“I want to stay over here for a while” my 4.5 year old announces quietly as we arrive at a creek with some friends.
“Sure, I’ll be over there saying hello” I reply without a pause in my step.
We exchange happy hellos and little eyes flash over in Cameron’s direction.
“He just needs some time” I smile to his friend.
Picnic blankets are arranged, babes are boobed and worn, toddlers and kids have snacks and set off to explore. I turn around to see the quiet exchange of greetings and the next thing I know any apprehension has gone.
I think one of the biggest hurdles I have when it comes to parenting respectfully is the judgement that comes with straying from the norm. Too often I get the sense that people think my parenting reinforces less than ideal behaviours. For some reason, sensitivity and shyness are viewed with negativity by society. Particularly with boys. I have shared about shyness previously.
I think that when you parent respectfully, sometimes any perceived ‘negative’ traits in your children are considered byproducts of your parenting choices. Oh, you parent without punishment? That’s why your child is throwing a tantrum. You wear your baby? Must be why they’re not sleeping through the night.
Parenting a sensitive child respectfully takes patience and sometimes, preparation.
What a sensitive child needs is a parent who is supportive and understanding, but helps them to deal with anxieties and is able to consistently guide them to feel safe. It is also beneficial if you can encourage your sensitive child to take risks socially and help them to feel pride in their social successes, no matter how small.
Keeping an open dialogue about coping with big emotions and difficult situations is so important. I love that Cam knows that he can talk to me and that I’m always there to come back to when the world seems daunting to him.
My highest aim is to be a role model to Cameron (while being vulnerable and showing him that I make mistakes and deal with difficult social situations too.) I empathise with his introversion and sensitivity. I too am ‘shy’ and think that I’m a pretty great person as a result of that (not in spite of it!)
I’m truly thankful for my fellow home educating friends I have made as they are genuinely supportive of my parenting. I think having that village is so important no matter what your parenting ideals are.
You can read what we do instead of punishment as a follow up here.
Thank you for reading!
You can find us on Facebook and Instagram for more unschooling and parenting inspiration.
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn – a must read!
- ParentSpeak by Jennifer Lehr – a significant read about how we talk to children.
- Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes.
i have never commented but I have followed you from YouTube and love your blog. You are an inspiration to me.
I love this post!! I have struggled for years with people judging my parenting decisions (or maybe I just perceive that they are). My boys do not respond well to the more traditional types of discipline, time outs etc. We have found that it only makes things worse. They have big emotions and need help to cope and learn how to handle them. Often that might mean hugging the ‘offender’, talking with them and coming up with better solutions. One of my boys is more anxious but I have seen tremendous growth in him. We are sensitive to his needs, talk about how we handle new situations etc, and help him to come up with a plan. You are such a blessing to your children!!! Keep being the awesome mom you are.
Jennifer Tammy says
Oh, yes. I’m dealing with this right now, especially as my highly sensitive daughter is showing some behaviour issues (totally normal ones I might add). I’m parenting her the way I needed to be parented, and yes, I’m making mistakes — but I’d rather they be my mistakes and things that I can stand behind and say “I thought I did the right thing” than blindly follow a norm or suggestion set by someone else.
Bronwyn Joy says
This is something I struggle with, too – others putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. You’ve created situation X by doing Y. Not that you do Y because it helps improve situation X.
The other week I had to say, “Give him ten minutes,” about ten times in a row to someone (after which my son finally decided to join in whereupon it stopped). Five minutes later this person was telling another mum not to leave because her kids were “doing fine” and the other mother was trying to explain that this would soon end if she didn’t get out of there and she’d rather avoid the meltdown and after the third time I was just “leave her alone she knows what she’s doing!”
Seems I have an easier time sticking up for others sometimes. We need a buddy system so we can all have each others’ backs!
LOVE this! My daughter is introverted like me and always takes a little while to warm up at social events. Sometimes, if the atmosphere is too crazy, she will stick by my side the entire time. I never push her because I know how I was as a child and pushing me would have only caused anxiety. I know she will come around in her own time like I did. I do always get annoyed though when people talk about shyness like it’s a disease. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and being able to recognize, appreciate, and nurture them in your child is what sets them up for success…not forcing them to “fit the mold”.
