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.
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 these 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 boys to be sensitive then is a great challenge for parents.
Below are suggested methods of 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 or being insensitive to the feelings of other family members. Do you think your sons would believe you? Genuine learning would not occur because what you say are not in congruence with your actions.
On the other hand, if you show concern and take time to attend to their grandmother and other family members who need you, then they would learn about one specific way to show sensitivity.
Inculcating in them the Golden Rule could help a lot in this endeavor. Sometimes when boys are not “taught” how to be sensitive, they grow into men, who are also callous, self centered and selfish.
You should also teach them the value of being considerate. This story by Holly Jahangiri “Promises, Promises” is an appropriate example of how the teacher -who is supposed to be a responsible adult – demonstrated an insensitive behavior.
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” (www.chickensoup.com/), The Little Prince are two of the many books that you could allow them to read.
If you have more suggestions, feel free to contribute them in the comment section.
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. They would be more aware of being “sensitive” to other people’s needs.
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 observation – the negative gestures that could warn them of impending trouble.
5. Teach them the skill of effective communication
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. Some pointers include: listening carefully to what the other person is feeling, facing the person one is talking to, having an eye to eye contact with the person, not interrupting when one is speaking, and several others, don’t use sarcasm on children. Here is a helpful article from Patricia Rockwell on doing this effectively.
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 young 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!
What about you? Do you have any suggestions about this topic? Your ideas would be highly appreciated.
Photo by mikebaird