Does it feel like your child is “out of sorts” but you can’t understand why? Do things seem much more difficult for one of your kids than the others? It might simply be that your child struggles with sensory sensitivities: either sensory-seeking, sensory-avoidant, or a combination of the two.
Have you said any of the following?
- “Loud. It’s my son’s only volume level. It’s really draining.”
- “Dressing is always an ordeal for my daughter. No tags, and sometimes no socks, because the seams drive her crazy.”
- “Transitions are so hard. When my son is locked onto his toys, getting him pried away and out to the car is soooo difficult.”
- “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 overstimulated and anxious. Large groups of kids, crowded places or busy stores are usually a prescription for trouble.”
- “Mealtimes are insane with the noise, squirming, rocking and even falling off chairs.”
Parents want to be able to help their kids calm down when conflict happens. So it can be quite discouraging when conflicts spiral out of control. If screaming matches are normal at your house, or even if they are infrequent but still troublesome, here are three developmental stages to consider. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, we’ll offer practical tips to help you teach your kids to calm down so they can solve problems well.
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.
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.
Thomas Edison often tops the list of the world’s greatest inventors.
We have him to thank for (among other things) the phonograph, the first motion picture camera, and the lightbulb, about which he famously said of his many failed prototypes, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
But we’re interested in a less famous quote of his: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me: and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”
You see, as a child, “Tom” Edison was seen as a difficult child with a learning disability (dyslexia). His strict teachers didn’t understand why he couldn’t memorize and recite his lessons like the other children, and referred to young Tom as “addled” — a catch-all term at the time to mean that he was mentally incapable. This caused Tom to storm out of class one day, heading home to his mother.
We can hardly believe it’s 2015 already! Before we dive into a year of new blog posts, we thought we’d dwell for just a moment on some of your favorites from 2014. Here are the ten most-clicked parenting tips of 2014.
P.S. If you know a friend or relative who might benefit from some Connected Families insights, this would be a GREAT post to share with them!
Parents usually love when their kids are outgoing and gregarious crowd-pleasers. But when kids clam up parents tend to get a bit anxious themselves and make the proclamation — or maybe more the apology — “Oh, he’s just a shy one.” The “shy” label may be somewhat accurate, but it does nothing to honor the child or help him become more confident about who he is.
Jayden has been struggling to sit still at the table. Each time he gets antsy he gets a warning. “If you keep that up you’ll get a time out!”
He settles down for a moment and dinner carries on. But the stimulation of a busy family meal with all its sights, noises, smells and tastes is overwhelming to his nervous system. No memory of past consequences can override this barrage of input. Rational thinking gives way to overstimulation every time.
Jayden can either use his own movement to make his body feel a little more comfortable in the midst of the craziness, or he can look for a big dose of attention to override the chaos. He has a valid need for both movement and attention. Lucky for Jayden, he knows how to get a “two for one.” So he squirms again.
“That’s the last straw! If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, it is NOT OK to fidget and squirm at the table. You get down and set the timer for five minutes, and don’t come back until you can sit still and eat!”
It’s the same punishment as last time. It won’t prevent the next time.
In a coaching session, Karen shared that their family’s weekly schedule seemed to take them captive every Sunday night. Lilly, their third-grader, unofficially declared it “Moan and groan about Monday morning” time. The whole family would get drawn into her dramatic, despairing proclamations about the boredom and frustration that awaited her the next day. Parental injunctions to shape up that attitude exacerbated the problem because Lilly felt invalidated and became more determined to make her point. With everyone else also feeling a milder version of the pre-Monday blues, the scent of crankiness wafted throughout their home.
It is truly a God-given desire to feed your child healthy food. Unfortunately this good desire can easily go awry when your child turns up his nose at what you consider to be essential nutrition. A child’s rejection of certain foods is often rooted in sensitivity to smell, taste or texture, but whatever the cause, it often ramps up to an intense conflict if you get determined that “My kid WILL eat her brussel sprouts.”
When this happens your child may believe, “If I eat that yucky green stuff, Mom won and I lost.” At that point, it’s no longer about sprouts — it’s about winning and losing. Plus, all the intense, furrowed-brow attention you gave your child in the conflict just “fertilized” their avoidance of that food.
Research consistently shows that attempts to make children eat certain foods are more harmful than helpful! One study even revealed that children who were rewarded for eating a new food were less likely to eat it the next time it was served than were children who were simply presented the food!
Parents tend to view picky eating as defiance or manipulation, and so they tend to respond with increased attempts to gain control. But this just aggravates the situation at the moment, and fuels further difficulty in the future. Turning the tide on this dynamic requires that parents create an emotionally safe and fun environment in which kids can learn about and explore their food options — without pressure to eat!
Here are some practical tips to make this easier for all of you at dinner: