Disciplining A Highly Sensitive Child

When it comes to disciplining children as a parent, there isn’t one rule that fits all and in some circumstances, you’ll need to take a different approach to get through to your child and in the hopes that they’ll listen and learn from their mistakes.

This is the case with disciplining a highly sensitive child, and you’ll need to handle discipline so they don’t end up feeling isolated within the family and even grow to resent you. 

So if you’ve got a sensitive soul in your family, keep on reading to find out how to deal with discipline so they can change their behavior and hopefully grow into a more understanding and cooperative kid.

Be Empathetic

Be empathetic and acknowledge their emotions when they are annoyed or upset, as walking away from them will make them feel unseen and unappreciated. You need to take the time to listen to what they have to say and acknowledge how they’re feeling.

Try phrases like ‘I can see you’re upset’ or ‘I understand that you’re annoyed’ as it should give your child the opportunity to calmly explain why they’re acting this way as you’ve made them feel seen.

Don’t Blame Them

It can be hard when you’re angry or upset to not lash out and say the first thing on your mind, but with highly sensitive children you’ll need to think about what you say before you speak. 

Avoid blaming them for their behavior or mistakes and stay away from sentences like ‘Why did you do that?’ and try phrases such as ‘Let’s see if we can handle this in a better/nicer way’. 

Tone It Down

Yelling or raising your voice just won’t go far with a sensitive child and they’ll soon become scared of you and make them more upset.

Try to control your emotions even if you are incredibly annoying and speak in a calm yet firm voice so they understand what went wrong and where they can improve.

If you need to, go to the bathroom and stamp your feet or silently scream to get some anger out before approaching the situation to ensure you’re level-headed when approaching the situation.

Get Down On Their Level

Nothing is scarier to a highly sensitive child than their parents towering over them and telling them off. Get down on one knee or even sit next to them cross-legged on the floor so they feel safer and in control of the situation.

If you’re yelling down to your child then they will see you as the enemy and continue to scream or cry as they’re intimidated by you. 

For example, if your child is screaming at you go out and play in the yard with them, sit down next to them on the floor and encourage them to sit down, say to them ‘I’m going to be busy for 10 minutes or so and the more you’re screaming the longer it will take me to do my task.

Whilst you wait for me to finish what I’m doing, why don’t you go out and organize your toys nicely in the yard then I can come and join you as soon as possible.’

Offer Choices And Alternatives

Allow your child to feel in control of the situation by offering them choices instead of making them do what you want. 

If they’re crying because you’re tidying the house instead of playing with them say to them ‘Mommy/daddy is cleaning at the moment, you can help me tidy the house so I can play with you sooner or you can sit and play with your toys in the quiet zone whilst you wait for me to finish, what would you like to do?’.

This reaction will result in a better response than if you were to say ‘Go to your room or leave me alone whilst I finish’. 

Show Love To Them After Disciplining

Chances are your sensitive child is going to feel bad and linger over what they’ve done wrong, so ensure you show them some love and affection so they know you still love them.

After disciplining them, hug them and praise them for listening to you and being understanding and tell them that you love them and how much they mean to you.

Do Not Compare Them

Comparing your highly sensitive children to any other children in the home or their friends is a definite no-no as this will make them feel like you don’t love them as much as others.

You’ll need to learn to accept that not everyone’s the same and that being sensitive is not always a flaw. 

Whatever you do, do not utter any phrase that starts with ‘Why can’t you behave/be like/act like….?’ 

Provide Rewards For Good Behavior

Whether it’s a star on the good behavior chart or a piece of candy for eating all their dinner, highly sensitive children respond well to rewards for behaving well. 

However, be careful how you structure your wording when explaining rewards to them.

Instead of saying ‘If you don’t pick up your toys in your room then you can’t go to the park tomorrow’ say ‘Once you’ve picked up all your toys and tidied your room, mommy/daddy will take you to the park’. 

Create A Quiet/Calm Zone In The House

Highly sensitive kids can get easily overwhelmed by loud noises or busy situations which can cause them to react in a bad way. So allow time for them to unwind and feel safe in their surroundings, especially after a busy day filled with activities.

Find a quiet zone in your home and make it a ‘calm spot’ with some blankets, stuffed animals, or some books where your child can enjoy some time alone.

This way when you notice your child is overstimulated or acting up, you can ask them to take some time in their quiet zone instead of punishing them by sending them to a naughty corner or step. 

After they have spent some time there they should have calmed down and you will be able to communicate with them effectively and explain what went wrong without voices being raised.

Be Clear With Your Expectations Each Time

Highly sensitive children often grow up to be people pleasers and don’t like to disturb the peace so often follow rules set out strictly.

Therefore, if you set out rules and expectations with them from the start, they will be more likely to follow them instead of misbehaving, and then you haven’t to discipline them.

When everyone is old enough to understand, gather the family together in the living room or around the dinner table and explain what expectations you have for your children in terms of behavior.

This could be anything from no TV before homework or no screaming at each other when you’re arguing.

Gathering everyone as a family will ensure your sensitive child understands that the rules apply to everyone and that they are not being singled out. 

Each time you go somewhere new or somewhere out of the house, take the time to explain or reinforce your expectations in regards to behavior so they understand.

For example, if you’re visiting family friends, reiterate your expectations for them to be polite to others and to not run around screaming and making a scene.