Parenting

How To Discipline A Highly Sensitive Child

If you have a highly sensitive child, you probably wonder what the best approach to discipline is?

You’ve probably tried consequences, bribes, and maybe even threats.

Hey, we’ve all been there…

Because highly sensitive children react strongly to the world around them, especially our yelling and demanding. 

From loud noises and deep emotions to having more empathy than their peers, highly sensitive children are best disciplined with a gentle parenting approach.

You can learn how to discipline your highly sensitive child without harsh consequences while maintaining a positive connection with them in a way that honors who they are.

Practice these 11 gentle parenting discipline strategies for highly sensitive children.

Discipline Strategies For Raising A Highly Sensitive Child

1.  Understand Tantrum Vs. Meltdown

Children tend to act out because they’re overstimulated, can’t regulate their emotions, or aren’t getting what they want.

Understanding why your child misbehaves can help you pinpoint whether they’re having a tantrum or meltdown, which can help you decide how to handle their behavior.

Meltdowns are a response to an overwhelming environment. In contrast, tantrums are from not getting what they want or not yet knowing how to regulate their emotions.

2.  Get On Their Level

Another thing parents can do when their child has a sensitive temperament is get physically down to their level.

Literally seeing eye to eye will help you see eye to eye!

This could be you and your 7-year-old having an emotional discussion on the couch versus trying to get a word in when they’re playing video games or getting on your knees to comfort your toddler when they have to return a library book they’re begging you to keep.

3.  Validate All Feelings

Before you discipline, remember to hear your child out.

Don’t squash their feelings, even those you find unreasonable or inconvenient.

Get close, truly listen, and rephrase what they tell you.

“I see. You didn’t like it when your brother took your truck, so you yelled at him.”

4.  Use Positive Body Language

Kids are naturally good at picking up body language, and sensitive kids are even more perceptive than their peers.

Be aware of how you physically express yourself as you discipline your child.

For example, stop making sandwiches when your child comes to you with a question (or to tell you they broke Grandma’s vase).

Instead, keep your arms relaxed and not crossed over your chest, and turn towards them.

Positive body language helps your child feel less intimidated by you and enables you to stay connected despite the discipline.

5.  Be Mindful Of Your Tone

No parent wants to lose their cool, but sometimes you just can’t help it!

So, start being more mindful of how you speak to your child when you discipline them.

Lower your voice to a calm, clear, and steady level. You can even imagine you’re speaking on a gentle parenting podcast!

And always forgive yourself when you mess up because you’re human, after all.

6. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are another effective discipline method for highly sensitive children.

It’s also good to explain why you chose that boundary because sensitive kiddos are also intensely inquisitive.

“I know you’re upset that you can’t have another popsicle, but I said no because you had the one for a snack, and two popsicles would be a lot of sugar for your body right now.”

7. Praise Their Effort

Instead of focusing on what your child did wrong or their unpleasant behavior, praise your child’s effort at managing their emotions and what they did right.

“You didn’t want to leave, but you did it anyway. You should be proud of yourself.”

“I saw you coloring in your safe space when your brother had his friends over. Good thinking because they sure were loud!”

8. Be There For Them When They’re Ready

Your child may want you close or go to their comfort corner after being disciplined.

But regardless of where they go to process their emotions, always be there for them when they’re ready.

A warm smile, a cozy hug, and a reminder that you love them no matter what helps heal the hurt.

Highly sensitive children are incredibly empathetic, so they’ll also pick up on your good vibes.

9. Go To A Quiet Place

Many sensitive children can become overwhelmed and exhausted from smells, light, loud noises, and touch.

Before correcting the mishaps and lecturing on what they should do, remove your child from the source of sensory pain to a quieter, stiller place.

Try bringing headphones, kid’s scissors (cut tags that randomly become bothersome), or a fidget spinner to help reduce anxiety when out and about.

Ultimately, you know your child best.

10. Create A Calm Corner

Create a quiet space your child can go to whenever they please.

Think relaxing, reading, calming down, and cooling off.

Stash pillows, blankets, plushies, a yoga or playmat, books, chew necklaces…whatever your child enjoys.

11. Accept Your Child’s Sensitivity

A lot of parenting involves accepting things you don’t always like, like eating lukewarm dinners and mentally carrying the family load.

While you may not always be in the mood for your child’s strong reactions and constant questions, a part of being a parent is loving your child unconditionally and letting them know that.

It’s one of the biggest parts, really.

Photo by Keira Burton

All children – especially sensitive ones – need love and connection before correction.

And that goes for no matter what stage of development they’re in. Toddler or teenager!

Aligning your discipline methods with gentle parenting will not only help you and your child become closer, but you’ll both learn a lot from life and each other as well.

Remember, isn’t that the point of discipline?


Author Bio: Kris McCormick is a boy mama, wife, and blogger. Since becoming a mom six years ago, she’s been researching the best advice, resources, and baby gear from small businesses to make pregnancy and child-raising easier for all parents.


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