Discipline is an important aspect of raising children, but doesn’t mean raising your voice or punishing your children.
This is even more important to remember when parenting highly sensitive children.
But knowing exactly how to discipline their child is something the parents of highly sensitive children struggle with, and this is because highly sensitive children tend to feel emotions more acutely than other children.
But before we get into certain behaviours you can adopt while parenting your highly sensitive child, you must at first recognize that there is nothing wrong with being sensitive.
Being sensitive can make you more in tune with the world around you, and more kind and compassionate, which are admirable qualities that should be nurtured.
Understanding A Highly Sensitive Child
It’s easy for highly sensitive children to become overwhelmed. They’re prone to crying and fretting about getting into trouble, and often need lots of reassurance.
They also experience intense emotions and are more likely to be overexcited, lose their temper easily, and are easily frightened.
Highly sensitive children can be intuitive, and sensitive to other people’s emotions, but they’re also sensitive to anything physical that triggers their senses.
Bright lights, loud noises or certain textures can be unbearable for a highly sensitive child. They may hate large crowds or struggle with change.
This means that sensitive children can be reluctant to try new things and struggle to deal with feelings of frustration.
In situations like school where children are still figuring out how to behave around each other it can be tough for any child, but especially a highly sensitive child.
Their intense emotions can be a source of ridicule and that is deeply painful for a highly sensitive child.
Harsh punishments and overly strict discipline are counterproductive for all children, but especially so for highly sensitive children.
It’s important to find a way to nurture and guide sensitive kids, especially since it seems like the world is designed to punish them for their sensitivity.
Accepting Their Sensitivity
Acceptance is the key to parenting a highly sensitive child. If your child is sensitive, do not try to change them.
It’s natural to worry that your child’s sensitivity will cause problems for them and make them unhappy, but this is not the case if they are accepted and recognized for their strengths and gifts.
Also, don’t compare your highly sensitive child to their peers. Again, it’s easy to do this as children develop, but every child is unique.
It’s important to recognize that what might come easy for one child may be difficult for a highly sensitive child.
Also, don’t try to shelter your child from their intense emotions. This can lead to repression that is harmful in the long run. Instead, teach your child how to deal with their emotions.
There may be times when you feel frustrated by your child’s sensitivity, especially when it feels like it’s having a negative impact on them, but remember that your child’s sensitivity is also responsible for their compassion and kindness.
These are two of their greatest gifts!
Providing Them With Downtime
Highly sensitive children are often introverted, meaning they become overwhelmed by large crowds and instead prefer to be with smaller groups of people, and need time to themselves to recharge.
Large crowds, bright lights and busy environments can also overstimulate your child.
It’s important not to cram your child’s day with activities, to limit extracurricular activities and provide them with plenty of downtime at home.
You can even create a ‘peace corner’ at home that is intended for quiet activities such as coloring, listening to soothing music, or reading.
The peace corner can also be a refuge for sensitive children when they’re overwhelmed. Next time your child is overwhelmed, ask them if they would like to unwind in their peace corner.
Recognizing And Praising Their Efforts
Highly sensitive children need lots of encouragement. No matter what the outcome, always praise their efforts, but make sure this praise is earned.
Children who are praised no matter what they do actually tend to have lower self-esteem than those who are praised more sporadically.
Plus, children are not stupid, especially not highly sensitive children. They’ll know condescension when they see it.
An example of praising their efforts would be to say, “I’m proud of you for trying with your homework, it was pretty hard, wasn’t it?” This sends a message that hard work and effort are important.
It’s also important to praise your highly sensitive child when they tell the truth. This is because highly sensitive children often feel that they have to lie to avoid getting in trouble.
Praising your child for being honest is crucial, especially in a situation where being honest would be difficult for them.
Also, remember to praise your sensitive child when they are compassionate, kind, and think of the feelings of others.
This encourages them to continue being empathetic and reminds them just how important it is to be kind and compassionate.
Teach Them How To Express Themselves
It’s important for highly sensitive children to learn how to verbalize their feelings, and to learn appropriate strategies to cope with their intense emotions.
Emotion coaching can teach your children how to pinpoint and deal with feelings that make them uncomfortable.
Highly sensitive children will often show you how they’re feeling rather than tell you. Teaching your child how to identify their feelings with words helps to improve their communication skills.
Giving their feelings a name helps them to communicate, and also helps you to better understand how they’re feeling.
Teach Them How To Problem Solve
Highly sensitive children are easily overwhelmed, and when you’re overwhelmed it can be hard to think and respond to situations.
It’s important for sensitive children to know how to think of solutions that can relieve stress and anxiety. Teaching them how to problem-solve can help with this.
Problem-solving skills can make a big difference in how any child navigates the world, but even more so for highly sensitive children.
Teaching your children how to tackle their problems step by step helps them to grow in confidence and to be able to handle uncomfortable situations.
The Importance Of Rewards
Highly sensitive children often take it hard if they feel like they’re in trouble. But simply changing how you phrase certain things can turn what feels like a punishment into a reward.
For example, instead of saying “if you don’t eat your dinner then you’re not getting dessert,” say “There’s dessert in the fridge if you eat your dinner!”
A formal reward system also helps children celebrate milestones, instilling them with a sense of accomplishment and encouraging positive behaviour.
However, highly sensitive kids may take it harder than most when they don’t earn a reward.
Again, instead of making your child feel they are being deprived of something or like they are being punished, offer words of encouragement like “there’s always tomorrow to try again.”
Nobody wants to upset their child, but parents of highly sensitive children often think they have to be more lenient with negative behaviour from their child or risk further upsetting them.
But this isn’t helpful in the long run. Don’t overlook behaviours that could lead to bad habits.
Instead be flexible, and assess the situation to find the appropriate response. Reasonable discipline that doesn’t involve intimidation or over-the-top unnecessary punishment is key.
After all, we all make mistakes, and children need to learn when this has happened so they can grow up to be responsible adults.
Ignoring transgressions denies your highly sensitive child the chance to learn and grow which is essential for a healthy development.
Other Signs Your Child May Be Highly Sensitive
Certain clothes make them uncomfortable: Seams in socks and itchy tags are not just small nuisances for a highly sensitive child, but can be unbearable.
This is because of their sensory processing sensitivity.
To make their children more comfortable, some parents may order special seamless socks to make the process of getting dressed easier for their children.
Highly sensitive children can often find wet or sandy clothes unbearable. Having a spare outfit to hand when you go to the beach or head outdoors is always useful.
Their minds are like sponges: This is evident in the thoughtful questions your child asks, to the precocious use of big words they may have only heard a couple of times, to the difficulty in making decisions because their minds are racing with different possibilities.
Difficulty sleeping even after a busy day: Highly sensitive kids need their downtime, and sleep is a vital part of that.
However, due to their active minds, drifting off to sleep can be a challenge, especially after an exciting, stimulating day. Easing them into bedtime can be the solution here.
This includes engaging them in quiet, calming activities to reduce the intensity of stimuli and help them unwind.
Parenting a highly sensitive child can be challenging. But avoiding discipline altogether to avoid upsetting your highly sensitive child is not the answer.
Discipline that is measured, reasonable, and non-excessive can help children to distinguish between right and wrong, but needs to be tailored to every child.
We hope the above strategies not only help you in parenting your highly sensitive child, but also help you in guiding your highly sensitive child through a tough world and help them to flourish.
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