An Overview of Evolution Mentoring

For an overview of Evolution Mentoring, click here:

80 Percent Of Teens Cheat. Here’s why

This is a newsletter I sent out a year ago. The issue is even more prevalent now, and it will only continue to grow.  You can download it on the next screen.                                                                                             Download here:    Lying-and-cheating

A Peek Inside The Mind Of A Bully

A Peek Inside The Mind Of A Bully

I’ve spent 25 years working with teens and young adults, helping them navigate the perils of the adolescent stage of life to grow into confident, centered adults.  Along the way I’ve heard countless stories of bullying, mostly the girl to girl verbal kind, followed by the “pick on the little guy” kind that is common in boy culture, again mostly through words and only occasionally through actions.

The most common trait we hear attributed to those who bully is that they lack empathy. They do not “feel the pain” of the victims as they inflict pain upon them, freeing them to act without guilt, shame or hesitation.  Unbound by a social, emotional and/or moral conscious, they can comfortably and easily do things that the rest of us would find unthinkable.

Are they really all virtually sociopaths, truly lacking all connection with the basics of feeling anything for others?

Not in my experience. There is actually a spectrum of bullies in that regard, only a few whom fit that category, and many of them suffer from the “I am special so the rules don’t apply to me” complex, not really from being a sociopath.

Most of those who do it though are not that extreme. The majority have developed a complex, sophisticated denial mechanism  that allows them to hurt others, and be okay with it, reinforced by a story they tell themselves that justifies behaving this way. With little prodding, they feel deeply for what they are doing and easily reveal it – at least in the early stages of doing it.

[Note: Many video games help kids becomes desensitized and less  moral. Grand Theft Auto allows kids to shoot cops, have sex with prostitutes, steal cars and get rewarded for it.  The US Military uses  the most violent video games to desensitize soldiers to killing. They find that the more comfortable they are just seeing enemies as fun targets on a screen, the more at ease they are with killing them off the screen. These games are popular Christmas presents in modern America.]

Youth culture today is far more complex and high-pressured than it was when we were our kid’s age. Most kids teens today have a sense of scarcity of resources and opportunities and their life feels like constant competition.

The school demands alone create more intellectual stress than most adults could easily manage as adults. The social pressures though, and the absurd standards that modern youth peer culture  sets for one another, are far worse than most parents truly understand.

Many teens live with a sense that they are perpetually just one wrong choice or comment away from failure or rejection. Beyond worrying about school failure (“you won’t get into a  good college and thus your life is doomed” which is flawed thinking that is endlessly perpetuated by many adults), their bigger fear comes in the form of worrying about being abandoned by the peer group, the modern equivalent of being kicked out of the tribe – especially because they spend the majority of their lives now in the tribe of their peers.

Consider this:

  • In 1950 youth between the ages of 12 to 18, spent 60 hours a week with adults and only 12 alone with peers.
  • In 2010, this age group spends 60 hours a week in contact with peers, and less than 12 with adults.
  • ·In “wired” homes in America (those where every one has their own computer), parents spend on average 4 minutes  a day of uninterrupted time with their kids.

Today’s kids are influenced mostly by machines (6 hours a day of screen time is the national average for today’s teens), institutions (kids typically outnumber adults 24 to 1 in schools and spend 7 hours a day there 170 days a year) and countless hours a day being influenced by peers.

For many of them, being accepted by peer culture, having status in peer culture or proving themselves invincible to peer culture, becomes their highest concern and greatest source of stress.

The fear of being kicked out of the peer tribe that dominates their experience of the world, essentially equates at a deep psychological level, to certain death. Its no wonder it consumes so much of their time and energy. (Have you ever heard your teen daughter say, “If any one finds out about this, I’ll die?” In their inner world, it is not just a cliché.)

Put any of us in a survival situation and all morality goes out the window. We’d do almost anything to survive. If you wouldn’t, you’d die.

Many of these bullies have a story they are living that links back to this.

