It was 2016 and as I entered into yet another power-struggle with my 3 year old; it occurs to me. I had asked my mom (both before and after having kids), “what was I like as a child?”
I had heard, constantly:
And now, as my youngest shows more of her own personality; I’m seeing many of these traits in her. And in addition to those, I would describe her as:
- strong willed
My mom always used to say, jokingly, that one day I would have a daughter just like me. And she was absolutely right. I was a strong willed, highly sensitive child- and now I’m raising one.
How to Raise a Strong Willed and Highly Sensitive Child
First, I want you to remove these two phrases from your vocabulary and mindset:
- strong willed
- highly sensitive
Yes, yes I know- I just used those words to describe both myself and my daughter. But I’m trying to stop. Just like we’re also trying to remove the phrase “good girl” from our vocabulary. (Another post for another day!)
But back to those two phrases.
How to Raise the Strong Willed Child
When you’re calling a child strong-willed, you’re overlooking their:
And while yes, you may also consider them to be stubborn or hard-headed; these are character traits that you can work with.
Teach them to harness these skills into something that’s a bit more productive. Encourage them. Don’t try to hamper their innate abilities and traits.
To understand and appreciate those things fully, I had to think back on my own childhood. My parents encouraged me to explore and to do my own thing- within reason. Limits were set, yes. But not so much that I felt the need to challenge them.
Rules were also put in place and consequences were explained. Granted, this all changed and adapted as I got older. But, it also helped me to understand now (in the parenting role) that this is something I need to do.
Those two things have helped us tremendously in the past six months as my youngest makes the continuing transition from toddler to preschooler.
So that’s how we’re handling the so-called “strong-willed” side of things. But what about the other?
Understanding The Highly Sensitive and Empathetic Child
One in every twenty people is considered to be a highly sensitive person (HSP). This means that either you yourself may be sensitive or someone you know is.
But what does it mean to be highly sensitive?
We’re the thinkers, the cautious ones, the conservative people; the ones that say “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s think this through before doing something rash.”
Positive traits, don’t you think?
But on the flip side. We’re considered “too sensitive, too cautious, too shy, too timid, too introverted, too fearful.”
What needs to be realized is that these are not “problems” that need to be corrected and fixed with sensitive people. It’s the labels that are attached to us that cause the problems.
Over the years, I’ve come to call myself a few things:
I’ve seen those things manifest as a teenager. For quite some time, I also had to distinguish between being highly sensitive and being an empath. Or if I was really an empath and not an introvert.
According to some psychology based studies, being an empath and being highly sensitive are closely related. In fact, one could make the argument that being highly sensitive puts you on the higher end of the empath spectrum. And because of being an empath, you also take on some introverted tendencies.
After reading all of that, quite a few things made sense.
How to Raise a Highly Sensitive Child
So how do I help her?
I can start by helping her put a name to her big emotions and feelings. It starts with identifying her moods and how she feels.
I can also help her with her own social skills and how to conquer difficult social situations.
I can also help her by equipping her with strategies to reign in her feelings and focus her emotions.
So now, as this highly sensitive, empathetic, and introverted adult; I have better strategies for how to parent my highly sensitive, empathetic, (and possibly extroverted) child.
For me, it starts with this: ignoring the labels and focusing on the individual.
While yes, it would be so easy to start Googling the terms: “highly sensitive” “empathetic” or “extroverted child” – I need to stay away from that.
Because then I would get so caught up on advice and so lost in terminology that I would cease to view my daughter for who she is.
Beyond being how society may want to label her, my daughter is a human being and individual.
She is my super kid.
Parenting her has also taught me a lot about myself.
I’m a late diagnosed autistic and ADHD female. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my teens. Knowing what I went though and my experiences in childhood are now preparing me.
It also makes me wonder.