Many teen boys can be all about aggressiveness, competition and manliness. While these can be virtues in the right environments and situations, there are other traits that can help your son be a well-rounded man and a happier man. Raising teenage boys to be productive and caring may seem like a challenge, but it can be done with a few simple but effective parental strategies.
Lead by example. Make great efforts to be kind, considerate and giving in your own day-to-day relationships. If you have job outside the home, maintain a positive attitude. If it's not your ideal job, be an example of how you can do a good job while you look for something you'd be happier doing. Have good relationships with your neighbors and make friendships a priority in your life. Your children will emulate you and become the individuals you model for them each and every day.
Introduce your son to those you admire, such as philanthropists, writers with high ideals, athletes who are good team-players and business owners and entrepreneurs with strong work ethics and scruples. Exposure to these heroes might be through books, movies, speeches or even your personal acquaintances. Teenage boys who do not have male role models in their lives may benefit from mentors. Check with community resources for mentoring or Big Brother programs. Realize that you cannot teach teen boys to be productive and caring on your own -- other influences will give them a well-rounded view of what it is to be a truly successful -- and that it isn't always about money.
Involve boys in charity work while they are young. Young teens can learn how to volunteer at a local children's hospital, assist with a fundraising car wash for a good cause or participate in fundraising sales for funds for new playground equipment. Giving freely without expecting anything in return teaches young men empathy and humility. It will also teach teenage boys to set and reach goals.
Reinforce positive behavior as soon as it occurs. If your son is especially helpful in assisting an elderly neighbor, compliment his good deeds. If he is conscientious about clearing the table and washing the dishes after a meal, let him know how much you appreciate his helpfulness. Making your teen feel important and productive will soon have him making such gestures second-nature.
Speak to your teen son as a mature individual. Treating him like a child and talking down to him will only turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy. Asking for his opinion, seeking his assistance and including him in adult conversations will go far in making him feel useful, needed and productive. Listen to him when he talks or ask questions. Give him your full attention and let him know that you value his input. He will learn from your interactions with him and utilize what he has learned from your social skills to gain the confidence and trust of others when he is older. In the book "Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys," authors Dan Kindlon, Ph.D. and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., state "If you are willing to ask consultative questions, put your emotional cards on the table, and not be disappointed by brief answers, you can communicate with boys."