  • If they were abused themselves, this is their way of proving to themselves that they have power and are not what their perpetrator told them they were.  They are proving to themselves that they are not worthless.
  • If they are in a socially advanced clique, they bully others to maintain their own status and value, thus ensuring their membership and inclusion in the clique. They are not feeling bad about whose reputation they trashed because they are too busy fighting for their own social survival (remember, to them this feels like life and death!).
  • If they are teasing others at the skate park or on the basketball court, it is to establish their dominance which assures their playing time in the game or status for the girls, which equates to, you guessed it, their survival in a competitive world.
  • If they are teasing kids in the halls at school, it is to demonstrate to the “in-crowd” that they are funny and ruthless, and thus meeting one of the core criteria for proving worth as a man in modern boy culture. (I just gave a talk about this last week which is available here.)

I can go on and on, but most causes of bullying behavior comes back to the same thing:

They are doing it and are okay with doing it because it is what they feel they need to do to survive, in a stressful, competitive world.

Until this changes, there is little adults can do besides continue to run around and clean up the messes. All the training in the world on recognizing the signs of bullying won’t stop bullies from bullying.

Today’s kids need to have the power taken back from popular culture, especially popular peer culture. The power these have over them trumps the power most parents have to influence their kids once they hit the middle school years.

This is not “just the way it is”, nor is it indicative of a “normal stage of development”. This is a modern creation, or perhaps better said, the pervasive by-product of the modern way of life that places so much emphasis on the things that matter least – and that demands parents be so consumed with things outside of home that they have little time or energy left to address what should be their primary concern: things going on inside their kids lives.

It takes more than 4 minutes a day to raise kids to be morally and socially conscious people.

It takes more than 12 hours a week of contact and attention from adults to influence kids to choose the values of mature adult culture over the values of popular adolescent culture.

It takes more than just parents teaching kids about right and wrong, for kids to adopt these same beliefs.

I’ve built my life’s work on becoming one of these critically needed adults in the lives of youth during their adolescent years. I hear their stories, know their struggles and “get” how complex and pressure filled their lives are. .. and how much time, repetition and time and repetition it takes to help them internalize a secure self-directed value set that frees them from peer approval dependence.

They need many more people doing this too: Teaching them real life skills, helping them construct their beliefs and values independent of the negative influences of society, giving them the reassurance that they matter, their lives count and they will succeed if they choose to live a life of uncompromising commitment towards the things that really matter. .. and giving them the real life experiences now that prove to them that they already have what it takes, far more so than they realize.

We all needed it at their age.

They need it now, more than ever.

Jeffrey Leiken, MA

October 12, 2010

Boyhood In Peril – Why Raising Boys Now Demands Serious Attention

Boyhood In Peril – The Battle To Raise Healthy, Thriving Boys Into Men in A Chaotic World

Much has been written in the past decade about the troubled inner and outer lives of boys. The positions the ‘experts’ take vary between disturbing books on their damaged and wounded inner and emotional lives written by psychologists who have risen to national prominence as they’ve become best selling authors, to articles like the cover story in Time Magazine debunking the best sellers and claiming that all is in fact well, and all that is really needed is to let boys be boys and follow the “dangerous book” they’ll find on the other shelf – a book that has also become a best seller.

What are we to believe? Here are the facts as are now well researched:

  • 1000 studies link extensive viewing of graphic violent images, with more violent behavior.
  • 50% of  video games contain excessive graphic violence. This number is growing.
  • By age 12 the average American male will have viewed 100,000 images of graphic violence. By age 18 that number doubles.
  • The US military uses video games to desensitize soldiers to killing
  • Excessive screen times inhibits sensory awareness development in the brain
  • Excessive screen times disturbs sleeping patterns
  • A comprehensive University of Alberta study found 1 in 3 boys are heavy porn users
  • 1/2 of young adult males in a recent survey preferred porn to the real thing
  • A growing number of young adult males suffer from sexual dysfunction
  • Male sperm counts are half of what they were 50 years ago
  • Males commit 95% of violent crimes
  • College enrollment for males has dropped dramatically in the past 30 years. In 1980 men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they’re a minority at 44 percent.
  • Boys make up 75% of students diagnosed with learning disabilities.
  • Nearly 6% of boys ages 6 to 17 are diagnosed and medically treated for ADHD
  • Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide. This is the third leading cause of death among teens.
  • 40% of youth in America are growing up without a father living in their primary home
  • The average American father spends 30 minutes a week of time with his kids. Half of that is spent watching TV.
  • Parents in “wired” homes spend on average 4 minutes a day of uninterrupted time with their kids
  • In 1950, teens spent 5 times as much time with adults as they did with their peers. In 2010, teens spend 5 times as much time with peers than they do adults.
  • Today’s No Child Left Behind School standards demand kindergartners be able to do what first graders were once expected to do. Most boys brains do not develop these functions – especially fine motor and capacity to sit and focus, until they are older.
  • The dominant youth culture now has replaced “Dating” with the “instant gratification, no strings attached” practice of “Hooking-Up”. Boys (and girls) are not having the critical experiences needed to develop emotional maturity and the capacity for sustained intimacy