Samantha @ Stir the Wonder says
Yes, I agree that it can be difficult to parent a sensitive child and not so much because of the child, but because of societies expectations of children. I think it’s great that Cameron knows that he can sit on the sidelines for a while, until he feels comfortable. Caden hasn’t learned yet to remove himself from social situations when he gets overwhelmed.
Love this Rachel! I think this was a lovely reminder that children have different characters and you have to work with their character, not against it. I also love how you reminded us to not always think it’s a by product of our own parenting choices (or someone elses). We seem to blame a child’s shyness on ourselves when really we shouldn’t be seeing that as a flaw in the first place!
Maureen Sklaroff says
I also have a very sensitive child. She is almost six, so is not as shy anymore, but boy she gets her feelings hurt so easily! She also doesn’t understand when someone says that she is her friend, but then goes and plays with other kids. She seems to have this idea that a friend won’t play with other children also. In general, she, just like me, does better in smaller social situations. Large groups often leave her friendless and in tears. And the whole deviation from normal bit that you mention! Oi vey! Our neighbors’ kids are always pointing out to my daughter everything that is different abut her and our family. I finally told her the other day that we didn’t have to be like everyone else and she was so shocked! She actually said, “We don’t?!?!?!”
Thank you, your words came at the perfect time for me today ;)
Thank you for this! My son, also named Cameron is incredibly sensitive and has been since birth. I sought out positive parenting options when I learned quickly that the way I had been raised was not going to work for his sensitive soul. Almost instantly I began receiving comments about how my natural parenting, baby wearing, etc. was causing his sensitivity. I’m learning to build a thicker skin and realize no one knows what is best for him better than me, and that he and everyone involved has a better time if we allow him to warm up slowly instead of forcing him into situations which just ends in tears. It’s good to know I’m not alone.
I’m newish to your site. I really believe that not only is my child a sensitive child, but that both my husband and I are as well (this topic has come up on a number of blogs, lately). I’m curious of your opinion on how to handle separation in situations like daycare or day school with a young toddler (my son is 2.5).
I went to a weekly study where the kids were watched in age group classrooms (bright, sunny, lots of little things to do, big space) – we only went for six weeks, with a two week break right in the middle, and it devastated him. He was only without me for maybe an hour and a half? Two hours? For the last half of the study (and for the entire summer break) he was resistant to even get into our car for fear of being left. However, with my husband working night shift, this literally was the only time I would have to myself. It’s starting up again soon… The traditional “wisdom” given is just to say goodbye, tell them you’ll be back, quick kiss and then walk away. To me, this feels very much like the drop off equivalent of cry-it-out. But, staying longer didn’t seem to help, either. (And this fall, I’m considering putting him into a 2 hour, twice weekly, neighborhood playschool so he can play and do things that I can’t reproduce at home…and honestly, to give myself some quiet/stillness to recharge.) I don’t know how to help him in that though, through the sensitivity. Ideas?
Yes, yes and YES!!!! A thousand times YES!!!!!!!!! Thanks so much for writing this post, Rachel. The entire time I was reading it, I had my mother’s and my 20-something daughter’s voices echoing in my head: “She’s so spoiled!” “She’s such a brat!” – in reference to my 10 year old daughter, who has Sensory Processing Disorder and Nonverbal Learning Disorder. Kids living with sensory issues often receive the same treatment you describe above. Joining in play can often be difficult and traumatic due to tactile, auditory and olfactory sensitivities. A lot of parental preparation is often required to ensure sensory kids feel confident enough to attempt the most fundamental of social activities. And as you mention, having a supportive community of fellow home educators and friends is the BEST!! Doing anything outside the norm is frequently “punished” by mainstream society. Apparently my daughter’s issues are due to the fact that she is homeschooled – she’d be much better off being “toughened up” by the constant bullying she received whilst attending school (Ugh!!!!! I’m soooooo sick of hearing this one). Oh and I should be “throwing her in the deep end” when it comes to social and group learning activities, because apparently she will benefit from either “sinking or swimming”. WTF???!! Double ugh!!!! So glad to have found my “tribe” who support, respect and nourish my choices and my daughter’s differences.
Oh I so hear you and go through the same thing! The ‘toughening up’ concept is one that I will never understand. Cam has some minor sensory processing issues too (auditory hypersensitivity and oral hyposensitivity especially) and there seems to be no room for empathy from many people.
Nourish the individual <3