Rock and Water and Identity Development,
by Freerk Ykema

The development of identity in the Rock and Water Programme

The Rock and Water Program is an educational programme that aims to enhance the social, emotional and spiritual development of boys and girls all over the world.

Guidance in a changing society

The programme originates from The Netherlands where people started to express their concern about the decrease of academic performance of boys at school and the increase of alcohol abuse, drug abuse and violence. Although originally designed for boys only, the trainers of the programme have found that girls also respond very well.

The program has a very positive approach. Its focus is on the qualities and developmental tasks that young people face when growing up. Especially nowadays, living in a multi-cultural, fast changing society, there is a desperate need for guidance of youth in finding their way to happiness, real strength and meaningfulness. In many traditional cultures it was common to guide young people, boys and girls, through an Initiation Process, (a kind of Rites of Passage,) that made the passage from childhood to adulthood a lot easier and safer.

Given the intense pressure to perform that young people are now subjected to, it is especially unfortunate that Rites of Passage rituals no longer exist. To some degree The Rock and Water Programme can be seen as a substitute for the guidance given in traditional Rites of Passage processes. The programme presents a safe path with clear values and standards.

Developmental tasks

The aim of the programme is to build a Rock and Water Person. This is a person who is aware of their own qualities and who has the courage to follow their feelings, who is willing to discover their own path and who will be able to manage the responsibilities and challenges they encounter on their way through life.

Children are all unique.  Their bodies are different, they are under the influence of different hormones (testosterone versus oestrogen,) this has an impact on their energy and their emotions, and they experience slightly different development of both brain hemispheres. Therefore they need, sometimes, different educational support.

Psycho-physical didactic

In the Rock and Water prgramme,  skills are first introduced by way of physical exercises, after which a connection is made to social and mental skills. Starting from a strong physical basis, the children set off along a path that leads to self-awareness and the insight that people are mutually connected in various ways.

Verbal-emotional development and physical-emotional development

Verbal-emotional and physical-emotional development are the two main ways that one can follow to become aware of ones own, unique qualities and possibilities, one’s position in the group, and finally one’s tasks and responsibilities and the inner path to follow to become a genuine person.

Verbal-emotional development means that awareness is gained through self-reflection and the verbalisation of emotions and feelings.

Physical-emotional development involves more physical ways of communication by which the children build up self-awareness and the needed social skills. By being physical , participants develop self-awareness, and the social and mental skills they need to become aware of their own purpose and to become fine adults.

Some children have a preference to physical-emotional development: awareness through physical action. Preference means that it is possible to teach them other ways that lead to self-awareness, such as through reflecting and verbalising (verbal-emotional development), but it takes more energy. It is not their easiest route. In fact, we need to teach this, because verbal-emotional development forms a basis for the important communication skills that are needed to become successful in our modern society.

Physical-social teaching: putting both ways together

Summarising: boys and girls both need the verbal-emotional way of development just as they both need the physical-emotional developmental path. In the Rock and Water Programme both ways are brought together in a new didactical approach called Physical-Social Teaching.

The Rock and Water Person

You can start teaching rock and water exercises when boys and girls are around six years old. At this age you have to start to work with the fundamentals of the programme. The main focus will be on standing strong, learning how to communicate, other social skills, how to deal with and prevent several forms of violence such as bullying. They are all important skills to develop a strong social identity.

When around 14/15 years old or older the focus will be more inward. As their brains mature more and more (boys will be behind the girls in this development) boys and girls are confronted by questions such as:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my qualities?
  • Which way do I have to go in life?

Answering these questions will help them to develop their psychological identity.

The concept of the Inner Compass will be discussed, examined and practised by doing mental strength exercises and inner strength exercises. Topics will be around sexuality, solidarity and spirituality.

Boys and girls around the age of 14–18 feel very insecure and lonely. They know they are different and unique but they don’t yet possess fully developed communication skills, and are often not aware enough to be confident about their own direction. Therefore they want to be part of a group, and so they become very sensitive to peer pressure. What they need is:

  • Understanding of their difficult position respect (even if they make stupid mistakes)
  • Support (in many ways, a wink of an eye can sometimes be sufficient)
  • Love (education is more about building up relationships between teacher and students than being filled with knowledge)
  • Inspirational teachers and inspirational education (education that connects with the inner core of the students taught by teachers who live their own dream)

The last step in normal human development is the development of spiritual identity. The question “who am I” will then slowly transform into the question “who are we”. On a deeper level this person understands his/her task in life, responsibilities, interconnectedness with all people and life in general, around him or her. This person understands the gift of inspiration and feels humbled by that. This person has a deep respect for the mystery of life.

The feeling of connectedness is essential and has a deep impact on morality. This person is positive in mind, trusts their heart, is compassionate with others, and follows the path that lies in front of them.

Freerk Ykema
Author/presenter Rock and Water Programme
Director Gadaku Institute