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2009-07-08

How to Teach Your Teenage Boys to be Sensitive

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


10 comments:

Lucrecio Emerito said...

The Little Prince is a nice little classic. I myself like it.

Stereotypes make it hard to teach this lesson. I think girls should be taught to be tough in a feminine kind of way and boys should be taught to be sensitive in a masculine kind of way.

meandtheblueskies said...

Excellent. I think additionally you should add that a parent has to be aware of other adults in the teens life who sometimes fight against being sensitive like coaches, teachers, and other parents. Be aware when your child runs up against this type of person and help them decide how to deal with it.

Jena Isle said...

Hi Luke,

That's a wonderful suggestion Luke. Let me repeat it:

"I think girls should be taught to be tough in a feminine kind of way and boys should be taught to be sensitive in a masculine kind of way."

How I wish more parents would be able to read your very significant suggestion.

Jena Isle said...

Hello meandtheblueskies,

That's a good point. Yes, teens should be taught on how to deal with these types.

Society has created a norm which goes against this endearing quality. I hope more and more people would become aware of this fact and make some corrective measures in treating their children. In the end, it is through example that we could effectively teach them.

Mr. Nuggets said...

Jena, these are all good points. It touched on all the things that would do the job very well!

I think for boys and girls a big challenge is teaching them the balance between being sensitive and strong.

For my two oldest boys I had the benefit of studying martial arts with a man who had found that balance and incorporated it into his training.

In fact, he gave "Dedication" trophies to kids who did community service (as one small example). His curriculum was infused with training in principles such as honor, humility, indomitable spirit, respect, self-discipline.

I see the fruit of that in their lives now that their are in middle school and approaching high school. It is amazing to watch.

At our next "family night" I'm going to "steal" this post and use it as a focus for discussion, if you don't mind. Good stuff. Thank you for posting it!

pehpot said...

I think it should start as early as their kids, teaching them how not to be so tough and teaching them how to be caring to others

Make or Break

Jena Isle said...

Hi Mr Nuggets,

Thank you for a well thought of comment. You have presented . I like most especially this portion:

"In fact, he gave "Dedication" trophies to kids who did community service (as one small example). His curriculum was infused with training in principles such as honor, humility, indomitable spirit, respect, self-discipline."

These are noble traits that our teens should possess.

Thanks for lending more clarity to the article. All the best.

Jena Isle said...

Hi Pehpot,

Your suggestion is very sound. It's during childhood that character is built. Thanks.

Matt Dinnery said...

Just wanted to say thanks for using my photo, and thanks for the credit!

Jena Isle said...

Hi Matt,

There you are. Thanks too for the picture. At least I can thank you personally. Hope to be able to use your more of your photos in the future. Regards.