Parents need to have:

  • Strict video gaming policies.
  • Close monitoring of online activities
  • Regular healthy challenges for boys to master
  • Strong advocating for their son’s schooling and close involvement with the curriculum
  • A system to ensure their son gets real life education and the opportunities to practice real life skills
  • A continually updated relationship with their sons
  • A community of elders – particularly men – who are closely and personally involved in their son’s lives in an on-going way.

Raising boys into men who will thrive in the 21st Century demands more than just going backwards to a simpler time and simpler approach. It demands parents be up to date, involved, in-tune with not just youth culture, but with the trends that are lighting the way to the emerging economic world. Those who do so are already noticing more popular media attention regarding alternatives to traditional college, the importance of training in entrepreneurism, the devastating impact of environmental toxins, complacency and deprivation of contact  with the natural world.

Do not rely on institutions and machines to raise your son. It is up to you as your son’s parent to ensure he grows into a young man who is prepared for modern reality, with the capacity for intimacy, the values for contribution and the skills to ensure he succeeds in leading an extraordinary life. The task has in many ways, never been more challenging.

Being a teenager is enough to make you puke!

Being a teenager is enough to make you puke

The following is a true story, with name changes to protect the guilty, and a few expletives toned down from R to PG 13, sort of.

Jeremy is a 17 year old high school senior. He is, in many ways, typical of the kids I mentor.

He is good-looking, highly social, good-with-girls, intense, athletic, witty, smart, attends a fancy private school, has the potential to be a college athlete and can become on a moment’s notice, an arrogant, stressed-out, entitled jerk with a wicked temper that has gotten him into his share of trouble both in school and out. Though it isn’t obvious on the outside, he actually thinks about many bigger life questions and is far more sensitive than people realize.

Sometime this past year, he finally recognized that something was going on in him that led him to be so volatile. He knew he needed help.

Like most teens I meet who have any honest introspection, he recognized as well, that something is seriously wrong and screwed up with the world he is living in and the youth culture he has conformed to, and he didn’t like many aspects of who he was becoming to succeed in it, even as he rose to the top of his social world.

His parents intuitively felt his issues were not due to psychological problems that a therapist would want to diagnose and treat, but rather were the critical issues and challenges of growing-up – something that is my speciality in helping teens and young adults to successfully navigate and successfully do.

He accepted his parents offer to meet me, and he quickly decided after our first session that he wanted to continue. We’ve been in regular contact since then, in person, on the phone, via texts, etc. Almost every conversation has been intense, challenging, and at times, filled with me pointing out to him all the ways in which he is taking the cowards way out and being just another excuse making, blaming, full of BS, follower.

In spite of this, he’s kept coming back – and he’s respected my opinions and insights, and asked for more even when they aren’t what he wants to be hearing.  As many of my clients do, he acknowledged that while he may not always like what the is hearing, he knows it is what he needs to hear.


A few weeks ago, he came in and shared this story:

He’d been at a party the previous weekend and agreed to be the Designated Driver. Being sober amongst a group of drunks is rarely fun, but being with his high school friends made it okay. It got even better when a group of hot girls showed up, and one of them – we’ll call her Dana – took an interest in him. At one point, they were “hooking-up” (“making-out” is what they used to call it when I was his age) and when she took it a little further, he wasn’t complaining.

