Helping Your Highly Sensitive Child

Helping Your Highly Sensitive Child
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.

What’s REALLY Behind Kids’ Misbehavior?

Have you ever noticed that some kids argue more persuasively than others? Or that some kids’ schemes are actually quite creative? Or that some kids’ resistance to our requests is so persistent that we actually give in to them sometimes? This persuasiveness, creativity, and persistence is evidence that something else is at work. Their misbehavior is not just about their sin. It is also about the unique ways God built them. 

This understanding is critical, because in our haste to punish our children’s misbehavior, we may miss an opportunity to affirm and encourage God’s gifts in them.

Building the Family Team: A Solution to Chore Wars

7-year-old Bryce was a master “chore evader.” When asked to help with chores, this distractable drama king would slump over and whine, “But I wanted to play!” His parents, Sandy and Jeff, had run out of ideas and came to me (Lynne) for help.

When kids begin chore wars, often the most effective response is not declaring war but shifting perspective and discipling children through the process. In this case, I helped Sandy and Jeff develop the following practical plan as they shifted their efforts from focusing on “How do we stop the complaining and get some help?” to “How can we use this opportunity to build character and even faith?”

Don’t Punish Your Child’s Nervous System — Understand It!

Do Not Punish Child Nervous System
There are challenging kids, and there are “over-the-top” challenging kids. If standard parenting approaches just don’t work, or if you resonate with one or more of the comments below, you may well have an above average challenge with your child. If so – today’s parenting tip is for you!

  • Dressing is always an ordeal for my daughter. No tags, and sometimes no socks, because they 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, 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.

Dealing With Rejection: A Surprising Use for a $20 Bill

Kids are rejected from every side. Sometimes the rejection or criticism comes from a teacher that just doesn’t “get” your kid. Sometimes it comes from an angry family member. Sometimes it’s rejection from peers, gossiping, getting picked last in gym class. These daily rejections can erode our children’s sense of being loved and valuable. Being thoughtful about how to counter rejection will help your kids learn to weather the storm.

The following is an activity you can do with your kids to help them understand.

How to Address Bullying: Part 3

Are We Teaching Our Kids to Bully?

I saw her coming, eyes flashing and surveying the crowded checkout lines. Her cart was full. Mine was too. I shifted my gaze to the lines as well. It was time to go and there was no way I was going to let her find the shortest line first. I was going to win!

The desire to be victorious, to be superior, resides in all of us. This desire takes many forms. At shopping centers we rush to snatch up parking spots, limited-supply free samples (I really love the prime beef at Costco!), and the shortest checkout lines. When in conflict we do what we need to do to win. Some of us get loud. Some of us get quiet. Some of us get mean. We all want to win.

We do it with our kids, too. We put our hands on our hips and raise our voices. We do what’s needed to command respect, but it often creates fear in our children. We “win” when they comply. In subtle but powerful ways they learn that winning is what matters. This is how our children get drawn into the world of winners and losers – the world of bullying. A world where no one really wins.

What if just today we engaged our kids, our colleagues, our spouses and our fellow humans with no need to win? What if we treated them like teammates, not opponents? What if today we decided to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” but “rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”? (Phil 2:3-4)

What if?

Check out part one and part two in our series on bullying if you missed them!

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How to Address Bullying: Part 1

The Diamond in the Rough of Bullying

This is the first in a series about a thoughtful and graceful approach to bullying. It’s a little longer than usual. Hopefully you’ll see why.

You learn that your child has been bullied at school. Your blood pressure skyrockets. You want justice NOW! “THIS IS NOT OK! I’M CALLING THE SCHOOL!!” An understandable reaction. It is natural to quickly and emotionally defend your child against harm. But to do so is to potentially miss the great opportunity to find diamonds in the rough of bullying.

Don’t get us wrong. We hate bullying and want to do what we can to make it stop. But let’s be honest. The things people typically do to get bullying to stop aren’t working. Just look at our politicians! Look at our justice systems. Look at our juvenile detention centers. Mean talk and punitive approaches are only leading to more bullying.

Even in our own homes, when parents react strongly and try to take immediate control, they may unwittingly add power to the bullying and disempower their children!

Consequences That Actually Work! (Part 2 – Logical Consequences)

Consequences that Actually Work 1,2,3 (3)

Last week we kicked off our series on Consequences That Actually Work with a post on the importance of natural impacts. Today we look at what to do when natural impacts are not enough to help kids make things right.

Logical consequences

When children are not motivated by natural consequences, they may need more concrete consequences to help them learn. A logical consequence is simply an enforced consequence that is related as closely as possible to the misbehavior. This could include losing a related privilege, or requiring the child to fix what they broke.

Consequences That Actually Work! (Part 1 – Natural Consequences)

 
 Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing three types of consequences that make sense, are easy to implement, and most importantly will really help your children learn the value of making a better decision next time!

Natural impacts (aka Natural consequences)

Many impacts, or consequences, for misbehaviors like disrespect or irresponsibility occur naturally, without the intervention of an adult. We call these “natural impacts.”

For example, if a child has a messy room, she may not be able to find her shoes in the morning before school. If a child hits his brother, he may feel “icky” inside. If a child tells a lie, people won’t be as likely to trust him. By helping my children to understand and experience these natural impacts, I help them learn about the true causes and effects that will follow them into life beyond the walls of our home.

6 Destructive Lies We Tell Ourselves — And How to Fight Them!

Sometimes we humans seem to act unpredictably or irrationally. But every action has a purpose, rooted in an underlying or “core” belief. Our core beliefs are what guide our behavior.

The way core beliefs are formed is complex. Our environment, the media, our peers, and mostly the homes we grew up in are the major contributors to the things we believe about ourselves and others. Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about this, but the beliefs are there regardless, and contribute greatly to much of our behavior. Core beliefs deeply affect our parenting. For example, if conflict was treated as a problem and swept under the rug in the home I grew up in, then I will likely feel very anxious about conflict and will work hard to avoid it or put a quick stop to it in my children. My core belief may be, “People should be nice and not have conflicts.”

What “tapes” do you play in your head?

The funny thing about core beliefs is that they become almost imperceptible repeating “tapes” that play over and over again in our minds. When we learn to say them out loud they sound almost ridiculous. But they hold power over us until we can replace them with new “tapes” or phrases that grow from truth.