The rough-looking teen’s tough veneer had softened. I detected tears in his eyes.
“No one has ever said anything like that to me.”
Just minutes before, I met this teen in a line at our local amusement park. After a brief conversation, I dug a little deeper and asked Jared what he was good at. “Are you kidding?” He seemed angry. “Look at me.” Violent tattoos, tattered dark clothes, a defiant countenance and multiple piercings on his ears, nose, eyebrows and lips were suggestive of a hard life.
There are challenging kids, and there are “over-the-top” challenging kids. Research suggests that around 15% of all children are considered highly sensitive. What does this mean for parents of kids who exhibit these characteristics? More importantly, what kinds of behaviors classify as highly sensitive? Knowing that your child may be more sensitive than most need not be overly burdensome, there are many strategies for helping highly sensitive children thrive. Are any of the following comments true about your child? If so, read on to discover positive ways to help your child celebrate their uniqueness and succeed.
Does this sound like your child?
“Dressing is always an ordeal for my daughter. No tags, and sometimes no socks, because the seams drive her crazy.”
“My teen has never been a touchy kid. It used to be tough to get him to slow down for a hug, but now he even pulls away and acts like I’ve violated his space.”
“My child is such a picky eater. I feel like I’m always special order cooking from the ‘brown and white’ food group.”
“My son just can’t sit still – he’s always squirming and wiggling. It’s almost impossible to get him to slow down, look me in the eye and really listen.”
“My daughter’s mood swings are extreme and sometimes very sudden. The littlest things can set her off. Talk about intense! Her meltdowns wear me out.”
“My child is easily over-stimulated. Large groups of kids, crowded places or busy stores are usually a prescription for trouble.”
These comments are from parents who have one thing in common: highly sensitive children! These kids are easily overwhelmed by intense or aversive sensations from their body or their surroundings. They are almost always kids with highly sensitive nervous systems, and their challenging behavior is about much more than defiance or disobedience.
Jesus was defiant.
He defied Satan’s temptation. He defied the religious structures of the day. He defied legalism. He even defied death.
One of our problems as parents is that we treat our kids’ defiance as if it is entirely bad. We then seek to make it go away – sometimes at all costs.
What if instead of a thinking of defiance as a problem we saw it as evidence of a gift God put in our children, coming out in unrefined, selfish, or sinful ways?
After all, it takes boldness, conviction, strength of will, and a plan to be defiant.
What if our job was not to make defiance go away, but to affirm and re-purpose those talents after the pattern of Jesus’ defiance?
Apply It Now
Pretty much every kid loves to experiment with chaos: dropping food, smearing things, investigating cupboards or containers, throwing toys — you name it, a toddler has probably gotten into it.
It can be easy to get aggravated when your child gets into yet another mess. But if we expect kids to just stop when we say “stop,” we’re probably not going to get very far.
Why? Because we’re fighting their brains.
“What does Connected Families teach about obedience?” Hannah, who was exasperated with her defiant preschooler’s flighty behavior in a parking lot, explained the context for her question:
When I was leaving Bible study I asked my 3-year-old to stay with me, or hold my hand, or I could carry him. He said he wanted to walk next to me, but then ran off several times, despite my request to “Stop now, and come to me please.” Each time I would pick him up, remind him to stay with me if he wasn’t going to hold my hand. He bucked his body and threw his hands in my face. When I got him to the car my anxiety escalated into an angry lecture – which he ignored, while his big brother giggled at the whole fiasco. Help! What could I have done differently?
Connected Families believes that learning obedience is a long process rooted in love, trust and a parent’s wise guidance. This follows the biblical model of how we learn obedience to God — not out of fear but out of understanding how much God loves us, combined with experiencing the natural result when we disobey his wise commands (Galatians 6:7). The more we learn, the more we trust that God has really good reasons for what he tells us to do.
So let’s put that theology to the test with a feisty 3-year-old going A.W.O.L.
Recently Jim and Lynne sat down with the folks over at the Positive Parenting podcast to talk about how to discipline in a way that actually connects with kids.
The full podcast is 30 minutes — Listen or download below:
Download: Positive Parenting Ep39 Audio – Connected Families
In this episode…
- Why methods matter less than the messages you communicate
- How to help kids make wise decisions — even toddlers!
- Questions you can ask to de-fuse volatile situations
- How to find the good stuff even in kids’ misbehavior
- What to do when teens feel distant and disconnected
- Four powerful messages that all children long to hear
As a typically impatient, “get it done” sort of dad, I found myself in our early parenting years using my big voice and strong presence to move my kids into action.
This approach worked great for me! …But my wife Lynne, in my opinion, seemed to spend too much time arguing with the kids or letting them try to talk things out.
Lynne did two things that helped me grow to be more thoughtful, honoring, and wise.
John was fed up. He told me that everything he’d tried had failed.
No matter what consequences or logic John put in place, his 6th grade son Ben just wouldn’t take responsibility for getting himself up and moving and out the door on time for school.
greg westfall | iStockphoto.com
Recently we received this question from Michelle:
I am struggling with a tween who often says no to my requests. She is a good girl most of the time, but she will be disrespectful to me and I have no idea what appropriate/related consequences to give her when she tells me “no” and then in essence dismisses me by looking back down at her book, ipod, etc. I try to remain calm but when I tell her this is a warning and that she will have a consequence for not obeying, she will look at me and ask what it is. And normally say, “oh well, no big deal” and still not obey me. I also realize that hormones are playing a part in her behavior but she can not say no to me when I ask her to do something. HELP!!! Normally she will apologize later that night when we are praying together but she still didn’t do whatever I asked.
Noedelhap | iStockphoto.com
“You’re stupid!” says the frustrated child.
The parent feels annoyed, even a bit angry and responds, “You can’t talk to me that way! You’re grounded for the rest of the day! You go to your room and think about what you said!”
Parents often deal with situations like this hoping to teach their children a lesson — but sometimes this typical sort of guidance can lead in the wrong direction. This sort of consequence may lead to more anger and disrespect down the line.
Here are three characteristics of unhelpful consequences that parents often give to their misbehaving or struggling kids.