23 answers

Coping Skills for Super Sensitive 3 Year Old

Hi, My daughter is 3 1/2, very bright, funny, gentle and smart. Her preschool teacher tells us she is gifted. The problem we are having is that she is unbelievably sensitive. She is terrified of loud noises, machines etc. but the main issue is that she just melts down into a pool of tears if things don't go as she hopes, and she quickly gets absolutely hysterical and unable to calm herself. Her teacher says it's because she is a perfectionist and she struggles with impossibly high standards for herself. I know meltdowns and screaming sound like typical three year old behavior but she seems to be much more highly strung than many of her friends. I am wondering if anyone can recommend any reading material which will help us figure out how to help her get some coping skills.

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Hi H.
she may really have a sensory issue and if so you will want to have her evaluated so you can get her some occupatianl therapy. that will help a ton with her melt downs and some of the other things she may be sensitive to. There are some really good sensory books out there but I can not think of any of them right now. sorry. T.

You may want to read The Children of Now. I don't know that it will help with coping skills but it may help with what's going on...you mentioned she was gifted.

More Answers

I strongly second Raising Your Spirited Child. Addresses some of the sensory issues as well as the perfectionism and the emotional volatility and a wealth of other related topics - this book has saved my sanity on many an occasion!

Hi H. -

I think you should check out "Raising Your Spritied Child." I was only able to read a little of it before I had to return it to the library, but the author addressed some of the issues you are describing, ones I am dealing with. Hopefully it will help you out!

take a class, or look online for information on temperment. this is just who she is! :D knowing what her temperment is makes it easier for you to understand where shes coming from. i was like ths as a child, very structured, very afraid of or hating change. im still that way, but i can deal with it. its ok for her to be upset.

the best thing you can do is to prepare her beforehand - telling her when an activity is coming to an end, allowing PLENTY of time for her to wind up what she is doing before having to end it. try your best not to make anything be last minute or surprising. there will be times where this is unavoidable, but try to give her SOME time to process the change and be able to do it. dont surprise her with company, dont surprise her with having to leave..

good luck.

Let me preface my comment by confessing I am a type a mom. I have DEFINITELY mellowed out as my parenting continues, and I am more of a mellow mom than I am at other things, but I still sometimes struggle with my Type A and my reaction to situations that really stress me out. So, let me ask you, who is she around every day that is modeling some of these behaviors for her? It might not look exactly like her reaction but it is there. I would say a book isn't going to help. You need to work to train her. She will probably always be sensitive (I cry, and always have, when I got yelled at by anyone - parents, boss, etc - you need to help her figure out how to control this!). And sensitive in itself isn't a bad thing. With my 3 yr old we started very early talking about "getting control". She would start to cry over not getting her way and we would say "I can't talk to you when your like this. You need to get control." Then we taught her about taking deep breaths until she felt more calm. After about 2 years (or a little more) of this, she can turn the tears off like a switch. There are still times when she can't seem to get control. Sometimes she still asks for help - and I talk her through breathing or just hold her tight in a chair (no words). But those feelings of frustration, anger, etc are really kind of scary when you think about it. But most of us know what the feelings are and how to control them. I would start by having a conversation with her when all is well about how to act when something goes wrong. Then pray it does. You are hoping she will give lots of chances to practice this and learn it! But walk away from her drama and tell her you will talk to her when she is calm. In a few months of practicing calming down and not getting any attention when she is losing it, she will figure it out. Just make sure you share what you are doing with her school so they can do the same thing. Good luck!

Her behavior is a lot like my granddaughter's. Have you had her checked for autisim? Contact the administrative offices for your local schools and a nurse at her doctor's office. See what services are available to her. Sometimes you have to push to get any attention.
One thing we recently learned is that both MSG and yogurt can make austic children violent. The strange thing is that austic children will crave yogurt, my little granddaughter will eat 3 a day. Try making sure that she does not get any of these food items and see if her behavior changes. There is a lot of information out there on line and in books but you need to weed through and determine what works for you and you daughter.
Good luck with her.

Hi H.
If you contact your school district they have a birth to 3 program (they have one after 3 also) tell them what is going on with your daughter and your concerns. They will test her for sensory issues. If she is found to have sensory or other issues they will be able to help. This is a free service. In my case 2 of my 3 kids were serviced through the school district, the got to go to preschool for free do to needing services through the school. One of my kids had speech and sensory problems. The other one come to find out has Aspergers. (that was a whole different can of worms) :o) I still deal with an ultra sensitive/emotional child. He just melted down the other day in kindergarten over a broken crayon. He doesn't tantrum his cry's like he just lost his teddy bear. It is so heart felt.

Hi H.,
She sounds like a type A personality, but you might also have the school district test for signs of Aspergers, just to make sure there isn't anything else going on.
My 4 year old is a total perfectionist, type A. She gets so upset if she doesn't do something right or doesn't write her name perfectly and has to start all over again. We talk to her about what is important is she does her best and not that it is perfect - no one is perfect, even mommy and daddy. We try to focus on the process instead of the outcome. You can also work on some self-coping strategies. We do an exercise that we start in her chest and imagine a beautiful white light spreading through her whole body (using our hand to spread it down her legs, arms, head, etc.) and do deep breathes to calm down.

Good luck,

This sounds exactly like my daughter, who is now 13. There was one book that I read at the time that really helped us called the Explosive Child. Sounds horrible, but it was a great book.

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