Sensitivity is defined by Merriam Webster's dictionary as "the awareness of the needs and emotions of others". In other words, it is the feeling of empathy that you feel for other people. You are sensitive when you are able to feel what the other person is feeling; therefore, it belongs to the affective domain which is a behavioral branch of science.
How can you raise your teenage boys to be sensitive? You have to be aware that since it is an affective behavior that you want to cultivate, then you should devise the most effective method.
For teenage girls this is easier but for teenage boys, it could be more difficult as society expects them to be tough. Like when a boy cries, you can hear the mother say: Stop crying, you're strong. You're a big boy now," implying to the child that crying is only for the weak.
It is in this society's cultural norms that teenage boys grow nowadays. Before you could effectively teach them how to be sensitive to people around them, you have first to change their perception of what and how boys/men should behave. You can only do this if you start "teaching" them at the earliest time possible.
To raise your teenage boys to be sensitive then is a great challenge for parents. Below are suggested methods in doing this:
1. Teach by example
A lesson can only be taught effectively if you as the "teacher" demonstrate how it is done. You instruct them: "Be sensitive to other people's needs." But they observe you ignoring their grandmother, learning then does not occur because your spoken words do not jibe with your actions.
If; however, you have shown concern and took time to attend to their grandmother, then they would learn about one specific way to show sensitivity.
2. Let them read a book that touches on sensitivity
There are interesting teen books on line and in bookstores that talk about how to care for the welfare of others and how to be concerned about other people's feelings. "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up" and "The Little Prince" are two of the many books that you could encourage them to read.
3. Bring them to a community outreach program
When they see other people serving others without expecting anything in return, they would learn the value of noble, generous service. You could allow them to participate in the distribution of gifts to poor children. This would be an actual exposure and immersion for them and would leave an imprint in their young minds. The joy of being able to help and make other people happy would be a unique "high" for them.
4. Instruct them on the importance of body language
Body language would be a good way of knowing the emotions of other people. Being sensitive to other people's feelings would promote a more peaceful atmosphere. Teach them how to "sense" a brewing problem through gestures and actions. "Actions speak louder than words," so they say. They should learn through practice the negative gestures that would warn them of impending trouble.
5. Teach them to learn how to dialogue
Oral communication should be utilized to "sense" what someone is feeling. They should know how to utilize spoken language to convey and determine what the other person is feeling.
All in all, sensitivity can only be taught through demonstrative action. This is because it is a behavioral output. To be able to effectively teach your teen boys to be sensitive, you must have this trait within you. Persist in showing them how to be sensitive through your own actions. You could never give what you don't have!
Photo by Matt Dinnery