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Old 04-24-2013, 01:07 PM   #1
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How to discipline a very sensitive child?

How do you do it?! My ds is 29 months and normally very well behaved, but he is also a normal 2 yo and acts out sometimes too. If he even thinks I might be upset with him he has a nuclear meltdown, I would like to avoid this if possible because that is obviously not my goal.

Example- his biggest bad habit is climbing everything, including the kitchen counter which is incredibly dangerous for more than one reason. He did it this morning, I took him down, gave him a stern no and moved him off to his toys to find something acceptable to do, his feelings were very hurt and he clung to me and cried briefly. 5 minutes later he is back at it so I put him in a quick timeout, he freaked out repeating sorry, and love you over and over. My mommy heart aches when he does this and I just don't feel like it is a good punishment if he always thinks it is because I am mad! I'm not, I am just trying to teach him acceptable behavior! So, what method do you use with a sensitive little guy?

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Old 04-24-2013, 01:26 PM   #2
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

My YDD plays me like a fiddle. She is 25 mos and she will lash out and hit someone. When I say "DD's name! We do NOT hit! That was NOT nice!" She lets out a whimper, a totally fake "WHAAA" and then she says, "Sowwy. Of oooo." and showers kisses and hugs. If I get VERY upset and raise my voice, she runs over, starts "crying" (it's totally fake) and says "Of U mommy. Whaha haha haaahhhhaaa... OF UUUUU MOMMY. SOWWWWY. SOWWWWY. AAHAHAHAHA WAAAAAH SOWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEE. OF UUUUUUUU"

As much as it pulls at my heart, it's totally all a show from her. There are no tears, or if there are it's b/c she knows she's in trouble and they dry right up the instant it's over. But she'll continue this show until I am done "disciplining" her, then she's right back to whatever it was she was doing.

Personally, I've found that when she starts boo-hoo-ing a fake lil' cry. I just calmly say, "Stop crying. I know you're not really crying." And she immediately stops making noise and looks at me with a straight face or a smirk. Then I just explain why what she did was wrong, and what I want her to do next time. (ie., "We can't hit people, it isn't nice and it hurts. Next time you hit, you will sit in your room.") Then I follow through. And I ignore her charade completely if I get to the point of having to punish her.

I'm not saying your LO is doing this, but it is possible.

I also have a kid who actually really truly is sensitive. He cries the moment I tell him I'm disappointed in him. He's 4. But all I have to say is, "*GASP!* Why would you do that, son!? You KNOW better than that!" and it's a big frowny face and tears. Then I hug him and we talk about how he can do what's right next time. And I always try to end that talk with something like, "It's okay to make mistakes and to feel bad when we do something wrong. I still love you. I know you can do better next time." and then we move on with the day and I won't bring it up again, and I don't allow ODD to bring it up either. Once it's over and he's been talked to, it's over and we move on with the day.

I kind of think a small amount guilt and crying over feeling bad b/c they did something wrong can be a good thing... IF it is handled appropriately. I realize not everyone shares that view. That's totally okay. But I do actually want my kids to feel a twinge of guilt when they know they've hurt me by doing wrong. I think that's healthy. I say that b/c I grew up never wanting to disappoint my dad. He never had to be "heavy handed" (so to speak) with his discipline, or to talk to me harshly. Just knowing I would make him upset was enough to keep me from misbehaving. I never wanted to hurt him, and I knew when I behaved badly, I did hurt him. So that made me try my best. I'd like to have that same type of parent-child relationship.

Anyway, you know your kid best. If your LO is showing an unhealthy "fear" (lack of a better word here for my brain right now) of upsetting you, just help them work through it. Hug them, talk to them about WHY they can't do XYW. Tell them you still love them and you aren't mad, but that you expect them to follow the rules and behave appropriately. Tell them you are sad they made the choice to misbehave and you hope they will make a better choice next time. Eventually, IMO, this will help them understand that you aren't mad at THEM, you are unhappy with the choice they made, and you want them to try to make a better choice next time.

I would not stop disciplining and punishing, though. Just keep it light and be consistent.

Last edited by Kiliki; 04-24-2013 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 04-24-2013, 01:28 PM   #3
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

Ok, I only have a 10 mo, so this isn't based on much in the way of experience, so take it or leave it.

