How to Help an Overly Sensitive Child Cope Better

Updated on October 15, 2009
T.O. asks from Chicago, IL
3 answers

My DD (~3 years old) is wonderful but she has a tendency to let the smallest things rock her world. If the next door neighbor’s son (around the same age) looks at her with a scowl she starts crying (He likes to growl at her too or argue with her about nonsensical things). He’s doing it just to get a reaction out of her and he is always rewarded by her crying. We tell her to ignore him and that he’s only doing it to get her upset. That doesn’t seem to be sinking in.
The kids carpool to school together so telling me not to interact with him is just not an option. He’s also not my child so I don’t feel it’s my place to discipline him. Besides that, it’s not just him, there have been other kids (mostly boys) that pick up on her sensitive nature and do what they can to make her melt down.

Has anyone else experience this? Are there any good books to read to her or for us to read to try to help her through this? Is this just a phase?

I hate that she feels so tormented by some of these meaner kids, but we also thinks she kind of needs to learn how to better deal with these types of kids.


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answers from Chicago on

I have son that is extremely sensitive...too EVERYTHING. It is nice to know that he is very empathetic to people but difficult to see his feelings be hurt so easily. I started by teaching him how to tell kids to "stop" whatever behavior is bothering him by using a bold voice (which was very difficult for him to practice even at home with me, he just doesn't have it in him to react that way). Then we worked on me not intervening so much, I learned he had to learn how to cope and react without running and crying to me. I didn't ignore it but I tried to tell him that he needed tell the child to leave hime alone first. If it continued then I would say something to the child.
I noticed it happening around 2 1/2 years old, he is now just over 5 and it has begun to tapper off a bit. I am afraid though that some of it is just do to presonality. When he gets frustrated, angry or sad he tends to cry. Your daughter might be the same way.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

I think it's a two-way street. Our neighborhood kids are held hostage by one overly "sensitive" child, so I'll give the perspective of the parent observing from the other point of view. If the other kids are provoking to get her reaction, she is also prompting reactions from them. I don't think anyone is a victim when we're talking about kids who are 3 years old, or a "bully." They are learning what works and tears may be involuntary at first but kids learn pretty quickly that they are also highly effective at exciting all the parents and getting the other kid in trouble!

I would react by giving every child involved as little reaction as possible. Be matter-of-fact, not unsympathetic. I think it's fine to step in, in a carpooling situation, to say, "Tommy, we don't talk that way in our car" or to say, "today we are going to listen to music and not talk." I think lots of kids go through sensitive periods - my younger son did. What you don't want to do is make it overly attractive to them, but to help them develop whatever skills they need to handle it on their own - whether that is speaking up for herself or learning to ignore it.

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answers from Chicago on

My 3 children have all had to find their way to deal with bullies. It is a challenging issue even for teachers and administrators.
We role played how to use their words, voices and body language and even did some self-defense classes.
At times I did intervene by speaking with parents and teachers. It didnt always work out smoothly but to this day my children appreciate that I was their advocate.
Eventually your daughter will learn how to deal but in the meantime I would speak with the little 'tormentors'and their parents.

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