Societal norms demand that our boys learn to emotionally repress themselves. Boys are conditioned to master the art of suppressing their emotions and then blamed for not being able to express their feelings as men! Our tough-it-out culture can be extremely challenging and not to mention damaging especially for emotionally sensitive boys.

I know what I’m saying has been said by many so why beat an already dying drum?  Well, just this weekend I overheard a young mother admonish her son by saying, “Boys don’t cry like that. Toughen up!” Our culture, by and large, still expect our boys to toughen up and emotionally suppress themselves. This makes for a highly challenging and damaging upbringing for our boys, especially for those who are emotionally sensitive. 

Emotionally sensitive children tend to read other people’s emotions by observing facial expressions and monitoring voice tone. Emotionally sensitive children tend to respond to various situations from an emotional perspective. For example, while a non emotionally sensitive child might simply continue playing completely ignoring their parent’s or teacher’s request to stop until a parent/teacher completely loses patience, a sensitive child will quickly pick up and internalize those feelings.

How Do You Know if You’re Raising an Emotionally Sensitive Boy?

Here are 10 telltale signs that you might be raising an emotionally sensitive son: 

  1. They are aware of others’ discomfort and sometimes even mirror those emotions by crying when someone else cries.
  2. They may have unprovoked meltdowns after school or a busy day.
  3. They tend to prefer routines.
  4. They display a lot of emotions.
  5. They are perfectionists and have difficulties adjusting when things don’t go as planned or when they make mistakes.
  6. They’re startled by raised voices.
  7. They notice details and can spot even small changes.
  8. They tend to struggle with transitions.
  9. They don’t do well in large or loud gatherings.
  10. It takes them a while longer to warm up in unfamiliar environments.

How Can We Do Better at Supporting, Affirming and Nurturing Our Emotionally Sensitive Boy Child?

Watch Jeen-Yhus. Yes, I’m recommending a Netflix docufilm about the life of Kanye West, not because I am a die-hard Kanye fan but because in that docufilm Donda West shows us the blueprint in raising an emotionally sensitive young man. 

When children are developing their persona, skills, and self-esteem, it is important that the adults in their world actively seek out ways to increase their confidence. In Jeen-Yhus we see Donda actively validate her teenage son’s self-esteem by pointing out character attributes that make Kanye, Kanye. She didn’t try to compare him with another rapper or any of the other neighbourhood kids. Children feel valued, loved, heard, and respected, and encouraged to continue to get to know and explore themselves when adults point out and celebrate attributes that are organic to who they are.

3 Tips From the School of Donda West

Companionship: Make no mistake, Kanye understood that his mother was not one of his “little friends”, but he also knew that she was his friend and most trusted companion. A feat that can only be achieved through time. Being an educator Donda understood the value of spending purposeful and quality time with her son. Time spent alone with your child is so important and fosters respect, closeness, and relationship. As a result, your child will feel comfortable coming to you about anything and will not feel ashamed of their emotions. 

Conversation: This may seem obvious, but I’ve found that adults often feel that children, especially teenagers, are more interested in playing with their toys than conversing with them. I’ve found that most kids enjoy conversing with adults as it gives them a sense of maturity. Donda regularly conversed with Kanye and his friends about world events, music, fashion and his other interests. She even remembered lyrics to songs that he didn’t remember and pointed out why they were so poignant.

“You gotta remember that a giant looks in the mirror and sees nothing.”

Donda West

When Donda spoke there was always an intended purpose. So much so that Kanye and his friends knew to be quiet and soak in all her wisdom, but they were also not afraid to ask questions or share their differing views or opinions. It was this type of openness to dialogue and listening that allowed Kanye to feel safe enough to open up about issues that were either bothering or challenging him.  

Love: If there is only one thing we can take away from the school of Donda it’s that love translates best in actions. Donda consistently showed up to support her son at various talent shows and open mic nights. Even though her relationship with Kanye’s father didn’t work out, Kanye grew up knowing that he was their number one priority. He often speaks about how his mother did a phenomenal job assuring him that he was loved and supported by both parents. While your son may not become the next Kanye West he is still one of a kind and he needs and deserves to be seen and loved as such.  

Now I know Kanye’s recent behaviour is nothing to write home about, but I would argue that his recent behaviour further supports my belief that his mother played an integral and foundational role in helping him regulate his emotions and your posturing as a parent will also deeply impact how your emotionally sensitive boy child understand and regulate their emotions. While Kanye’s current situation is more intricately nuanced and I do not have the necessary qualifications to break it all down I am, however, thankful for the nuggets that I picked up from how Donda West nurtured and empowered her emotionally sensitive and creatively gifted son.