older then him.


As salamu ‘alaykum

Your brother is at a very challenging age.

Puberty can be very difficult for boys because they have no outlet, and very little few constructive opportunities to show their “manliness.” This is very important to boys at that age. Unfortunately school makes this worse because they are asked to sit for so long. It is natural for boys to want to move.

Due to the way school is structured, it tends to suppress “normal” male tendencies instead of focusing them. Your brother is probably bored. There is an excellent book titled, “21st Century Boys: How Modern Life is Driving Them off the Rails and How We Can Get Them Back, by Sue Palmer.” The book discusses many the issues that you bring up.

Boys need rites of passage, they need other male figures in their life to show them how to be a man.

At the age your brother is, he does not need his mother intervening, this will upset him. Also his siblings intervening, who are not male or older, will also upset him. It will make him feel like a baby. He is trying to leave his childhood behind.

It is his father, uncles and grandfathers who need to step in here. It is the males of the family who need to talk to him about girls, not really his mother. She can tell him stories to help him understand. This way it is not like she is scolding him or telling him what to do.

Charlotte Manson believes that the best way to learn is via stories. If we look at the Qur’an, Allah is using “stories” or “parables” to teach us. The great thing about stories is that the listener engages with the subject, as if they are doing what is in the story and that way we learn.

I remember my grandmother telling me stories as she ironed clothes and they were all life lessons. This is another way that you and your mother can engage with him, and thus the most important thing that your mother can do right now!

Your brother’s teachers need to be creative in their approach with him. Yes it is true that he does need to try, but so do they. Not everyone learns the same way, and their teaching style may not fit him.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides. 

About Dr. Karima Burns
Dr. Karima Burns has been counseling as a Home-path for over 9 years. From the U.S. she is a doctor in Naturopathy, a Master Herbalist, and teaches with inspiration from the Waldorf school. She uses art, health and education to heal others.