Eventually Dana asked him to give her and a few of her girlfriends a ride home and he agreed. She was stumbling drunk. After a few minutes in the car, she felt nauseous. He stopped the car and went around to her side. When he opened the door, she literally fell out onto the sidewalk, complaining of being dizzy and wanting water.

Her friends just sat there and did nothing. He couldn’t believe how unwilling to help they were; not just unwilling, but seeming to be entirely uninterested and unconcerned.  It suddenly seemed sad and even pathetic to him that these were Dana’s best friends and this was the best they would offer her.

As Jeremy then walked to a nearby store to buy her a bottled water, he began thinking about how many times he’d seen teenage “friends” treat their other “friends” this way. He knew that even he had been guilty of being so self-absorbed and unwilling to be inconvenienced. He didn’t like realizing this about himself. It bothered him even more to realize how pervasive the attitude was amongst so many people his age.

When he returned from the store 10 minutes later, Dana was still laying on the side of the road next to the car. The other girls in the car, still hadn’t helped their friend.

He gave Dana the water, helped her back into the car and kept driving.

It only took a few more minutes before Dana then started puking out his car window, onto the side of the car and eventually inside the car as well.

Still the other girls didn’t help. They just started laughing and making fun of her.

He couldn’t wait to get all of them out of the car.

He was disgusted not just by the puke in the car, not just by the way these friends had treated one another, but the fact that he had “hooked-up” with this girl who was clearly totally drunk.

He felt disgusted with them, with himself and in a way, with his whole teen culture.

He was beginning to see it all for what it really is, for the first time.

The realizations kept coming almost by the hour since then… He couldn’t stop thinking about how many stupid things he’d said and done over the past few years, including not appreciating his parents, not being a good brother to his siblings, not really being a great teammate to the guys on his lacrosse team, even when he was a captain. He thought about the teachers who’d tried to connect with him, who he had just mocked. The kids who were less popular than him who he’d had so many laughs at their expense over the years, and all the grief he’s caused them…

He couldn’t wait to meet with me to tell me this in person.

“I almost called you the other night but then I decided I really wanted to tell you all this in person,” he said. “And I realize that I wouldn’t be realizing any of these things and seeing my life for what it’s been without everything you’ve been saying to me this past year. I’ve really been such an a##hole to so many people, especially my dad. I am so amazed by how much has been right there in front of me and I just couldn’t see it… Even though it is all so f#c%ed up, it feels so great to finally be getting it… You have no idea how much what you’ve offered me is meaning to be and doing for me right now…” and then he repeated again, “And I wanted to tell you this in person.”

Jeremy has a lot of work still left to be done. A lifetime of it in fact. But on the path he is now on, he can be certain that the lifetime of work he’ll do, will build a life worth living and a legacy to be proud of.


I have plenty of similar stories with my clients, but sadly, far more kids out there have stories that start the same but are not ending the same.

There are countless teens out there who need this kind of relationship in their lives, and the earfuls of ideas, insights and wisdom they get here. Parents like Jeremy’s realize that it takes far more than tutors and SAT prep classes (and he has plenty) to raise  a child to be ready for life.. and it takes far more than parents alone to be offering their teens this kind of training and this kind of mentoring.

I couldn’t agree with them more.

My three cents: Don’t rely on institutions, academics and conventional help alone to provide the guidance your kids will really need when they face the realities of growing up. Surround them with the right resources, the right adults and fill their lives with the right experiences. Both they – and the people whose lives they’ll impact – will one day thank you for it.


The following is a newsletter I recently wrote for the HeroPath For Teens™ Program that I run in the UK. Though it is written to teens, the message is relevant for all. .

Are your parents nagging you too much?

We can help.

Occasionally, but not infrequently, we receive calls from concerned parents who share a common dilemma. They’ve read our website, perhaps spoken with others whose sons and daughters gave us raving reviews, and really know that their son or daughter would benefit from attending our program too.

Their dilemma?

