Home > Kids > Behavior and Discipline > Behavioral Problems > Anger and Aggression > Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament
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Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament

2. Sensitivity: How sensitive is your child to sights, sounds, smells, textures, and emotions?

doesn't seem to notice the mood of others

not sensitive to pain

rarely complains about textures

doesn't notice noises, smells, etc.

eats anything

rarely complains about temperature

      very affected by other people's emotions, especially anger or sadness

very sensitive to pain

refuses to wear clothing that doesn't feel right

complains about loud noises, smells, or lights that are too bright

aware of subtle spices, textures, or smells of food

is always hot or cold

1 2 3 4 5
usually not sensitive       very sensitive

High Sensitivity
In cross-cultural studies of temperament, the "ideal" child in Italy is highly sensitive, aware of sights, sounds, textures, tastes, and emotions. In the United States, kids who are disturbed by sirens, glaring lights, strange odors, clutter, and chaos are often told they are too sensitive. Understanding and appreciating your child's keen sensitivity is the key to working together. She needs you to believe her when she tells you that getting her hair cut hurts, or that the seams in her socks or the tags in her shirt are driving her wild. Help her to find ways to eliminate or reduce the sensations that bother her the most.

Kids who are highly sensitive need words and phrases like:

  • You are very aware of noise, light, colors, etc.
  • I think the stimulation in here is bothering you.
  • When you hear another child cry, you feel sad, too.
  • You can feel bumps and seams that I can't feel.
  • I believe you.
  • How food tastes and smells is very important to you.
  • I'm not hot, but you can take off your sweatshirt if you are.
Low Sensitivity
Kids who are not as sensitive to the environment around them are not as easily triggered. Lights, smells, sounds, tastes, textures don't both them. You can usually get them dressed or serve a new food without much hassle. Their challenge may be in recognizing their own body's cues and in understanding the needs of others. Hunger or fatigue may sneak up on them, unless you teach them to stop and take note of how their body is feeling. And they may need your help to understand that even though they find the carnival rides exhilarating, others may find the experience overwhelming and want to leave.

Kids who experience low sensitivity need words and phrases like:

  • Noises, lights, etc., don't bother you, but sometimes they do irritate others.
  • It's important to stop and check the stimulation level. How does your body feel?


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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


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