For the past three years, I have second guessed myself as a parent just about every day. I think it comes with the territory of being a mom especially when everyone parents differently and everyone wants to voice their opinion.
Savanna is smart. She is super observant and picks up on everything. She learned the alphabet by the age of one which I thought was totally normal until I realized that some three year olds are still learning it. She is able to count way passed most kids her age and already performs simple addition and subtraction problems. You can have a full conversation with her like she was a ten year old instead of a three year old. She amazes me everyday with things that she knows.
But she is so dramatic and so sensitive. She is my only child and I am home with her all day. My reaction was always to coddle her. People told me to that I needed to yell at her more instead of trying to reason with her. They told me to put her in time out and let her scream.
I tried. It never worked and always made every situation worse.
WHEN WE KNEW THINGS WERE GETTING BAD
For months, Savanna was hitting me any time she got mad – before bed or when I wouldn’t let her watch TV while she ate dinner. It happened in just about every situation you could think of. I would gently grab her arm when I saw her about to hit me and tell her firmly to stop, thinking that was what I was supposed to do. Then one day she punched me hard in the face. It hurt pretty bad for a little three year old’s strength. I got pretty pissed off at the fact that 1) nothing I did seemed to work and 2) my husband was sitting next to me and did absolutely nothing. I felt like I was in this alone. I was the only person she punched and no one cared. I told my husband that a little while later and he pulled Savanna aside and had a calm talk with her for about ten minutes. I have no idea what was said just that he made her look at him in the face while he calmly spoke with her like an adult about why she shouldn’t hit me or anyone else.
She never hit me again.
A lightbulb went off in our heads. She likes to be our partner; she doesn’t want to be treated like a baby or someone beneath us. So that’s how we chose to parent. We don’t yell, we try not to get frustrated with her. When she cries because we said no, we hold her and quietly explain things to her like an adult.
But of course, since moms like to tell other moms what to do (seriously, why do we do this?), I constantly felt like I was a bad parent for not treating her like people told me I should treat her.
DISCOVERING WE HAVE A HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD
One night while aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, a Scary Mommy post was advertised in my feed. I clicked on it because the title said “highly sensitive”. Everyone tells me how sensitive Savanna is to everything like its this awful trait. I thought that the article may help me “fix” her.
Instead it made me cry because I realized that Savanna was different than most kids, but not in a bad way.
Have you ever heard of Dr. Elaine Aron? I had not either until I read this article. She coined the term “highly sensitive person”. I know what you are thinking, “great, another term that we can just throw around and label kids to make excuses for bad behavior”. But that isn’t it at all. Being highly sensitive is a GOOD thing, and it’s not just a term, it’s a character trait. You just have to know how to parent a child that is highly sensitive.
She developed a checklist that can help you determine if your child is highly sensitive or not. Things that I thought were just crazy were actually quite normal for a highly sensitive child. Savanna hated tags in her clothing, she hates loud noise, she hates being wet, she responds better to gentle correction, she doesn’t do well with change. And the list goes on. (Savanna displays 17 of the 23 behaviors on the list.) I used to laugh at the fact that I couldn’t move something from one shelf to another. I get frustrated at the fact I can’t easily drop her off at preschool with a bunch of other kids to play with.
So I kept reading. Could this be it?
I found this post and the first paragraph was the biggest eye opener:
“Does your child want all the tags pulled out from her shirts? Or enjoy quiet play more than big and noisy groups? Does she seem to read your mind? Or ask lots of questions? Is she incredibly perceptive noticing all these minor details of life? Perhaps she has even been labeled as “shy” or “highly emotional” by someone close to her. If you answered yes to any of the above you may be raising a highly sensitive child – and yes, this is a great thing.”
It describes Savanna exactly.
PARENTING A HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILD
The most important thing to remember is that it isn’t a label or a bad thing. It just brings you a step closer to understanding your child and building a better relationship. I know I have zero patience when it comes to most things and get easily frustrated. But reading all of these articles about raising a highly sensitive child just makes me realize that I have to pause, for both our sakes. If I don’t get frustrated with her and react, she won’t have a breakdown. It also made me realize that I am doing something right and not to listen to other moms when they try to tell me how to raise my child.
Do you have a highly sensitive child? What have you learned from parenting them?