They know that the moment they suggest attending a HeroPath For Teens™ program, their teen will reject it simply because it is a suggestion coming from their parents! Their teen will feel their parents are putting too much pressure on them to change. Some will feel their parents are nagging, overprotective and/or over-involved and will resist just to feel powerful. Some will feel judged.

We’ve had a number of teens who’ve attended our programs also ask for help with this. “How can I get my parents to stop nagging me? How can I get them to give me more freedom? How can I get them to just let me make my own choices?”

This newsletter will address both sides of this, and why it is that what we offer has helped so much for families who’ve struggled with this dilemma.

First of all the primary reason most parents get concerned about their teens, is that they sense they are not prepared for the challenges that they’ll soon be facing as adults. They sense their teen lacks some critical piece or pieces of development such as direction, motivation, discipline, confidence, decisiveness. They fear that lacking these, their teen will be in for lasting struggles and disappointments.  There is nothing more painful to parents than to see their kids struggling and having to settle for less than what is possible for them.

Sometimes, they are right to be concerned. Sometimes, they aren’t.

Here’s the real challenge to this:

Every one develops at their own pace and, to a large extent, in their own way.

Our school system and cultural norms though expects that everyone measures up to a standard that is unrealistic for some and totally inappropriate for some others. They place benchmarks like achieving certain test scores, demonstrating an ability to manage coursework and knowing what you want to do with your life as the measure of readiness to move on to the next stage of life.

It’s hard for parents not to get caught up in doing the same.

In reality though these things have little to do with what it really takes to be prepared for the next stage of life, and even less to do with what it takes to thrive.

While the MythoSelf® Process that we teach at the HeroPath For Teens™ workshop inevitably helps teens to do better and have more certainty in all these areas – school performance, career direction, personal confidence – it offers something even more critical, something every hugely successful and personally fulfilled person shares… It is, you might say, the magic at the core of this work. Let me tell it to you through a personal story:

I was 28 when I first encountered this work. I was bright, confident and well-educated, graduating Valedictorian of my University class. I could easily get jobs as I knew how to impress the hell out of potential employers. In fact, I’d been offered every job I ever applied for (and I’ve taught many of these skills to countless clients).

My problem was that I didn’t just want a job. I wanted to do my own thing, my own way. There was a way of life that I’d seen others live and that I wanted for myself.  I wanted to be well compensated for doing the work I loved. I wanted to be free to set my own schedule. I wanted to be in a relationship with someone who shared my values and had a similar desire for living “outside the system”, and who was also equally as excited and positive about life and life’s possibilities.

I’d purchased countless books, attended countless programs and spent thousands of Pounds on consultants, all in the hopes that this would help me to have this life.

Yet, in spite of all my education and academic success, I was missing a fundamental piece. I knew what to do, I just wasn’t doing it. I wanted it, but couldn’t seem to make it happen.

Rather than having that success and that relationship, I was nearing 30 years old, was soon to be bankrupt and was alone.

Secretly I knew why I was failing to achieve my dream. What I needed wasn’t more information about “how to”, what I needed was to become the kind of person who actually lives it. Though I had the potential to be that person, potential alone is not the same as being that person.

I’ve seen this countless times now in my work. My clients often come in knowing what they need to be doing, they just can’t seem to get themselves to do it consistently enough to get the results.  They have moments of true confidence and direction, but the moments fade. They have moments of maturity and discipline, but they can’t seem to sustain it.
They have the potential, but they are not fulfilling it.

The reasons they aren’t fulfilling their potential vary. Some are too lazy. Some have become steeped in bad habits. Some have deep seated insecurities that compel them to continually settled for less than their best. Some just haven’t lived enough life to have found “their thing”. Some have succumbed to an attitude of indifference that many teens find appealing because unlike school, it is stress free and places no demand on them.

There are plenty of other reasons, but all come down to the same thing: they are not yet being the full person they have the potential to be.

Parents sense this. It is their greatest concern and as I said earlier, nothing pains them more than to see their kids struggling to be happy, fulfilled and inspired.

The amazing thing is that every parent I’ve ever worked with, knows when their kids have found this missing piece… when they’ve overcome their limitations and are steadfast on their path to true personal success. When they see their kids have it, they relax. They stop micromanaging, they stop pushing…. They stop nagging!

