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How to Discipline a Highly Sensitive Child

Updated on June 8, 2011

Your highly sensitive child is more aware of their surrounding and they are highly curious. They may ask more questions and be pickier about what they eat and wear. Very often they are very emotional and shy around strangers. All these things can make raising a highly sensitive child challenging. On the positive note, your child is very likely intelligent and creative; they will appreciate and remember good deeds done to them and will do the same.

The highly sensitive child can be mistaken for being socially withdrawn or even spoiled due to lack of eye contact and being picky. The psychotherapist Elaine N, Aron Ph.D. wrote that around 15 to 20 percent of children are highly sensitive. (Look at the Highly Sensitive Child Test at the Resource Section below). HSP children are easily overwhelmed and going through the steps below will help you learn to discipline a HSP child.


  • Learn your child’s traits and observe their reaction to certain situations. Sometimes the child is overwhelmed about a situation and reacts with a tantrum. Try to figure out the trigger rather than punish the child this could be done by asking what is wrong.
  • Manage your child’s behavior in regard to the environment that may be a trigger. Understand your child is unique and will find it more difficult to cope; making things easier for the HSP child will help reduce triggers which are usually associated with stress
  • Don’t hesitate to punish. It is easy to spoil a highly sensitive child and this will be a mistake. Punish your highly sensitive child when he/she has done something wrong. Let them know why they are being punished and reason with the,. HSP children react better to being punished when they are aware that they have done something wrong.
  • Do not use fear and any form of physical or verbal abuse. This will cause anxiety for the child and may develop later in life to General Anxiety Disorder or Panic Attacks.
  • Don’t pressure your sensitive child in social situations. It takes time for a sensitive child to warm up and applying pressure in social situations may cause the child to develop speech impairments such as a stammer. Therefore ease the child to these situations with reassurance and support.
  • Try to level with your child’s emotions. The highly sensitive child will become aware of his or her emotional sensitivity this can cause the child to withdraw further if it feels alone. Have positive thinking conversation with the child to let them know their sensitivity is a gift rather than a flaw.
  • Remember your child’s senses are more heightened and will react more strongly to loud noises, smell or anything of the sort. Providing a quiet place for your child to explore and use their creative ability.
  • Buy the child a science set, a piano or art materials to find an outlet. Most artist and musicians are highly sensitive people.


Your HSP child will probably react badly to a cut or small bruise. This doesn’t imply they are weak; being more aware of things is a neurological trait. They can withstand pain like anyone else but are just more aware of it; this will mean they would be more satisfied with a plaster on a wound even though it doesn’t help with the pain.

Understand your child will ask a lot of questions and also complain very often. This is because they are more aware of their surroundings whether they understand it or not.

They will make great and loyal friends growing up. Their sensitivity allows them to appreciate and observe people’s actions more. However they can be easily hurt in the process.

They will not be able to work to their full potential in large and noisy classes.

Support the child’s ambitions. They are likely to be interest in art, science and history rather than math’s or subjects that don’t provoke curiosity.

Be aware that distractions such as a broken home or bullying can drastically affect your child’s academic performance.


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    • TicksProfessional profile image

      Talha Rehman 6 years ago from Lucknow India

      It is very important that the parents and teachers understand their child's behavior rather than just assuming them to be intentionally creating unnecessary trouble for others. Every child is special and reacts to different circumstances in his/her own way.It is important that parents and other elders are educated in child care before having children or being given the responsibility to look after them. Your hub serves this purpose.

      Great hub. Voted up and useful!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Being a highly sensitive person myself and having several children with this trait, I can see the importance of what you are saying. I wish these things were known when I was a child!

    • johnshade profile image

      johnshade 6 years ago from Pandora

      Thanks. I was a highly sensitive child with parents that didn't understand it. I've overcome most of the effects now with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It means a lot to me educate parents on how their child is feeling.

      I'm glad it's helpful

    • israyfa profile image

      israyfa 6 years ago from Malang Horizon

      i have dificulties on undestanding the kids, thank for the article

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      This is very well done. Many parents and teachers misunderstand a sensitive child, and mistake their sensitivity for other things, like being spoiled, or just too picky. And you are so right: broken homes affect them more than even the average child.

      It is important to educate adults about the sensitive child, so that they can be dealt with appropriately. This trait is not recognized by schools, and I think can be misdiagnosed as ADHD. I recently went to a teacher's P.D. day where ADHD was spoken about, and many of the traits were similar to high sensitivity. Great job on the hub!