My three year old seems to have a very sensitive nature. We only have to tell her she is not behaving as expected for her to burst into a flood of seemingly emotional tears. When her playmates come over, she gives into them to avoid a confrontation.Should we be parenting her in a different way taking into account her sensitive nature and encourage her to nurture a thicker skin? Loving Mum
Some kids are definitely more emotional sensitive and this is just genetic make-up or personality. Sensitive kids react just as you have described, you have only to correct, or tell them you are disappointed or even give them the ‘look’ and they will overreact and becomes really, really upset or in tears. You definitely have to be more aware of their needs as a parent, and approach parenting differently.
I have several strategies that work when parenting sensitive kids. Firstly ensure that your child is having a good nights sleep – which should be a nice 12 hours at this age. We all know that lack of sleep or simply just not enough makes us more emotional, kids are just the same. Next when your child has made a poor choice, disappointed you with her behaviour or has been difficult then you really need to avoid altogether any correction, rousing,criticism, looks or words of disappointment. Instead, let it go whatever the behaviour was and then a couple of hours later when all is forgotten, bring up what happened and talk about it.
Try along the lines of.... “you know today at the park, when you did..... (just stick to the facts, no criticism, describe what happened)..... well a better way would have been to...... (tell her what you would rather see)...... Usually kids who are more sensitive are bright kids, and they will listen, accept, take on board what you have told them, and remember and do the next time as they do not want to be corrected or in trouble at ALL. Praise all behaviour that is coping, standing up for herself and what you want. And really just avoid correcting her.
With friends it become trickier however these strategies will certainly help. If she has a particular playmate that takes over, is bossy or pushes they way about and over your child, I would recommend avoiding this friendship altogether. It is logical to assume that the more exposure your daughter has the quicker she will learn to stand up for herself, when in fact, it is the opposite. A pusher kids make sensitive kids withdraw more and they become more submissive. Avoid inviting or accepting invitations from this playmate. Try and find playmates that are more like your child as they learn the early social skills.
When playing with friends be sure as the adult around to keep an eye on the play and step right in confidently if your child is being pushed around or letting others have their way. For example if your daughter was playing with a toy and another child stepped in and took the toy, get involved, take the toy back off the child and say gently to both, something similar to ‘she was playing with this wagon, when she is finished she will let you know and then you can have a turn too, okay?’ When your child is finished with the toy, be sure again to watch and step in and say ‘here you go, she is finished now it is your turn’. Your child will learn and model from watching you deal with this situation. Parenting a sensitive child can be a little trickier.