The most effective thing that teens can do to stop nagging parents is not to become the person their parents may be pressuring them to be, but rather to become the best person they themselves know they can be.

That is the power of what we do. That is the power of the MythoSelf Process. That is the power of the HeroPath For Teens… We will guide you to make this critical connection in yourself that you need to make to ensure you truly live your life fully, uninhibited, empowered with everything you will need to achieve the success you want, have the experiences you want and ultimately, to live the life you most want.

It did it for me. It has done it for hundreds of others. And it will do it for you too.

In the years since the moment I made the choice to find out what this work was (and I assure you no one whose ever come to one of our programs has come close to being as skeptical as I was when I first agreed to come!), my life has not only changed dramatically – my life has finally really happened. I’ve traveled over 1,000,000 miles doing the work I love. I have clients all over the world. I am married to a remarkable woman who shares my sense of adventure and joy of life, and we are raising a family of our own.

It is not always easy, nor is our life free from challenges. Having made this critical connection inside though, we know that we have what it takes to thrive, to achieve dreams and to be fulfilled, even when times are tough – and we consistently are.

I am so confident in what I am promising, that we offer a 100% Guarantee that we will deliver. You will leave this weekend with everything we say you will, or you do not pay.  This is not your parents trying to coerce you to do something you don’t want to do. This is your future calling you and saying it is time to step up, grow up and really start living.

The choice is yours. The opportunity to attend though won’t last forever. Decide now and make 2010 the year you finally said enough to settling for being less than your best, and finally started living and being the you, you’ve always sensed was possible. One weekend of your life, that’s all it takes. One weekend.

So which will it be? A weekend of parties, video games and predictable boredom, just like last weekend, just like every weekend? Or a weekend that kicked your life into high gear?

Decide now. Join us. Show up. The toughest part is this decision. The rest is the good stuff – and it is damn good stuff.

[Click here to read this on our UK website]

© Likone Corp/ Jeffrey Leiken 2010

Articles in Camping Magazine

This page is filled with links to articles I’ve published in Camping Magazine. Including my Award Winning series on 13 year olds in camps, and camps that dared to be different.

As you read through these, you’ll notice they go the range from some  “how-to” for training counselors, to exploring ideas that speak to Camp Leaders who are confronted with the larger sociological and philosophical considerations as we emerge further into the 21st Century and away from a world that values what camps do in the way they once did.

Camp Counseling in the Twenty-First Century: Connecting the Disconnected

Teens at Camp, Camp and Teens – Camp Programs that Dare to be Different! – Runner-Up Golden Quill Award

Teaching Thirteen-Year-Old Girls a Whole New Way of Life – Winner Golden Quill Award

Exploring the True Potential in Thirteen-Year-Old Boys – Winner Golden Quill Award

Making Ordinary Moments Extraordinary – ** Recommended for staff training **

The Hidden Motivator for Today’s Staff

Seven Absolutes of Camp Counseling ** Recommended for staff training **

Everything You Say and Do Matters – Teaching Staff To Put Campers First ** Recommended for staff training **

Creating Your Ideal Camp Culture co-authored with Joseph Riggio

Eliminate Gossip and Rumors . . . and Create a Fully Unified Staff

The Difficult Bunk Meeting ** Recommended for staff training **

Bringing Out The Best In 8th Grade Girls

Bringing Out The Best In 8th Grade Girls

© Likone Corp 2005

There is arguably no more challenging, unsettling life stage than that of the budding adolescent girl growing up in our culture in modern times.

They are inundated with messages of how their self-worth and place in the pecking order is based on their bodies and how their bodies compare not just to their peers but to the top supermodels on earth. They are inundated with messages about how what they wear can make or break their even gaining consideration to the next level of social acceptance. Whether they are “in” or “out” is often determined by other girls, usually without them knowing anything was wrong.

To Read the entire article, click:8th Grade Girls

Whatever Happened To Little Johnny?

