Raising a sensitive boy requires a different parenting approach
In a world where teaching boys to be “tough” and emotionally self-controlled is the norm, it can be hard to know how to effectively raise a sensitive boy. Popular parenting approaches often do not work with sensitive children. This can result in families feeling frustrated, defeated and sometimes resentful towards each other.
So where should you start?
In this article I will be providing you with a good understanding of what it means to be sensitive and giving you 10 tips for raising a sensitive boy.
What does it mean to be sensitive?
First, you need to have a good understanding of the characteristics of this trait to know how to best parent a sensitive boy.
A sensitive or highly sensitive person, regardless of age or sex usually:
- Feels things deeply
- Tends to notice more in their environment
- Is easily overstimulated by sensory input in their environment such as bright lights, smells and loud noises.
- Reflects on things intently before acting
- Is cautious
- Is very in tune with the emotions and feelings of others
- Has very strong emotional reactions.
It also very important to understand that high sensitivity is not a:
Ten tips for raising a sensitive boy in today’s world
1. Accept him for who he is
This is the first step in moving forward and strengthening the relationship with your son. It is important to understand that sensitivity can be a wonderful blessing when a child is raised in the right environment; however in an unsupportive family a child’s sensitivity can become a source of stress and low self-confidence for them.
Parents, especially fathers, need to take the time to understand and embrace their sensitive boys. Mindset can be difficult to change, but acceptance and supportive parenting approaches are essential to your sensitive son’s happiness and self-esteem.
High sensitivity is a personality trait that is not going to change by attempting to “toughen” a person up. In fact, this will do much more harm than good.
2. Maintain a routine
You want to maintain a consistent routine when raising your son as much as possible. Sensitive children thrive on predictability. In other words, knowing what to expect helps them feel more in control.
Changes and surprises that interrupt their routine can be very difficult for them. Give your son plenty of warning before any changes will be taking place when possible.
3. Avoid harsh discipline
Sensitive children need a gentler approach. Sons sometimes receive harsher punishments from parents than daughters do. This is very important to keep in mind when raising a sensitive boy.
You should avoid screaming at, shaming and criticizing your son because they will internalize this deeply.
I don’t want you to get the impression that a sensitive child should not have limits or the need to adhere to strict guidelines. Children, especially sensitive ones, want and need limits. It makes them feel safe and secure.
A more effective approach is getting down on their level, using a calmer tone/volume and being clear with expectations and consequences. Sensitive kids are usually rule followers who feel bad after doing something wrong. Make sure that you take the time to reassure them of how much they are loved. Spend time with them. Hug and praise them for their amazing qualities after disciplining and giving out consequences.
This may not be the approach to discipline that you were raised with or that feels natural to you, but it will be the most effective.
4. Understand his limits
Highly sensitive children are easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli in their environment like loud noise, crowds and visual stimulation. As a parent raising a sensitive son, you need to be aware of their stimulation level and when they have had enough.
In addition, it is important to know what places or situations trigger overwhelming feelings in your child. Birthday parties and special events, busy school days and loud, crowded locations may be very challenging for him. If pushed past their limits, sensory meltdowns and frustration are likely to occur.
5. Give him plenty of down time
Due to the fact that your sensitive boy feels and processes things more deeply, down time is very important. He needs to be able to remove himself from others and environments that overstimulate him. This allows your son to recharge and is essential to his well-being.
In addition, your son needs time to unwind after a busy, demanding day at school. School can be incredibly draining for a sensitive child. Give him time to relax. Let him have some quiet time in his room to engage in an activity that he enjoys. If time allows and he is interested, spend some quiet one-on-one time together playing a game, reading or just watching a show together. Try your best not to schedule anything directly after school and limit the amount of after school activities he is involved in.
It is important for your son to recharge after school and on the weekends.
6. Validate his feelings
No matter how ridiculous or embarrassing you believe your son’s feelings to be in any given situation, it is very important to validate his feelings. What he is feeling is real to him. He needs to feel understood and comfortable with expressing those emotions.
Avoid saying hurtful comments like, “Why are you being so sensitive?” or “That is such a silly thing to be upset about.”
