Disciplining is challenging for any parent. But when you are disciplining a highly sensitive child (HSC), you need to be especially careful as it can affect their development in the long run. Here are some awesome tips for successfully disciplining sensitive children.
Discipline Sensitive Kids Differently
Do you have a highly sensitive child and have no idea how to discipline them? Children who are sensitive and emotional view the world differently. Discipling them too harshly can often lead to intense consequences that can affect them in their adulthood.
These kids are typically extremely sensitive to their environment and react to everything differently. They may face difficulty coping with loud sounds, strong lights, intense scents, or even certain textures and may feel overwhelmed. They can easily read the emotions and moods of their parents and peers due to their enhanced awareness.
Sensitive kids also tend to have higher cognitive skills, creative skills, emotional intelligence, empathy & compassion. However, they are also easily affected by neglect, criticism, emotional turmoil, and changes. Studies show that sensitive individuals have “greater sensitivity and responsivity to environmental and social stimuli.”
Author Maureen Healy explains that sensitive kids require special attention, care, and guidance so that they can be empowered to consider their sensitivity more as a strength than a weakness. Parents should provide HSCs with “tools to tap into the ‘upsides’ of their sensitivity, such as insight, creativity, and empathy, while simultaneously learning how to manage their rich emotional lives.”
But when you, as a parent, discipline your emotional child in an aggressive or critical manner, you can damage their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The truth is, when you are disciplining a highly sensitive child, you need to take a gentler and positive approach.
It will build the ground for self-discipline throughout their life and allow them to become well-adjusted and happy adults. “Effective and positive discipline teaches and guides children. It doesn’t just force them to obey,” explains a 2004 study.
Understanding A Highly Sensitive Child (HSC)
Although only a small percentage of children appear to be highly sensitive, they are more sensitive and responsive to positive and negative influences in the environment than others. A highly sensitive child has a strong awareness, which makes them think before they act and respond to their environment very differently by detecting sudden and subtle changes.
They behave consistently and responsibly, follow the rules, and are compassionate towards others. However, some sensitive kids can be temperamental, aggressive, moody, demanding, highly emotional, and hyperactive. Some others can be more introverted, reserved, and shy with limited social interaction skills.
According to psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, HSCs can have different personas and temperaments. He explains “One category of the highly sensitive child is emotional, and another is rage. These categories look different and cause different behavior; however, they are all caused by hypersensitivity, thoroughly deep feelings, and quick reactions.”
As emotional and sensitive children are easily overwhelmed, they tend to worry and cry frequently, may seem needy, seek validation and show strong emotions, such as fear, anger, etc. They may also avoid socializing or being in crowded places, have difficulty with new experiences, and become frustrated easily.
Psychotherapist & international bestselling author Amy Morin, LCSW, writes “While strict discipline may help some kids adjust their behavior, harsh punishments are likely to cause more problems with sensitive kids.” This is why when it comes to disciplining a highly sensitive child, you should focus on guiding them and helping them nurture their strength.