Do you remember “Little Johnny”? He starred in the stories about the boy who always got in trouble. Well let me tell you what happened to him…

Not surprisingly Little Johnny had a tough go of it through elementary school. He was labeled early on as a problem child. Although test results never substantiated any learning disability, everyone knew there was something wrong with him. There had to be! Otherwise how could we explain how a child just couldn’t “get it”? Johnny was punished repeatedly, wrote lines, stayed after school, sat in the corner, got time-outs, and yet still he continued to misbehave in class and out! His parents grew discouraged by the endless phone calls from school. Teachers dreaded having him in class. By the 6th grade he was determined by most to be a lost cause.

Then in 7th grade a funny thing happened…

Johnny got a new teacher in 7th grade. Just out of college, idealized, a bit naïve perhaps, this teacher poured heart and soul into the students. This teacher looked out across the room and something inside told this teacher that “There’s something about this kid Johnny.”

This teacher began to reach out to Johnny frequently and Johnny resisted, turning everything into a joke, doing whatever it took to be the class clown. Other teachers told this teacher “I told you so” and the teacher grew discouraged. This teacher would go home at night and think, “What does Johnny get out of it?”

This teacher was the first one to ask this simple, yet significant question. Everyone else had been asking the question, “What is wrong with him?” – and they found lots of answers. This teacher though asked this different question and got different answers.

One thing for sure, this teacher thought, this kid gets lots of attention from it. But there is more. He also gets out of answering questions and appearing foolish. He gets lots of laughs and in the moment, is quite popular. Thinking it through even more thoroughly the teacher concluded, “and there’s nothing wrong with that!”

From there this teacher began imagining what the world must be like through Johnny’s eyes. He began imagining all sorts of scenarios about what might be true of him. Perhaps he feels stupid and being the class clown is a way to avoid people finding out that he really doesn’t have the answers. If he feels stupid he probably doesn’t like himself either, especially at this age where peer perception becomes so important.

This teacher went even further and began to imagine what life would be like not just through Johnny’s eyes, but what indeed it would be like if this teacher experienced life the same way. This teacher began thinking about what it would take for someone to come along and begin to really help this teacher to feel good about self.

The next day this teacher took a whole new approach with Johnny. This teacher greeted Johnny at the door and told him, “Johnny. There is more to you than you yet realize. By the end of this year you will know just what I mean.”

Johnny didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.

Day after day this teacher made connections with Johnny, usually brief and always different. This teacher kept Johnny off-guard. Just when Johnny thought he’d gotten himself in trouble, this teacher would turn to Johnny and say, “You know there’s a much better way to do this than that. Maybe some day I’ll teach you.”

Puzzled by this, Johnny would return to his seat and sit quietly.

In March of that year a breakthrough happened. Johnny got picked on by several other students and the teacher found Johnny by himself crying. The teacher approached Johnny carefully and asked Johnny one question:

“Are you ready yet?”

“Leave me alone you creep!” Johnny screamed in response.

“You didn’t answer my question,” replied the teacher in a calm voice. “My question was, “Are you ready?”

“Ready for what???!” Johnny said loudly again, but this time not as loud.

“Ready to find out what it is I’ve known for 6 months now about you that you don’t even yet know yourself?”


“Then I’ll take it this means yes?”


“Johnny. You may not realize this yet, but you are okay. Everything about you is okay. I intend to prove it to you…” this teacher explained.

Johnny looked up puzzled, unsure of what to say or do. No one had ever reached out to him like this and in his heart of hearts, it was what he’d always wanted. Over the next few months Johnny would spend extra time with this teacher, hearing lots of stories and advise. This teacher was always careful not to give too much, but just enough to be sure Johnny could succeed.

After that year something in Johnny changed.

He began smiling more and doing kind things, just because he could. He raised his hand and asked questions. People thought it must be some new medication and were surprised to learn he wasn’t on any at all. They thought it must just be puberty. They never thought it was something else.. someone else.. someone who came along and saw Johnny for who he really was and who found the way to finally break through to him… found the way to make the connection… the piece that had been missing even though deep down inside him it was always present… No one thought to think that maybe it was the influence of one person who reached out to Johnny and acted as his mentor… his counselor… his mentor counselor…

Indeed by the end of that year he was no longer known as Little Johnny.