Instead a positive response that validates feelings could be, “I see that you are really upset about (fill in the blank). I understand how it can make you feel (fill in the blank). What could we do next time to make the situation better?
7. Teach him how to identify and accept his emotions
Unfortunately in today’s society, expressing emotion is a much more acceptable behavior for a female than a male of any age. When they are very young, sensitive boys may cry or be scared more easily than others without thinking much of it. As they get older and more self-aware they may tend to repress their feelings to fit in.
Boys are taught to be “tough” and to control emotions that are seen as weak. They are often encouraged or learn on their own through negative experiences to hide their sensitive side, while girls are able to embrace it. Sadly, these expectations tell sensitive boys to act in a way that directly conflicts with their highly sensitive trait.
The truth is that sensitive boys feel things very deeply, whether they outwardly express it or not. Therefore, it is important to help a sensitive boy learn how to identify and express his feelings effectively.
Children take their cues from their parents, so it is necessary to take into account how you handle your emotions. Do you withhold them or lose control emotionally? Are you consciously or subconsciously teaching your child that certain feelings are not acceptable? How does your child’s intensity of emotions and outbursts affect you?
8. Help him navigate social situations
Sensitive boys make amazing friends. They are typically very respectful and caring toward their peers. Once they make a connection with another child they usually develop a deep friendship with them; however making these initial connections can be very difficult for a sensitive child.
If your son is having trouble making friends, it is important to re-evaluate the opportunities that they are being given to help them develop friendships. Sensitive kids want to develop friendships, but they often enjoy more quiet, predictable one-on-one interaction over joining in with a group of children.
Highly sensitive children have trouble jumping into a group setting. They like to observe before acting and prefer a less chaotic, intimate interaction. Unfortunately most childhood social interactions take place in group settings – playgroups, playgrounds, recess at school, and sports teams. As a parent raising a sensitive boy, you may need to set up or help facilitate one-on-one play dates. If they are older, help them find or start an interest group that would help them connect with like-minded peers.
9. Help him explore his interests
Help your son find activities that are enjoyable to him even if his interests vary greatly from your own.
It is common for parents to introduce sports to their sons at a young age. Fathers often want their sons to follow in their athletic footsteps and there is a lot of societal pressure for boys to be athletic. While participating in sports can provide wonderful experiences that helps boost self-esteem, they can also be very challenging for a sensitive child.
Each sensitive boy is different, but many highly sensitive children struggle with aggressive sports. Group sports like football or soccer that require a lot of aggression or fast movement can be very unpleasant for a sensitive child. You may find that they enjoy a more predictable or individual sport like martial arts, running, or golf.
If your son is not interested in sports, take the time to talk with him about what activities he enjoys and explore them with him. Check out your school, local libraries and community centers for similar interest groups like Lego clubs, Scouting, art classes, music lessons, etc. Getting him involved in a group of like-minded peers will help him build friendships and confidence.
10. Celebrate his sensitivity
How often do you focus on all the struggles that come with raising a sensitive boy?
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would probably answer “A lot!” As a parent it is easy to get caught up in the challenges and frustrations that come with parenting a sensitive child; however with a shift in mindset you can really begin to appreciate what an asset sensitivity can be.
Above all, it is important for your son to see his sensitivity in a positive light. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children that being highly sensitive is a blessing, not a burden. Be sure to praise their efforts and talents.
Often highly sensitive children are very intellectual, creative, attentive and thoughtful with the potential to be great friends and leaders.
You are their guide, lead them well
Sensitive boys may cry more easily or have more meltdowns, but living in a world that overwhelms them on a daily basis requires an amazing amount of strength and courage. They might not fit society’s idea of “strong” but they are indeed tenacious children who are capable of wonderful things when raised in a loving and encouraging environment. You are lucky enough to be their guide, so use these ten parenting tips for raising a sensitive boy and help your incredible son blossom!
Hi! I’m Maureen. I am a mom of two highly sensitive boys, a writer and course creator. I know the challenges and joys that you are facing raising your highly sensitive children, as I am experiencing them daily right along with you! Want to navigate this journey together? Get free access to my Highly Sensitive Child Resource Library for parents and join me in our Facebook group of over 1,000 parents raising sensitive kids!