My sensitive child is 7. She can burst into tears easily when her big brother hurts her, makes any kind of comments-good or bad, or even looks at her wrong. She will cry if he calls her beautiful just the same as when he calls her a mean name. Some kids just brush it off and have a thicker skin, but that is hard for her to do. She has a wonderful, sweet spirit and just happens to feel strongly when things get hard or when she makes a mistake. Often times she is just as emotional when she hurts someone else as when she gets hurt.
She needs discipline like all kids do, but she can’t be disciplined the same way as the other kids in our home. She’s a sensitive child and needs a little different approach.
If you have a sensitive child at home, here are some tips to discipline effectively:
Don’t try to discipline the sensitive out of them
Ever heard the phrase “I’ll give you something to cry about”? This threat will not help your sensitive child. An attitude like this tells your child that there is something wrong with her tears. Sensitive kids feel their emotions deeply. It’s a gift- not something for you to discipline out of them. Make sure when it comes to discipline that you are actually addressing a behavior that needs to change and not their high level of emotions. They should not be punished for their tears.
Make sure when it comes to discipline that you are actually addressing a behavior that needs to change and not their high level of emotions.
Allow natural consequences
Sensitive kids are very hard on themselves. Remember they feel deeply, which means they feel guilt, remorse, and shame much more than the average child. This natural consequence of bad choices will often be the biggest discipline they need.
Soften your voice and teach
Because your sensitive child has a built-in natural consequence, you don’t need to yell or use a stern tone to get her attention. Use a gentle tone as you redirect and teach your child about why their bad choice was not okay. It doesn’t have to be a long lecture. Just have a conversation about why the choice was not okay and what to do differently next time. Then give hugs and move on.
Build up don’t tear down
Remember that your sensitive child is probably beating up on herself before you even start talking. Her self-talk is negative and spiraling. Make sure you don’t add to the negativity in her head, instead make sure you are encouraging and helping her see all the great things about who she is.
Always connect during and after discipline
Hugs and cuddles are always good when disciplining a sensitive child. It comforts her strong emotions in order for you to calm her down and listen to what you have to say. Physical touch offers her reassurance of your love. Showing affection is one of the 7 things you should do for your child every day.
Don’t avoid discipline
Some parents fear disciplining their sensitive child. They worry that they will crush them if they do. The problem in doing this is it teaches the child that they can get away with whatever they want without consequence. This can lead to disaster later in life. Don’t avoid the discipline, just do it in a way that reinforces the boundaries and what she needs to do next time.
Remember all kids are different which means one discipline style won’t match every kid the same. As you try to figure out the best discipline method for your child, here are 8 questions to ask yourself.
What have you found the most helpful in parenting your sensitive child?
Teri Claassen is a Jesus follower, wife to Dan, mommy to one boy and one girl, a foster mom to kids in need, and a therapist at Renewed Horizon Counseling in Tampa, FL.