8 Discipline Strategies for Parenting a Sensitive Child

Sensitive children pose a variety of unique parenting challenges. Emotionally sensitive kids become overwhelmed easily. They cry often, worry about getting into trouble frequently, and they require a great deal of reassurance.

Some sensitive children aren’t just emotionally sensitive, but they’re sensitive to anything that triggers any of their senses. Loud noises, bright lights or certain textures can send them into a tailspin. They might fear large crowds and struggle to deal with any type of change.

Sensitive kids are often viewed as shy. They're hesitant to try new things and they struggle to deal with frustration. Their peer interactions may suffer when other kids start referring to them as “the kid who cries a lot” or “the kid who gets mad easily.”

When determining your discipline strategies, take your child’s sensitivity into account. Yelling, harsh discipline or severe consequences are likely to cause more problems. Instead, find ways to nurture and guide a sensitive child who may be struggling to thrive in a less than sensitive world.

Accept Your Child's Sensitivity

These parenting strategies can make raising a sensitive child a little easier.
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Don’t try to change your child’s temperament. Instead of viewing your child as 'wimpy and whiny,' emphasize your child’s strengths and gifts. Teach your child to cope with difficult situations in a socially appropriate manner, while recognizing the difficulties your child experiences.

Provide Plenty of Downtime

Sensitive kids become overstimulated by large crowds, bright lights and chaotic environments. Avoid over-scheduling your child.

Create a “peace corner” with quiet activities such as coloring books, headphones with soothing music or books to read and encourage your child to use it when he's feeling overwhelmed.

Set Limits

Although it might be tempting to bend the rules to avoid upsetting a sensitive child, constant exceptions to the rules won’t be helpful in the long run. Be flexible, but make sure you're teaching your child how to become a responsible adult. If your discipline is too relaxed, he won’t be prepared to deal with the real world.

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Praise Your Child's Efforts

Praise your child’s efforts, even when he's not successful. Say, “I like the way you you kept trying hard when you were struggling with your math.” Make it clear that hard work and effort is worthy of praise, even if it doesn’t turn out perfect in the end.

It's especially important to provide praise when your child tells the truth. Sensitive children tend to lie to get out of trouble. So it's important to praise a child for being honest, especially if her honesty doesn’t paint her favorably.

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Provide Rewards

Use rewards to help your child feel a sense of accomplishment. Sensitive kids sometimes feel bad if they “get in trouble” so simply changing the way you word things can spin it into a reward. Instead of saying, “You can’t eat dessert unless you eat all your dinner,” say, “If you eat all your dinner you can earn dessert!”

Create a formal reward system to help your child earn rewards consistently. Just remember that a sensitive child may feel really bad if she doesn't earn a reward sometimes. Offer helpful reminders like, “You can try again tomorrow.”

Teach Feeling Words

Sensitive kids need to learn how to verbalize their feelings and they also need to learn appropriate ways to cope with those feelings. Use emotion coaching to teach your child how to identify and deal with uncomfortable feelings in socially acceptable ways.

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Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills can make a big difference in a sensitive child's daily life. Teach your child step-by-step instructions for tackling problems and she'll gain confidence in her ability to handle uncomfortable situations.

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Use Logical Consequences

Sensitive kids need negative consequences just like every other child. Just because a child cries or feels bad, doesn’t mean he should escape other consequences. Use logical consequences that will help your child learn valuable life lessons.

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