I've been reading a lot about Gentle Discipline lately. The basic premise is that children have a reason for acting out, and finding out the reason for the behavior can help you to meet their need and show them a better way to get the need met in the future. When he's climbing up the kitchen counter is it when you're working in the kitchen? If so, could you give him some safe kitchen items and a little table for him near you and ask him to "help" by doing something with it? Or, if you babywear, put him in a carrier on your back so he can see what you're doing and feel connected with you? I've also heard of parents doing a "time in" where they remove the child from the undesirable situation and tell them why, but stay with them, rather than putting them in a place by themself as punishment.

I don't know if any of that is helpful or not.
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Old 04-24-2013, 02:12 PM   #4
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

My daughter is similar. She's a very good toddler, and I never really went through the terrible 2's or 3's with her (she's 3.5), but on the occassion that I do have to give her a time out. She totally freaks. But I sit with her and am stern. I can never just leave her alone in time out, that makes her even more upset. But I get the point accross and she learns her lesson. But it's really hard. She talked about her last time out for a week. LOL!
But she's okay and we talk it out afterwards. She knows why she was in time out and with her, it really corrects the behavior.
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Old 04-24-2013, 02:28 PM   #5
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

He's old enough to understand what you said, and why.

So, try a quick, but firm "Down please!" Then, if he doesn't climb down, put him down, and say nothing. Nobody listens to a lecture.

Maybe he needs a sturdy chair or short table next to the counter so he can be at his spot, but not climb all over the counters. (like a learning tower)

He's probably ready to start working with you at the counter. (Or he just likes climbing and being nosey)

I would keep the lectures and even words to a minimum. Just "Off!" or "Down" or "Uh-uh!" Then follow up with "thank you", and nothing more. You might need to say "Get off" as you are getting him down if he can't actually get himself down.
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Old 04-24-2013, 02:30 PM   #6
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

Quote:
Originally Posted by escapethevillage View Post
He's old enough to understand what you said, and why.

So, try a quick, but firm "Down please!" Then, if he doesn't climb down, put him down, and say nothing. Nobody listens to a lecture.

Maybe he needs a sturdy chair or short table next to the counter so he can be at his spot, but not climb all over the counters. (like a learning tower)

He's probably ready to start working with you at the counter. (Or he just likes climbing and being nosey)

I would keep the lectures and even words to a minimum. Just "Off!" or "Down" or "Uh-uh!" Then follow up with "thank you", and nothing more. You might need to say "Get off" as you are getting him down if he can't actually get himself down.
This. We have an Ikea stool that is great for helping at the counter, but he needs to know he cannot climb on the counter. And he also needs to know that over reaction does not change the fact that he cannot climb on the counter (or whatever dangerous activity he is doing).
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Old 04-24-2013, 02:36 PM   #7
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Our oldest son was a very sensitive toddler and little boy. He is still a sensitive big boy. But he also was not a daredevil. If he was getting into something all I had to do was look at him and say na na, gently. He would always obey. He is still that way now at 10, all I have to do is look at him a certain way and he fixes it immediately. It's just his nature.

Now, my second and third boys are a WHOLE 'nother ball game. While my second child is asd and ADHD so he has impulse control issues, my third son is a wild man. He is sensitive but he gets into everything. I have to just be stern and consistent with him. That is always what he has responded best to.

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Old 04-24-2013, 03:29 PM   #8
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

Reward great behavior!
Tell him what you do want him to do, ask him to show you how great he can do it, & reward him for doing it. A reward can be a hug, getting positive attention, read a book with him, a m&m, color a page together, a temp tattoo, sticker..........

Use the sandwich technique. Compliment, tell him what you disapprove of, compliment.
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Old 04-24-2013, 03:36 PM   #9
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Love and Logic and Unconditional Parenting are two books that helped us a lot. I agree with PP who said to look for the source of the behavior - DD gets cranky when she's tired, clingy if I am busy doing other things, rambunctious if she doesn't get enough physical activity...
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Old 04-24-2013, 03:45 PM   #10
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Re: How to discipline a very sensitive child?

I don't think he is playing me, he seems genuinely upset, but then again he could just be really good at it . The stool sounds like a good idea, he only does it when I forget to lock the gate, so I really think it is him just wanting to know whats up there (which is practically nothing, so I don't mind him looking).

He is the complete opposite of his sister, so I am really learning all over again how to handle this stuff! I don't want to be a pushover, but at the same time I don't think that him thinking I am mad is going to teach him anything other than fear. I may just have to reserve timeouts (standard punishment for dd's everyday offenses) for more serious issues with him when they arise, and try some of the more gentle methods mentioned here for lesser issues.
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