That was the year he became John.

• • •

The story is a simple one and yet the implementation of it is pure mastery.

Think of a student/child you work with now who is your Little Johnny.

Instead of asking “What is wrong with this child?, ask: “What does this child get from behaving this way?”

Then ask, “What would have to be true of someone to be behaving the way they are? Always begin with, that they have very limited skills…”

Then imagine what it would take if indeed you too felt and believed that way about life and were limited by the lack of skills. Then go deeper and ask, “What would life be like to live it that way?

Finally, ask yourself if indeed that was how life was for you, what would it take from someone else to reach out and get through to you?

Then go out tomorrow and DO IT!

This is always a reliable starting place. At the very least it gives a starting place for building rapport. At the most it leads to influencing big changes in a short period of time.

It works for those who try it. It works for those who live it.

It’s possible, always.

Wishing you all the best on this beautiful May evening from San Francisco.

Jeff Leiken

May 2003

© Likone Corp 2003

Exploring Emotional Maturity

Exploring Emotional Maturity

** Through the lens of Mentor Counseling® **

Research shows that the average American operates intellectually at the level of a sixth grade education. Marketing and advertising is geared towards this level: Coke is it. Just do it. Simple enough for a sixth grader… Simple enough for your average American.

What is not so well researched, however what seems true to me, is that the average American also functions on an emotional maturity level which is far beneath their biological age, typically in the range of 8 to 20 years old developmentally.

This is often becomes evident the moment a person is put under emotional stress or crisis. How many people do you know (ourselves included) who the moment something fails to go their way, suddenly adopt an attitude that “life isn’t fair” and that they are a victim to circumstances? Doesn’t this sound like a 10 year old? Or how many people when someone does something which offends them, will put attention and energy into doing something just to get even?

In my private practice I work with parents who are continually pushed to this point by their kids’ behavior. They find themselves in ongoing  cycles of giving punishments and consequences to their kids, no longer to teach new behavior, but simply to get even with them for their old behavior. Though it is often transparent to them as they do it, it becomes evident when I help them access perspective to realize what they are doing (and why it isn’t working).

In the model of work I do I operate from a position that PEOPLE OF ALL AGES ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO GET SOMETHING POSITIVE FROM THEIR BEHAVIORS, that behind every behavior is a positive intention to meet some want or need that in and of itself is positive. The “problem” only exists in the WAY a person goes about getting that need met, not in their intention.

What is it people all want and are trying to get from their behaviors?

The general list* I suggest considering is this:







Most younger kids (under 10) tend to pursue attention and fun. By junior high school age, fitting in with friends and gaining their respect becomes most prominent. By 15 it is this plus power and control as the quest for independence begins to dominate their lives. The more they grow and mature, the more they’ll need to learn more effective ways to get their wants and needs met, lest they get stuck in the cycle described above.

My work – especially with teens – is dedicated towards teaching them just how to grow beyond that limitation. This is an element of what I call teaching kids to be leaders of their own lives.

The intention in this process is to create and cultivate emotional maturity in young people, even when it is not well modeled by those (particularly the adults) around them.

One of the teens I work with recently asked me why people who rage violent, destructive political  protests don’t just organize and get themselves elected into office, empowering them to rule from within? She had a whole plan about how they could move to the smaller states and register enough of themselves as voters to get dozens of Congressman and Senators elected, especially since so few people actually vote in our country.

It made such sense to this teen-ager.

My answer to her question (which I didn’t say to her because she wasn’t really concerned with an answer) is that her approach takes more than just intellectual and social maturity, it takes emotional maturity too. And in that case, sadly, just like the advertising industry selling products with three word slogans to the 6th grade mind, most of those in the seats of power, take full advantage of a populace who respond to emotionally charged situations like ten year olds as well.

Our work as I see it, is to first become the role models of emotional maturity, then to teach this to our children… and, like this, we will continue to become more empowered and more capable of having the impact in our lives and in our work that makes all of the effort worth the while.

©Likone Corp 2003